Benefits Of Prenatal Birthing Classes

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Japanese couple in birthing class

(reading time ~ 7 minutes)  

 Let's discuss the benefits of prenatal birthing classes and all the options you'll find out there for childbirth education. While this post addresses fathers-to-be, it is equally helpful for expecting moms.

What Are the Benefits of Prenatal Birthing Classes?

The benefits of prenatal birthing classes are an excellent example of the adage that knowledge is power. Once you attend childbirth education classes, you'll find that your benefits as a parent-to-be skyrocket.

  • You'll be more satisfied with your birthing experience because you'll have a more realistic idea of what to expect, rather than simply what you wish to happen.
  • You'll be more confident about the birthing experience and your role in supporting your partner.
  • You'll become more knowledgeable about breathing techniques, relaxation, massage, pain relief options, and medications.
  • Become less fearful and anxious about labor and delivery, as will your partner.
  • Feel closer to your partner by sharing this bonding experience.
  • Enjoy better communication with your OBGYN, anesthesiologist, or midwife by knowing what questions to ask.
  • Be more capable to adapt readily to life with a newborn baby.

Better Birthing Outcomes From Prenatal Birthing Classes

While you'll enjoy all the benefits above, there are also the benefits of better actual physical outcomes to your birthing experience

Many moms prefer a vaginal birth over a cesarean operation, and for good reasons. It's less invasive, lowers your risk of infection, and means a shorter hospital stay and a quicker recovery. Just by taking a prenatal birthing class, you will decrease the likelihood of needing a C-section or requesting one.

Researchers at Cedar-Sinai in Los Angeles found that women who attended a prenatal birthing class were 25% more likely to deliver vaginally than women who didn't. Not only that, but couples who had a birth plan were almost 50% more likely to avoid a C-section. That's right, 50%! 

A birth plan is written to communicate to your healthcare team your wishes during labor and following the birth of your baby. It's a good idea to review your birth plan with your primary health care professionals during the pregnancy for their input. Be flexible about your birthing plan since things may have to change on the fly. 

Couples who attended prenatal classes also had an increased likelihood of breastfeeding successfully if this is one of your aims. This success is due to the advanced skills and knowledge of partners who attend childbirth classes. And the list of benefits goes on.

benefits of prenatal birthing classes

Benefits of Prenatal Birthing Classes from Study Cases 

  1.  In a controlled trial of over a thousand pregnant women, those who attended a 10-week prenatal program had a 33% reduction in preterm births.
  2.  A 2009 study by Chalmers & Kingston showed that birthing classes lead to better communications between couples and their maternity care providers, a decreased need for analgesic medication during labor, and increased satisfaction with the birthing process.
  3. A 1993 study by Lumley and Brown showed that women taking a prenatal class were significantly less likely to need induced labor. And the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed a better success rate when women who had taken prenatal birthing classes were induced.
  4. In a 2006 study by Declercq, Sakala, Corry, and Applebaum, 88% of women who attended childbirth education classes became more aware of their maternity care options, and 78% felt more confident in their ability to give birth.

What Can you Expect to Learn at Childbirth Classes?

Whether it's a two-day class or divided into weekly sessions, prenatal birthing classes generally cover a lot of territories. These classes have generally become more comprehensive over the years. 

However, you may want to take a specialized course, such as breastfeeding or infant CPR, or schedule a class for your child to learn how to be a big brother or sister. 

Most general childbirth classes now include:

  • Information on diet, exercise, and ways to have a healthy pregnancy.
  • The biology and anatomy of labor.
  • The stages of labor (early labor, active labor, birth, and delivery of the placenta).
  • Comfort measures during pre-labor.
  • Timing contractions and practicing relaxation.
  • What's the right time to leave for the hospital or birth center.
  • How to be a great labor and delivery support coach.
  • Breathing techniques, visualizations, and relaxation techniques to cope with contractions.
  • Labor positions and pushing methods.
  • What to know about epidurals.
  • What to know about C-sections and episiotomies.
  • How to make the best birthing plan for you and your partner.
  • The basics of baby care (diapering, bathing, and cord care) and breastfeeding.
  • Getting adjusted to family life with your little one.
  • Sex after the baby arrives.
  • The six weeks postpartum checkup.

Something to consider is that even with all these great benefits, a 2009 study by Kingston and Chalmers showed that more people found their most important sources of pregnancy-related information came from maternity care providers and books.

Dr, examining pregnant patient

So don't underestimate the power of asking questions of your primary care providers and reading about pregnancy and delivery.

Prenatal Classes Aren't Only For First-Time Parents

As with all attendees, classes bolster confidence and offer tips about birthing to experienced parents. Not to mention that it's always helpful to brush up on the basics.

Multiparas moms, those who gave birth to more than one child, were more than twice as likely to attempt a vaginal delivery after previously delivering by cesarean if they took a prenatal birthing class.

When is it Best to Take a Childbirth Class?

The ideal time to take childbirth classes is towards the end of your second trimester or early in your third trimester. This is late enough in the process for all the information to feel very real but close enough to your due date that it's easier to recall.

It's also early enough in the pregnancy that you won't feel rushed. This will give you plenty of time to practice techniques and hone your birth plan.

How To Find Recommended Birthing Classes

The best way to do this is through other people. Ask your obstetrician, family doctor, or midwife. See if friends, family members, or other moms and dads have experiences and suggestions. You can also call hospitals, birth centers, and pregnancy centers for more information.

In-Person Childbirth Classes vs. Internet Learning

Today, prenatal classes are offered in so many ways; live in-person with a group of parents, live virtually on the Internet, or as prerecorded segments on the Internet that you can view at your leisure.

There was a time when I would say that in-person childbirth classes beat Internet courses every time, but at the time of this writing, COVID is still a genuine concern, and Internet classes have come a long way too.

In an online pregnancy group that my daughter keeps up with, most people are opting for an Internet experience to avoid COVID exposure for themselves and their baby-on-the-way. So it's a very personal decision to make. Here are some pros and cons for three delivery options.

In-Person Classes Pros:

  1. No Internet overload. And no temptation to google things to death.
  2. More hands-on practice. For example, practicing breathing techniques as a group can be very helpful.
  3. In-person classes offer you an opportunity to meet other expectant parents. Couples in childbirth classes make meaningful connections with other parents, and can share in their joys and concerns.
  4. Gives you a chance to tour the hospital facility.

In-Person Classes Cons:

  1. Possible COVID exposure.
  2. Scheduling conflicts.

In-person Virtual Internet Pros:

  1. No COVID concerns.
  2. This may be the only option if there are no live classes near you or if you're on bed rest.
  3. You can ask the instructor questions.
  4. You can watch hands-on demonstrations.

In-Person Virtual Internet Cons:

  1. There may be scheduling difficulties.
  2. Online classes may or may not offer a community of people to interact with.
videotaping online birthing instruction

Internet Prerecorded Classes (and DVDs) Pros :

  1. No COVID concerns.
  2. Schedule flexibility, self-paced. Watch at your leisure.
  3. Some prerecorded classes are free.
  4. This may be a good option if there are no live classes near you or if you're on bed rest.
  5. May be a good option if you're a good online learner. 
  6. Some are textbook based, video-based, or a mixture of both.
  7. There are a great variety of classes offered on specific topics and niches.

Internet Prerecorded Classes (and DVDs) Cons:

  1. No opportunity to ask follow-up questions or mingle with couples.

Ask The Presenters Questions Beforehand

Whether your childbirth classes are live on-site or streamed online; when in doubt about the material, call or email the class instructor to get more information.

Childbirth classes are typically designed by childbirth educators. These childbirth educators may hold a variety of certifications, some with stringent guidelines and some that are laxer, so feel free to ask questions of the author of the material, the methods or approach used, and the delivery of materials.

There are also free materials online that you may be interested in. For instance, Pampers offers nine, free birthing classes that you can watch at your leisure. Baby Academy offers some free, live online classes. You can also watch informative, free on-line classes by going here

One can also search YouTube for free videos. Here are two interesting and informative videos I found with little difficulty.

A Word about Hospital Childbirth Classes

Across the United States, approximately 85% of childbirth classes are taken at local hospitals. That may or may not be good news. Sometimes, these classes are short. Some may only be a single session that's two to four hours long and held over the course of only one or two days.

This may not be as comprehensive an experience as you're looking for, or it may be exactly what you're looking for.

In contrast, childbirth classes taught outside the hospital setting are often organized more like regular courses. Participants may meet over four to six weeks. Since this may help you feel better prepared for the birthing experience, you may want to investigate these more extended classes.

Also, hospital classes may be large, leaving less time for questions or sharing personal experiences. An optimal class size is about 5 or 6 couples. This is more intimate and gives greater opportunities for conversation. Before attending a hospital birthing class:

A. Ask if the teachers are certified, childbirth educators.

B. Ask which methods the educators use, for instance, Lamaze, Bradley, Hypnobirthing, or a combination of styles.

C. Ask what topics are covered in the class so you can see if it's comprehensive enough for you. Some hospital birthing classes are comprehensive and taught by certified educators, using extensive materials and offering ample opportunity for questions and conversation.

Flavors of Childbirthing Philosophies

There is no one right approach to childbirth. Each philosophy has something to offer and it is often a matter of which approach appeals more to you.

Although there are many methods of childbirth education, Lamaze is by far the most widely used, and many classes use an amalgamation of styles. Let's look at some of the more popular methods.

The Lamaze Technique

  • The Lamaze Technique teaches that childbirth is a healthy and natural process.
  • Does not support nor discourage using medicines or medical interventions during delivery, although it encourages moms to try for a natural childbirth.
  • Is known best for its rhythmic breathing patterns.
  • Uses massage, hydrotherapy, and relaxation techniques to ease pain.
  • Places a great priority on getting the support mom needs during labor from her birthing coach.
  • Uses positioning to aid in labor and delivery.
  • Emphasizes communication skills.
  • Teachers breastfeeding and healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Covers all this material in a 12-hour course.

The Bradley Method

  • The Bradley Method emphasizes natural labor and delivery without the use of medication.
  • Places great importance on a guiding coach or doula advocating for the mother. A doula is a trained professional who provides physical, emotional, and informational support during labor and childbirth. While a doula can be enormously helpful, a well-educated dad can also fulfill this role. The last time I checked, the cost for a doula was about $1,000-$2,500.
  • Emphasizes the importance of exercise and nutrition.
  • Uses relaxation methods, such as self-awareness, deep breathing techniques, and massage for pain management.
  • Runs through labor rehearsals.
  • Provides information on how to avoid a C-section.
  • Covers breastfeeding and postpartum care.
  • Is taught in a comprehensive 12-week course.

Hypnobirthing

  • This method anticipates that its students are looking for a drug-free delivery, though understanding that mothers may require pain medications or interventions.
  • Teaches that if you remove fear and tension, severe pain need not be a part of labor.
  • Believes that intense relaxation enhances one's natural birthing instincts, leading to a serene birthing experience.
  • Uses visualization, positive affirmations, breathing, mantras, and meditation to remain calm.
  • 12 hours of classes spread out over four or five sessions

Birthing From Within

  • This approach focuses on birth as a psychologically, physically and emotionally transformative experience for parents.
  • Focuses on fears, goals, and expectations surrounding delivery as well as your feelings about parenthood.
  • Focuses on trusting a women's body of being capable to give birth.
  • Believes in practicing "birthing awareness" rather than looking for a specific birth outcome.
  • Uses breath awareness, mindfulness, poetry, journaling, and visualization.

The Alexander Technique

  • Uses moving techniques to enhance mobility for people in all walks of life.
  • Emphasizes increasing your ease of movement, balance, and coordination. 
  • Uses movement exercises to improve comfort during pregnancy.
  • Increases pushing effectiveness.
  • Aids in the recovery process from childbirth.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post. If you have any suggestions or comments, please let me know. Happy Parenting!



About the author 

Dan Sperling

I'm the proud father of two great children. They are grown up now, and although I would have preferred to be a stay-at-home dad, I had to work. Luckily, I could work out of my home so I was around a lot. I ran a video production company, had a couple of great guys working with me and it allowed me to be around the children a lot. I was the "fun guy" for my kids and fathering was something I just took to.
When my daughter became pregnant, I was glad to see my son-in-law was doing everything right--or as good as it gets--we're always winging it, right? It got me thinking that so many dads would like to be more emotionally involved and knowledgeable when it comes to their wives' pregnancy and the first year of their children's lives.

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