No other life experience compares to giving birth to a baby. While there are as many opinions and experiences surrounding labor and delivery as there are mothers, no amount of talking about these topics can ever fully prepare you for the rite of passage from pregnant woman to mom. I say this in all honesty, because while childbirth education classes serve the wonderful purpose of arming you with a plethora of important details, while enabling you to bond with your partner or labor coach, there is no book or teacher which will allow you to truly capture or understand the visceral, raw experience until you’re immersed in it. That said, having as much knowledge as possible regarding the labor and delivery process will be beneficial. Here are four different types of childbirth education classes that will teach you vital information about the process of giving birth.

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1. Lamaze International

Perhaps the most widely-known childbirth education class, the mission behind Lamaze classes is to “promote, support and protect natural, safe and healthy birth through education and advocacy.” The Lamaze philosophy embraces a wide-range of birthing experiences, with the tenets that a woman’s inner wisdom guides her through the birth process, and that birth can safely take place at homes, birthing centers or in hospitals. Six healthy birth practices are at the core of the Lamaze teachings:

  • Let labor begin on its own
  • Walk, move around, and change positions throughout labor
  • Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support
  • Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary
  • Avoid giving birth on your back, and follow your body’s urges to push
  • Keep mother and baby together- it’s best for mother, baby and breastfeeding

+ Lamaze International

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2. Bradley Method

Editor Jill’s chosen method of childbirth, the Bradley Method of childbirth teaches families how to have a natural birth without pain medication or medical interventions. The classes focus on teaching pregnant women to work with their bodies to reduce pain and achieve a more efficient labor. Bradley Method classes also seek to make labor coaches and doulas an integral part of the birth process by teaching them “a series of relaxation techniques and effective labor and birth positions…. [and] providing relaxation practice and labor rehearsals.” The Bradley Method also offers a very comprehensive overall learning experience, enlightening on topics from “nutrition, exercise, being more comfortable during pregnancy, the coaches role, introductory information about labor and birth, advanced techniques for labor and birth, complications, cesarean sections, postpartum care, breastfeeding… and caring for your new baby.” For this reason, Bradley Method courses typically last 10 weeks or longer. According to statistics, 86% of Bradley trained couples have spontaneous, unmedicated births.

Inhabitots editor Jill Fehrenbacher says:

I took Bradley classes in preparation for the birth of my son, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I think the most important thing for women to have going into childbirth is to be armed with an in-depth knowledge and understanding of how the whole process works – the different stages of labor, how long they take, and what interventions are typically used in hospitals and the pros and cons of each. Every labor is different, but if you understand what to expect and the different scenarios that usually happen, it is much easier to make good decisions, which invariably makes the experience better for moms and their babies. Bradley classes are meticulous and thorough – you will come out of a Bradley class completely and totally understanding the physiology of labor. And whether you have a natural birth or a C-section, knowledge is power and makes for a better experience.

+ The Bradley Method

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3. Birthing From Within

Birthing from Within is based on the belief that “the essence of childbirth education is self -discovery, not assimilating obstetric information.” This method was initially introduced in a book, Birthing from Within by midwife Pam England and Rob Horowitz. Parents interested in this concept should view giving birth as a profound rite of passage in which primitive self-expression: ie: making noise and losing control are expected. Birthing from Within educators take a holistic mind-body-spirit approach which is personalized and tailored to a couple’s needs and interests. This method also teaches that relaxation techniques aren’t necessary, because labor is “hard work.” Instead, students will be taught how to remain active and upright to cope with the challenges of labor.

+ Birthing From Within

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4. HypnoBirthing – The Mongan Method

HypnoBirthing founder and creator Marie Mongan says of her method for childbirth, “We believe that every woman has within her the power to call upon her natural instincts to bring about the best possible birthing for her baby and herself.” Additionally, HypnoBirthing is designed to teach you that “in the absence of fear and tension, or special medical circumstances, severe pain does not have to be an accompaniment of labor.” HypnoBirthing does not put laboring women in a trance; instead it enables them to daydream and focus via relaxation to achieve a calm and serene birth that is free from fear and full of trust in their body. Contractions are referred to as “surges” that are meant to be overcome in a peaceful, tranquil mental state. Marie Mongan’s book HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method is available here.

*Personally, I listened to HypnoBirthing CD’s during the last several months of my pregnancy, and while they provided me with immense relaxation, often sending me off into a deep sleep or nap, I can honestly say that this type of serene birthing experience via concentration and daydreaming would have never worked for me given the intense pain I felt during labor. However, like I said, all women are different and it may be the answer for some!

+ HypnoBirthing – The Mongan Method

Register for the childbirth class of your choice during your sixth month of pregnancy so you’ll have plenty of time to complete the course and supplement the class with any additional education you desire.

What childbirth education class did you take when you were pregnant? Would you recommend it to other moms-to-be?