Caring For Your Pregnancy
|What Are Birthing Classes?
Offered through hospitals and birthing centers, birthing classes (commonly called Lamaze classes) offer practical advice to pregnant women on pregnancy, delivery and childbirth and ways to control pain. If you are expecting a baby for the first time, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with questions and fears about giving birth. Birthing classes help to calm expecting moms by answering questions on issues such as birthing techniques (including vaginal and c-section delivery) and pain management. Most women bring their partner or a friend with them to class to act as a labor coach. During the class there will be practical lessons on positioning and breathing for birth, and strategies on how to work through labor pains and relaxation techniques. Some classes may even offer a tour of a birthing center or facility. Usually a class is taught by a private teacher, health care provider or midwife.
The majority of pregnant women take birthing classes in their third trimester of pregnancy. This type of course typically takes 5-8 weeks to complete (1-2 hours per week) and is aimed at educating expecting parents about labor, delivery and postpartum problems such as breastfeeding and baby care. It is an excellent type of pregnancy guide. Some birthing classes however may start as early as the first trimester, and cover: how your baby is developing, warning signs of fetal problems, how to make your pregnancy more comfortable, how to write a birth plan, what to expect in labor and delivery and the role of a labor coach. Repeat parents may alternatively be offered a refresher course, which usually take place over a day or weekend. Private classes are widely available too.
Typically a birthing class will teach one technique when it comes to giving birth, usually either the Lamaze technique or the Bradley method.
The Lamaze Technique: is the most widely used in North America. Lamaze classes do not offer opinions on the 'rights' or 'wrongs' of drugs or medical interventions in birth, but rather educate expectant mothers to make their own informed choice. The Lamaze philosophy states that birth is a normal, natural process and that women should be educated and empowered to approach it with confidence. All places of birth, such as a home birth, hospital and birthing centers are encouraged. Lamaze classes focus on relaxation techniques as well as conditioning response to pain through a process called psychoprophylaxis and controlled breathing patterns. Distraction techniques are also encouraged, such as looking at a photo from home or receiving a massage from the labor coach. It is a good guide to childbirth.
The Bradley Method: Also called ‘Husband-Coached Birth’, the Bradley method places more emphasis on the labor coach’s role in helping to bring about a birth without the aid of medications. However the classes do still prepare parents for unexpected birth complications, like emergency c-sections. Bradley is usually the preferred choice of many expectant mothers who choose to give birth at home, waterbirths or birthing centers. It also teaches immediate breastfeeding after birth and constant contact between baby and parents.
Some websites offer online Birthing Classes, which you can take from the comfort from your own home. There are also many excellent DVD's available in stores or online. Hypnobirthing and prenatal yoga classes are also growing in popularity.
A typical 6 week Birthing Course may look like this:
Class 1: Basics of pregnancy and a prenatal care guide: nutrition and toning exercises. Quick look at what to expect in labor and birth and techniques for controlling pain. Prenatal pregnancy ultrasound scans during the trimesters. You will also learn what are pelvic floor exercises, as well as how to do pelvic floor exercises.
Class 2: Techniques for making the pregnancy, contractions, labor, and birth as comfortable as possible.
Class 3: First stages of labor and contractions: What to expect, early signs of labor, and when is the right time to go to hospital. Also explains the role of the labor coach.
Class 5: Pregnancy complications, drugs (e.g. epidural and stadol), interventions, cesarean birth (and how to reduce your chances of needing one), fetal monitoring, and episiotomy. Questions such as is an epidural safe? will be addressed.
Class 6: Postpartum baby care and mom's issues: breastfeeding, baby care (diapers, bathing, cord care), 6 week check up and postpartum depression. Also, sleeping problems, recovery tips and packaging your labor bag.
Before signing up to a birth class, check the course content and which philosophy it is based on (usually Lamaze or Bradley). A complete range of topics should be covered, from prenatal care, labor and delivery to the postpartum period and possible pregnancy complications. Also pregnancy symptoms should be covered, tips on how to handle stretch marks, constipation, cravings and varicose veins during pregnancy. Do check that your course provider is recognized by a national organization (such as the International Childbirth Education Association) and ask how many people are in the class. If you do not feel comfortable with either the course content or the teacher, you may want to look for another course. Either way, as classes often fill up quite quickly, it is worth booking your course well in advance of your pregnancy due date.
The average cost of a course is about $110. Sometimes hospitals offer discount to couples who are planning to give birth in their facility. Also, some insurance companies, such as Blue Care HMO and Blue Cross/Blue Shield Advantage may cover part of the costs. Some State hospitals, such as North Kansas City Hospital offer the classes for free. Prenatal yoga classes can range from between $12 to $25 per class. Hypnobirthing classes can cost between $40 and $80 for a 2 hour class. See also prenatal care costs.
|Related Articles For Moms
For more about preparing for your new arrival, see the following:
• Preparing for Pregnancy - How to prepare your body.
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