There are so many options for childbirth education out there, and often my students ask me “do I need childbirth ed?” If so, “which class should I take?”

My short answer to the question is YES.  Childbirth education is extremely helpful in understanding the process that your body will go through to birth your baby AND to learn comfort measures to help you through that experience.  But just like with childbirth itself, there’s no RIGHT way to childbirth ed.  Much of it depends on you and what you’re looking for, so here’s some helpful and introspective questions that may help you find a good fit.

  • How much time do you have to devote to class? Do you want a 4, 6 or 12 week session–which will give you time to integrate and practice the material– or is life too busy between work or other children for you to carve out that much time? Do you need to take a weekend intensive or a short course, because you need the convenience and/or you’ve already given birth?
  • What type of a learner are you? Do you learn best by lecture–auditory learner? Or do you learn by doing things–kinesthetic learner? Ideally, a good teacher and a good class will offer a variety of teaching techniques to appeal to learners of all kinds.
  • Do you like just the facts or do you like experiences that are more heart and intuition based? Different childbirth education methods focus on different approaches and different tools to put in your comfort measures tool kit.
  • What type of birth experience are you hoping for? If you know that pain management through medication is of high priority to you, then a hospital based class where you understand all the ins and outs of procedures may be of importance. But if you are hoping for an unmedicated hospital or homebirth, you’ll be better served by a class that will help prepare you physically, emotionally and mentally for the challenges of labor.
  • Do you want JUST childbirth ed, or a class that includes nutrition, pregnancy support, postpartum planning, baby care, etc.? There are many classes offered that cover the full spectrum of birth to baby, or you can find workshops or classes that specialize in each topic.

Again, there’s no right answer in how best to prepare (but, oh, how I wish there was!) but there may be a right way FOR YOU and your partner.  Of course, in my humble opinion, I believe a combination of evidence-based information, mind-body based practices, some deep introspection, and an aligned care provider are the best ways for you to have an empowering birth.

Below is a list of a variety of “brands” of childbirth education.  And of course, if you’d like a concise, hands-on, evidence-based comfort measures class that teaches you the tools and techniques to manage each unique stage of labor, my next Labor with Love: Yoga, Positioning and Partner Support to Enhance Your Birth workshop will be held on April 29 at 1pm at Willow Street Yoga in Silver Spring. It’s a decent stand-alone class for second or third timers, and a great compliment to all the childbirth classes listed below.


Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth®

The Bradley Method® series is designed for small classes with lots of individual attention. The standard length is 12 weeks covering 12 units of instruction. The Student Workbook is included with classes. It has over 130 pages with over 75 pictures and illustrations. Our classes stress the importance of Healthy Baby, Healthy Mother and Healthy Families. The Bradley Method® classes cover it all: nutrition, exercise, being more comfortable during pregnancy, the coaches role, introductory information about labor and birth, advanced techniques for labor and birth, complications, cesarean sections, postpartum care, breastfeeding (we do recommend La Leche League meetings) and caring for your new baby.

Hypnobirthing®—The Mongan Method

Hypnobirthing®–The Mongan Method is a unique method of relaxed natural childbirth education, enhance by self-hypnosis techniques. Hypnobirthing® is the missing link that allows women to use their natural instincts to bring about a safer, easier, more comfortable birthing. Emphasis is placed on pregnancy and childbirth, as well as on pre-birth parenting and the consciousness of the pre-born baby. As a birthing method, Hypnobirthing® is as new as tomorrow and as old as ancient times. It is presented in a series of 5 2 1/2 hour classes.

Hypnobabies®

Hypnobabies® is a very successful 6 week, 3-hours per week, complete childbirth education course that was adapted with permission from Gerald Kein’s “Painless Childbirth Program” techniques rather than using simple relaxation, breathing or guided imagery. This allows our Hypno-Moms to enjoy “eyes-open childbirth hypnosis”, easily remaining deeply in hypnosis while walking, talking and changing positions; being as mobile as they would like to be during childbirth. Hypnobabies® is well-known for helping women to create much shorter, easier and more comfortable labors, making childbirth the joyful experience it was meant to be. Expectant mothers use our Hypnobabies ® Workbook, CDs and hypnosis scripts to train their inner mind that contractions in labor will be felt only as pressure, tightening, pushing, pulling and normal baby movement sensations. Women are fully in tune with their babies during the birthing process, and as aware of everything around them as they’d like to be, easily able to communicate with their support team, and completely in charge of their own birth experience.

Blissborn Natural Childbirth

Blissborn teaches a highly effective way to use self-hypnosis to stay calm, release fear, control sensations and create the kind of satisfying birth experience you so desire.  Each two-hour class features activities including hypnosis, discussion and special training for birth partners. A well-trained and well-informed partner is a huge part of this program. Also included are 6 CD’s one for each class, and one for birth, in addition to a comprehensive manual that is extremely well organized, making learning easy, effective and fun.

Birthing from Within®

Birthing From Within® is a creative, nurturing, and personal way of preparing for birth and parenting. You will learn how to listen to your wise inner voice, tap into the wisdom of ancient wise women, and develop your instinctive knowledge of birth through the use of birth art, interactive class discussions, and pain-coping practices. Classes are kept small to enhance intimacy and ensure that each participant receives the attention she/he deserves. The individual needs of the couples always help shape the flow of the series.

Birthworks® International

BirthWorks embodies the philosophy of developing a woman’s self-confidence, trust, and faith in her innate ability to give birth. It is our mission to train childbirth educators and doulas who in turn provide evidence-based, current information to birthing families through a unique experiential approach that is based on human values. BirthWorks seeks working relationships with other childbirth related organizations, striving together to help birthing families make more informed and safe choices for birth.

Lamaze® International

Knowing that pregnancy and birth can be demanding on your body and mind, Lamaze seeks to help build your confidence and ensure that you have the support you need during pregnancy and birth.

Lamaze®:

supports evidence-based pregnancy and birth practices that are supported by research and experienced childbirth educators.
guides you as you navigate all of your options, and their benefits and drawbacks. seeks to empower you as you explore how your body was designed for birth, and encourages you to work with your body’s natural abilities.
provides strategies for natural pain management during labor, reducing unnecessary medical interventions.
ensures that you feel continuously supported during labor and birth.
stresses the importance of natural pain management strategies through labor and birth, helping you choose methods that are safe and healthy.
encourages bonding between you and your baby, with the importance of skin-to-skin contact and time to get to know your new baby after birth.

Sacred Pregnancy 

If you are at the end of your pregnancy and want a special place for you and your partner to connect to discuss important birthing topics as you dance, run or confidently walk through your Rite of Passage from Maiden to Mother…Then you NEED Sacred Pregnancy BIRTH Journey classes! Birth is a unique and special time for every woman, no matter HOW or WHERE it happens and each birth should be looked at as the Most Sacred Time in a woman’s life. Only GOOD can come from a peaceful, empowered birth experience, both for the mother and the baby. You will also gain CRITICAL information about postpartum care and Mother Roasting!

Unaffiliated Childbirth Preparation Classes

There are numerous experienced childbirth educators and doulas that offer a blended approach to childbirth education (they have several certifications) or they base their teachings on time-honored, hands-on knowledge and experience. If none of the methods listed above resonate with you, choosing an “unaffiliated” but reputable class may be the best way to prepare you.

For a full listing of childbirth education providers in the area, visit http://www.birthoptionsalliance.org/childbirth-and-other-prenatal-education.html.

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