Is taking a childbirth class necessary?
Do you NEED a childbirth class to have a baby? Not necessarily. While your body will certainly birth your baby whether you take a course or not… if you want a positive, supported, and informed experience, you’ll want to attend a childbirth class. Taking a childbirth class will seriously uplevel the quality of your birth experience.
“If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.” Diana Korte & Roberta Scaer A Good Birth, A Safe Birth
You might ask “Can’t I just educate myself online using search engines and videos?”. While the internet is a fabulous resource, there is a lot of misinformation and inaccurate information out there. It is worthwhile signing up for a quality childbirth education course to cut out the guesswork and hours of research.
If you have already had a baby and did not take a childbirth class before your first birth OR you didn’t take a quality childbirth class during your first pregnancy, I highly recommend you take a childbirth class. Although you may have experienced birth once, each baby is different, and going into labor with more information the second time around makes all the difference.
What are the benefits of taking a childbirth class?
No more information overload- Taking a childbirth class reduces the endless Google searches and questioning of whether you have been given quality information.
Comfort measures and hands-on techniques - Knowing when and how to support labor with comfort measures and hands-on techniques is empowering and leads to a more positive birthing experience
Birth partner involvement - Your partner or support person wants to help ensure you are as comfortable as possible. Taking a childbirth education course together will enhance your ability to work together as a team.
Making birth plans - Childbirth education courses either teach you how to make a birth plan or equip you with the information you need to create one. Birth plans are an important tool that will help you communicate with your care team and advocate for your birth preferences. You can learn more about birth plans HERE.
Improved satisfaction with birth experience - parents who take childbirth classes report higher levels of satisfaction with their birth experiences compared to parents who did not.
What childbirth class should I take?
I do not recommend taking a childbirth class at a hospital. For the most part, hospital childbirth classes are short. As a result, some information is skimmed or skipped, leaving gaps in the topics that you need to know about before labor starts. Many hospital childbirth classes are biased towards intervention and don’t fully explain your options for birth. Routine practices in some hospitals are still about 15 to 20 years behind the research, and there is a lot of pressure to conform to traditions that might not be in your best interests. Childbirth educators giving courses at a hospital might not speak openly about the intervention rates at that location and skirt around the advocacy techniques needed when birthing in a hospital setting. Lastly, hospital childbirth courses usually have large class sizes which means you miss out on the mentorship from your instructor. For a more personalized experience, try to find classes that are limited to no more than five or six pregnant people and their labor partners.
When considering your options you should ask what’s covered in the childbirth curriculum. Be sure you look for a course that covers:
Physiological birth- the biology behind the natural process of childbirth.
Comfort measures and pain relief options- comfort measures are important regardless of where or how you plan to give birth. Most hospitals and free-standing birth centers don’t admit you until you’re in active labor. In addition to this, it’s best to spend early labor in the comfort of your own home to avoid unnecessary interventions at the hospital. Moreover, epidurals are only effective 80% of the time. You’ll want to make sure you have backup strategies if you are planning to get an epidural. In the meantime, you can get my free Comfort Measures Guide HERE.
Common hospital procedures and interventions- knowing what to expect when you get to your place of birth can give you peace of mind and allow you to feel calmer during any of the triage processes. It’s also important to know the risks, benefits, and alternatives to the pain management options prior to labor to you can choose which methods are best for you. You should discuss and make decisions about interventions before labor starts. Use this knowledge to create a birth plan and discuss it with your care team before you go into labor. This will reduce the back-and-forth conversations during labor so you can focus on birthing your baby.
The role of your partner/support person during labor- birth courses should be beneficial to you as the person giving birth and your partner/spouse/support person. There are a lot of important roles a partner needs to play during birth and taking a childbirth course can increase their ability to support you and enhance satisfaction with your birth experience.
Breastfeeding/ Chestfeeding- the World Health Organization recommends chest/breastfeeding until babies reach 2 years of age. There are many benefits to breastfeeding including health benefits for baby and parent as well as significant financial savings compared to formula feeding. While chest/breastfeeding is a natural process, it’s a learned skill that requires education and support. Learning the basics before you give birth can improve your chances of chest/breastfeeding your baby.
Advocacy- In the USA we have a very broken medical system. Unfortunately, informed consent is not always prioritized, and frequently phrases like “I am going to…”, “I need you to”, and “you’re not allowed” are used in the birth space. Advocacy is a topic that is missing from many childbirth education curriculums but it is an integral part of preparing for birth.
Your values and identity- consider if a birth class honors you for who you are, respects your preferences, and is intentional about creating a class environment that aligns with your values. See more in “A note about inclusive childbirth classes”.
When to take a childbirth class
When you take a childbirth class will depend on your schedule, preference, and the type, of course, you’re signing up for. Many expectant parents prefer to take a childbirth class in their second trimester or early in their third trimester. For many, this timeframe feels far enough into the pregnancy that everything is feeling very real but not so far along that it feels rushed. That being said, it’s never too late or too early to take a course, it ultimately depends on your preferences and schedule.
Are childbirth classes covered by insurance?
Many insurance companies will cover or reimburse for childbirth education classes. It’s worth checking with your insurance company. If your insurance company does not cover childbirth classes, it’s very likely that the course is reimbursable through your HSA account.
Childbirth class for couples
I firmly believe that childbirth education classes should be designed to support all types of family structures. A partner, spouse, family member, or friend will likely support you during labor. When your support person has a deep understanding of childbirth and how to support you throughout labor they will feel/be more involved which will allow you to focus more on birthing your baby. Finding courses that are designed to support you AND your chosen support person will make a huge difference.
Childbirth class online
Since the pandemic there has been a surge in the number of childbirth education classes offered online. Taking a childbirth class online is a terrific option. You can get all the information you need from the comfort of your own home. There are three types of online classes: live courses, self-paced classes with pre-recorded videos, and hybrid classes. Depending on your learning style and preference one of these formats might resonate with you most.
A note about inclusive childbirth classes
Not every childbirth class is right for everyone. As a childbirth educator and doula, I have noticed that a lot of the pregnancy and birth work space is centered on the white, heterosexual birth experience. Depending on your identity, background, and values, it’s important to find an instructor who intentionally creates an inclusive environment where your lived experience is considered and honored. We know that the treatment of Black, Brown, and LGBTQIA+ birthing people in the USA is not equal. Whether it’s your identity or your values, prioritize selecting a childbirth education course where the curriculum and educator are aware of birth inequities and create an intentional and inclusive environment in their courses.
Evidence Based Birth® Childbirth Classes
As an Evidence Based Birth® Instructor, I am an advocate for their childbirth curriculum. EBB is unique because it is a hybrid course with a blend of live and pre-recorded content. Class sizes are limited to 6 couples, allowing for mentorship from your instructor and close community. The curriculum is also intentionally unbiased and gives you the information you need to make informed decisions that align with your values. Evidence Based Birth® Childbirth Classes are designed to support birthing people AND their partners feel ready for birth. The curriculum uses gender-inclusive language and includes modules about birth disparities for Black and Brown birthing people. Moreover, there is a huge focus on comfort measures and advocacy. This curriculum leaves students feeling informed, autonomous, and prepared to advocate for the birth of their dreams. Want to learn more? Check out my upcoming classes HERE.
a free gift for you!
Ease your labor pains naturally without asking for an epidural.
Meet the Author
Clara O'Rourke (she hers),
Holistic Doula & Childbirth Educator.
I am a researcher turned total birth nerd with a passion for supporting people birth in their full power! I guide people through their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum journey by helping them overcome fear or anxiety about birth, providing evidence-based information so they can make informed decisions, and ensuring they have everything they need to birth with confidence. Birth is sacred and it should be treated that way. I am committed to providing support for birth and beyond, regardless of a person's background, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or relationship status. También ofrezco mis servicios en español. I wish you and your growing family the brightest of beginnings!