Congrats! You’re pregnant and excited to learn all the things about labor and delivery. You’ve done some preliminary research and you’ve decided that natural childbirth is your goal. Everything you’ve skimmed over and those birth stories you’ve read online have given you confidence. You are certain this is something you can and will do, at least in theory. However, you’re curious about how it will pan out at “go-time.” You need more information and more knowledge, but where will you go to get it? It’s likely that the hospital at which you’re planning your delivery offers its own childbirth class and that seems awfully convenient, but before you sign-up, know what you’re getting and what you’re not.
Not Enough Detail
Hospital childbirth classes approach childbirth education in a broad-stroke. Many different approaches to childbirth are discussed with no one method or option being given the necessary attention to truly convey the philosophies of each. The focus of a hospital childbirth class is not natural childbirth. It may be touched on, but there won’t be nearly enough information to make you feel prepared.
Classes are usually fairly large which prohibits both individualized attention and ample time for student questions. With the majority of childbirth-class-attendees being first-timers, these two things are vital. Without the opportunity for the instructor to build rapport and for the students to ask pressing questions, the learning experience is severely lacking.
Not only does the class-size pose an issue, the amount of class-time is generally abbreviated and usually falls too close to your estimated-due-date. A class that meets once a week for four-weeks, beginning at the end of your third trimester, is not going to provide the amount of time necessary to get comfortable with and practice relaxation techniques and positioning recommendations.
Instructors Lack Training in Natural Childbirth
The instructors usually aren’t certified childbirth educators. Rather, they are labor and delivery nurses. Not to discount their extensive time assisting in childbirth, but having a role in hundreds of hospital-childbirths does not provide one with expertise in natural methods and techniques that a certified childbirth educator possesses.
Strong Focus on Hospital Procedures
Being that the class takes place in-hospital and that the instructors are employees of said hospital, these classes tend to do a good bit of training students on how to be “good patients.” There will be talk of protocols and procedures and an underlying or even outright discouragement of the patient’s autonomous decision-making. It’s much easier for the medical staff to have a compliant patient, one who doesn’t stray from the birth interventions that are all-too-common in our maternity wards.
While it’s not your main goal to make other soon-to-be-parent-friends, private childbirth classes really lend themselves to this possibility due to their small class-size, longer duration of class, and like-minded classmates. With hospital classes missing these key aspects, making friends with others is harder to come by, and that’s a missed opportunity.
While it may be said that having a hospital childbirth class would be preferable to opting not to take a class at all, it’s definitely not the route recommended for someone interested in giving birth naturally, with minimal to no intervention. When your goal is natural childbirth, a supportive care team should be first priority while a solid natural childbirth class comes in as a close second.