Childbirth classes are an important step along your path to parenthood. Don’t let the opportunity to fully prepare for birth slip by.
Generally, the best time to begin your childbirth class is 28-32 weeks of pregnancy. This means signing up for classes a month or more before to ensure your class doesn’t fill up. Different classes may cover different topics, but here is what you should expect:
Your instructor will usually cover labor and birth from the start to the delivery of the placenta.
In detail, your instructor will describe the thinning and opening of the cervix, the three stages of labor, and delivery, including what you'll feel, when, and why. For example, very early labor contractions can be so mild and so infrequent, you may feel like you're having mild menstrual cramps every 45 minutes. Your teacher will also detail how the baby descends from the pelvis to the birth canal, and the different ways babies present themselves at birth.
During this portion of class, you may be shown a video of an actual birth (not a PG-13-rated version).
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It's probably the biggest question on the mind of the first-time mom: How much will labor hurt? To answer it, childbirth classes go over everything modern medicine has to offer, like epidurals, analgesics, or narcotics, and discuss the pros and cons of each pain-relief method.
Epidurals, for instance, are very effective at blocking pain, but they can make it tougher to push out the baby. Your hospital class may also cover alternative pain-relief methods, such as breathing techniques, visualization, or massage.
Classes may also teach the basics of breastfeeding and newborn care, as well as a hospital course complete with the admissions process, policies and sometimes a hospital tour.
Some classes may teach a particular childbirth method, but many – such as the ones offered at a hospital – don't promote any particular technique. If you want to give birth without an epidural, for example, look for an instructor who spends a lot of time exploring the different natural methods of pain management.
Ultimately, when you graduate, you'll have a lot of knowledge and a big boost of confidence when your bundle of joy arrives.