Prenatal classes can be an important step in your parenting journey. They are known by lots of names, birth class, hospital classes or childbirth education. Today we’re going to talk about what a birthing class is is and what to expect during your class.
Hi, I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls 🩺 After helping thousands of patients (most of whom did NOT take a prenatal class) I know what you’re going to learn and how they can help you as you transition through birth into parenthood.
I’d love to join you for your pregnancy, giving helpful tips and ideas along the way:
Before we get started, I have a few other articles that you might want to open in a new tab. 🙂
This post talks about the best birth courses for first time parents, and this one lists the best online classes for couples, I also have a post on some of the best FREE childbirth classes out there, I share how to purchase a birth class as a gift, I also shared the best AFFORDABLE childbirth classes.
Those posts have so many good resources, so don’t miss them.
Ok, but in this post we’re talking about what IS a childbirth class, and what happens in a birth class?
Introduction: What is a Prenatal Class?
First off, these types of childbirth classes are known by a LOT of names:
- Prenatal classes — generally these are for people planning to give birth in a hospital
- Lamaze Classes — this is a brand super popular when our moms were having us – a lot of talk about breathing and relaxation.
- Birth Classes — tend to focus more on the birth process, and may focus more on home or birth center birth depending on the teacher. Similar to this type of class is the Bradley method
Honestly, I think that birth, childbirth or prenatal classes can be used interchangeably anymore — and I’ll use them each in this post — so you can substitute which type of class you’re considering.
What do childbirth classes teach?
Prenatal classes teach families how to cope with birth and what to expect during the labor process.
A prenatal class is an informative, inclusive, and interactive seminar for pregnant couples.
You can expect these types of topics to be discussed:
- Comfort measures
- Things to discuss with your provider
- Signs to go to the hospital or call your provider
- How to know if you’re in labor
- When you should go to the hospital
- Things to put on your birth plan, or think about before the hospital
- Stages of labor
- Some common complications and medical Interventions in labor
- Pain management options
- Cesarean deliveries
- Hospital tour or learning about the admissions process
- What to take to the hospital
- After Baby
- How to take care of your body after baby
- What to expect from baby after delivery
- What to expect at the hospital
- Life after you go home
- Signs for you and baby that there is a problem
Other topics that may be included:
- Baby development / Newborn care
Most often people aren’t specialists in all of these areas, it is likely that to be fully informed you may want to split it into several parts.
What to Wear and Bring to a Prenatal Class
The first time you go to your childbirth education class, you are probably overwhelmed. There are so many things to think about – what to wear, what to bring, how much information should I take in. Here are some tips on how to prepare for your first prenatal class.
–What to wear: Wear something comfortable and loose fitting, as well as something that’s not too tight or too revealing. You may be moving during the class. Some sessions had me on the floor with the couples when I taught them in person. Mostly you want to be comfortable.
–What to bring: Bring a notebook and some pens because you’re going to need some notes for this one! Bring water as well because staying hydrated is so important. I would also recommend bringing some snacks, I never minded if people ate during my class (try to avoid smelly foods). No need to be hangry. 🙂
Pro Tip: See if there are any handouts that can help you remember what you’ve learned as you get closer to delivery day (OR take a different type of class — stay tuned for that!)
The Day of the Class
Make sure you know where the class is going to be held. Hospitals can be some of the most confusing places on earth. If you’re not sure, call that area and ask them to email you a map or give you specific instructions. It will make you feel much less stressed when you go.
Try to eat a meal before class so your brain can engage in the learning (rather than how hungry it is). But, like I said most teachers don’t mind you eating in class.
What are some Prenatal Class Benefits?
There are a lot of benefits to a prenatal class or a birth class.
- Bonding between both of you as you consider this new life event happening for both of you.
- Know what’s going to happen. It’s like having a game plan.
- You’ll understand the new words that people say, the language in labor.
- More confidence as you discuss options with your healthcare team.
- Understand how informed consent works — and how to use it for your benefit.
- Studies have shown that patients who take a prenatal class are 10% less likely to have a cesarean section (more info in my post on if childbirth classes are necessary).
Where Should I take a Prenatal Classes
There are a LOT of options. If you want an in-person class, you might consider looking in these places:
- Some large medical practices have their own
- Prenatal Educators with their own classes
However, the internet has brought a down of new online childbirth classes that I believe are superior to in-person classes, for a few reasons:
- Coordinating busy schedules can be stressful, virtual on-demand classes eliminate the stress
- You can choose your childbirth educator who will teach you best.
- No distractions to miss something, and you can always review labor and birth as you desire
As you can see, there are a lot of benefits. However some people don’t think that they will be able to finish a virtual class, or be engaged by it — so in-person options might be better for them.
What to Consider When Looking For a Birth Class
The Birth Class Teacher
Almost anyone can teach an online childbirth class, so make sure that person is engaging and has lots of experience for you to learn from. Childbirth educators may or may not have experience with the different interventions that may be required in the hospital, so make sure they have experience in lots of types of childbirth.
And don’t forget to check if they’re fun and a human. A lot of childbirth classes end up so sterile you’re just bored and not really “catching” what you need to learn. Many people offer free beginning classes to see if they’re a good fit for you.
When should you Take a Birth Class?
The short answer is around 30-32 weeks. However, you can start when you feel ready, just try to be “mostly done” by 34 weeks. With online courses you can always review the materials after your leisure after completing the course.
How Much Childbirth Classes Cost
In a survey I saw that, on average, childbirth classes cost around $160 for a moderate-level class. I would recommend finding a class that fits your budget, so you aren’t feeling stretched by the cost.
I have a whole post on how much childbirth classes cost.
Can you see that people similar to you have enjoyed the class? That can be re-assuring that you’ll enjoy the class as well. I am the creator of one of the top prenatal education classes on the internet, but I have loads of reviews to see if it’s right for you. Be mindful that reviews are sometimes cherry-picked, but I put all of mine on that page for you to see exactly what couples thought.
The Online Prenatal Class for Couples will prepare you for your confident birth in just about 3 hours, together. Created by a highly experienced RN you have found the teacher you can trust. Plus it has 3 price-points to fit your budget.
Taking a prenatal class has been shown to increase birth and parenting satisfaction overall. Patients who have taken it are SO much happier with their birthing process. I hope you’ll consider taking one. If you HAVE taken a birthing class, tell us your favorite part about it in the comments!
- About the Author
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice.
She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.