We are almost done talking about how to create the best birth team for you! While your childbirth educator will not be with you during labor and birth (unless your doula is teaching your class) it still has a HUGE impact on your birth experience. In most cities there are several options which gives pregnant couples an amazing opportunity to get a truly amazing fit. Obviously there are things to consider such as what yours and your partner’s schedules are like and what you can financially afford. You may also need to consider timing. That is, if you are 35 weeks pregnant then a Bradley Method class that takes 12 weeks is not going to work for you. Since childbirth education (CBE) classes vary in length it is a good idea to start considering which class style resonates with you the most around the beginning of the 2nd trimester. This will assure that you have as many options as possible and don’t feel “stuck” with a method that doesn’t match your desires for birth.
What other things should you consider when looking for the best class for you? First, consider if you desire a medicalized birth or a birth that is more natural. When I say “more natural” I do not necessarily mean without pain medication or medical intervention. What I mean is do you want a birth that leaves you with plenty of choices or do you prefer for the medical professionals to make most of the choices for you? If you are sure that you want a very medicalized birth than a hospital CBE class may be perfect for you as they often lean more towards teaching you hospital policy and what to expect the medical staff to do at various points in your labor and birth. However, if you know that you want to feel in control of what is happening during your birth or if you aren’t sure then taking a look at other methods of teaching may be better for you.
One way to look at the options is by doing a simple search for what CBE classes are offered in your area. Once you have a list then you can educate yourself more on each method. Some ways to research include reading the website associated with that method. You can also talk to friends and moms in local mom groups to get their perspective on the classes. Some styles have more of a spiritual component to them either with a specific religious belief or a focus on the personal spiritual component in the birth journey. Some are geared more towards natural, medication free birth. Others are very straight forward, almost scientific in nature, and offer very unbiased information about what options you may have in different scenarios and what the potential pros and cons are of each. Some courses cover many different ways to cope with the intensity of labor and birth while others focus on one particular coping technique such as deep meditation. A number of CBE courses also have a book associated with them that you can check out from your local library or purchase on Amazon. For example, Birthing From Within is a CBE class that has a book of the same title by Pam England. Hypnobirthing, also known as The Morgan Method, is a class that has a book by Marie F. Morgan. Reading just a few chapters of the books associated with the classes can also give you a feel for what the class materials will be like and if you relate to how the information is conveyed.
Once you have narrowed it down to the methods that resonate most with your thoughts on birth you can look into the specific offerings in your area. Friends, family, or social media groups may have recommendations on specific teachers for the methods that you are interested in. You can look at the individual instructors’ websites and even email or call them to ask more questions. You may find that one teacher’s personality does not mesh well with you or you may find that you feel an immediate connection with one of the educators more than the others. You might find that the financial investment or schedule for a particular class does not work for you and your partner. If a particular method and/or instructor is really speaking to you then you may consider asking about private classes which typically offer more scheduling flexibility. However private classes may have an increased cost and you do lose the conversational component of having other couples there with you.
Once you know what type of class you want to take and have chosen the instructor don’t wait! Go ahead and register for the class you want even if it is several weeks away. You put all of this work into finding the right fit for you and your partner so don’t let your perfect class fill up! Ideally a couple will take CBE around 28-32 weeks. This timing is close enough to the birth that you will remember what you learned but still gives plenty of time to research and discuss options further, make any changes that might be needed, and practice coping strategies to master the techniques before the big day arrives. As always, know that there is not one “right” or “wrong” childbirth education class out there. The one that works for you and your partner is the best one to help you have control of your birth experience.