Childbirth Education Classes....Why do I Need Them?

Statistically, people do more research when buying a car than they do when having a baby...isn't that shocking?!  I think childbirth education (CBE) classes are the equivalent to taking Driver’s Ed when you’re a teenager: 1) You take them because you want to and should know what’s going on within the “vehicle”, 2) So that you learn how to take action to make appropriate decisions, and 3) So that you don’t have regrets after the fact if things don’t go your way.  But what type of CBE class should you take?  Where should you take them?  When should you start?  What will the classes discuss?  Do you need to take them if you already took CBE classes with a previous pregnancy or if this is your 2nd, 3rd, 10th child?  What happens if you don’t take them?  Keep reading if you want to find out…


What types of CBE classes are there?  What are the differences between them?

There are many different types of CBE classes and while they all have similarities, they have differences too.  Some of them are strictly for knowledge of the process of birth, while others get into pregnancy and postpartum.  There are classes that are better suited for those birthing outside of a hospital setting, and those where it is more tailored for hospital delivery.  Here are some of them, and a little bit about each so you know where to start in finding the one right for you:

  • Bradley: This is the “husband-coached” method of helping to connect you and your partner, while giving him the tools to support you and be your advocate.
  • HypnoBirthing / HypnoBabies: These methods use hypnosis and relaxation techniques to keep the mind and body calm throughout labor and birth, with a focus on relieving pain and discomfort.
  • Birth Boot Camp: Focuses on natural childbirth and breastfeeding, in a contemporary manner.
  • Birthing from Within: A spiritually-focused approach to birth and parenting, based on the book Birthing from Within by Pam England.
  • Lamaze: This method has been around since the 1950s and has changed from just the breathing (hee-hee-hoo panting) that we all know, into a well-rounded natural childbirth course.
  • Non-Specific Natural Birthing Classes: Many childbirth educators have created their own style of CBE that can be a combination of multiple methods or a creation of the educator’s own making.
  • Hospital-Based Classes: These are the classes held at and usually taught by someone affiliated with the hospital (whether on staff or independently hired).  While they can have some information about natural childbirth, the majority of the class is usually about medications, procedures and an overview of the birth process.


Where should I take my CBE classes?

Many CBE classes are held at offices, birth centers, hospitals, or even in the instructor’s home.  My word of advice would be though, if you’re wanting a natural childbirth with as few interventions as possible, take a class that is not affiliated with a hospital, even if you plan to have a hospital birth.  Most of the hospital-based classes I’ve witnessed are focused less on giving you unbiased information so that you can make an informed choice, and more on teaching you on how to be a “good patient” when you arrive in labor.


When do I need to start taking CBE classes?

The answer to this really depends on what type of class you want to take.  For people interested in Bradley classes, I recommend starting in your 2nd trimester since there are more sessions in this class and you want to be done with them all before you go into labor.  If you are planning on taking a class with fewer sessions, that buys you more time before you have to get started.  Overall though, I think it’s a good idea to be taking a class soon after starting your 3rd trimester, if not before.  That way you can benefit from practicing the labor support techniques, breathing exercises, massages (who doesn’t want to have massages practiced on them?!) and relaxation exercises before going into labor.


What will my CBE class discuss?

It really depends on which class you’ll be taking.  Some will focus more heavily on labor support measures and techniques while others will be more information-driven.  All of them though should discuss the following topics (if they’re not hospital-based):

  • Benefits of natural birth
  • Labor support measures and techniques to help you manage discomfort or pain
  • Process of labor, including early, active, pushing and immediate postpartum phases, and what to expect along the way
  • When to call your care provider if you’re in labor
  • Benefits/risks of medications and procedures
  • Creating a birth plan
  • Breastfeeding


If I took a CBE class before, do I need to take another?

I get asked this question a lot by moms who have already had another child.  The answer is, it kind of depends on you.  Has it been a long time since your last class?  Do you still remember what you learned?  Do you want to try a different type of class to learn alternative labor support techniques?  Some moms will also just take a “refresher course” with their past CBE instructor to help remind them of things they’ve forgotten or they’ll reread the text book that they received from their past class.


What happens if I don’t take a CBE class?

I’ll throw you in jail and take your sweet baby for myself!  Nah, just kidding! ;-)  Nothing happens if you don’t take a CBE class, and that is both good and bad.  You’re not out the time and expense of a class, but you’re also not reaping the benefits of one.  Moms who take CBE classes and educate themselves have a much higher likelihood of experiencing the birth that they want and feeling more satisfied about their birth outcome.  They’ll know what to expect during labor and birth, as well as things they can do to cope, and the information they’ll need in order to make informed decisions for themselves and their baby. 


In the end, yes, your baby will still be born (you won’t be pregnant for forever!).  Taking a CBE class doesn’t change that, but what it does do is to help shape how you get there.  When you’re driving on a road trip, eventually, you’ll still reach your destination, but what type of journey do you want to have?  If you have constant car trouble, get lost numerous times, or are unable to stop along the way to enjoy life’s blessings, wouldn’t it affect your overall experience and the way you look back on the memories from it?