Updated: May 20, 2020
When looking for a childbirth class there are a few key things you should take into consideration before committing your time and money. Below are my top 3 things to look out for when choosing a childbirth class.
1. Is your class outcome-focused?
Many classes promise a certain outcome if you follow their "method." They bank on women's fear of discomfort and pain in childbirth and make promises of an easy, pain-free or even orgasmic birth.
Promising a certain outcome is not only dishonest, it can be quite dangerous. I've met women with birth trauma, who blamed themselves because their birth didn't exactly go the way they were hoping it was going to go. The way their childbirth educator told them it would go, if they did all the right things.
In labor, the entire process is meaningful and important and is what affects how you are left feeling after delivering your baby. Look for a childbirth class that takes the whole experience of birth into account. The entire journey from start to finish.
2. Does Your Class teach you to be quiet?
Two of the most popular childbirth classes at the moment teach mothers that being very relaxed and very quiet will lead to an easy labor and birth. The class I took during my first pregnancy showed videos of women who looked as though they were sleeping with the baby almost slipping out of them.
Relaxation and the effect that it can have on pain is definitely a keeper. But laying down and being quiet, does not work for everyone. Many women do better on their feet, or on all fours, making sounds and being very proactive. In fact, vocalizing, does not only reduce discomfort, but it also helps you to relax down below. There is a clear connection between a relaxed mouth/throat and a relaxed cervix. You cannot have a tense throat and mouth while you are emitting low guttural sounds. Impossible.
Find a childbirth class that teaches a variety of pain coping mechanisms. You never know what will work for you.
3. Does your class teach you to stuff your fears?
I remember the looks I would get from older women when I would tell them that my birth was going to be different, that I didn't believe in PAIN during childbirth, and that I would rather them not use that word as it pertained to labor, thank you very much.
"OK honey" I could almost hear from the look in their sympathetic eyes.
I was told in my childbirth class that the way you think about birth affects the way you experience birth. I 100% agree with this. Unfortunately, not saying the word pain and covering your ears any time anyone mentions the word, is a superficial approach that does not really prepare anyone in any meaningful way.
Mantras such as "trust birth," "your body is not a lemon," and "she thought she could, so she did," are all beautiful, but they aren't going to magically make your real fears disappear. The human mind is far more complex and if you are carrying real fear around birth, the best approach is to face it head on, hopefully with an experienced mentor or teacher.
Finding a birth class that teaches you how to get in touch with your subconscious fears or worries, and helps you to move through them, will leave you far better prepared than any class that tells you to only look at things through rose-coloredhead-on lenses.
No class should promise you a rose-filled euphoric birth... If that's what transpires, hey, that's great. But birth, as any other part of human life cannot be molded into a one size fits all formula. If that is what's promised to you, run the other way.
A great class should have a balance of medical know-how - what the physiological side of birth is like, what to expect, and how to navigate the hospital setting, along with more intuitive knowing; like how to know what you are bringing with you to your birth, how to listen to your intuition and of course how to deal with discomfort. In a variety of ways.
You are bringing a child into this world. Expect to sweat, expect to stretch yourself, (metaphorically and physically) quite possibly, more than you ever have before. And hire a doula if you can. Someone that knows what it's like and can support you through the whole messy, sweaty, thrilling, and completely fantastic ordeal. Happy birthing!