Is an Online Childbirth Class Right for You?

Pregnant woman using laptop, smiling, side view
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Taking a childbirth class can be a really important part of your pregnancy education. You may or may not have a really good idea of what you learn in a childbirth class, but they will cover a lot of territories, including how to have a healthy pregnancy, when to go to the hospital or birth center, and even the basics of baby care and breastfeeding.

A childbirth class can also be a great way to start a conversation between you and your doctor or midwife about the preferences that you have for the birth of your baby. Here is what is typically covered in a childbirth class:

  • The basics of pregnancy, pregnancy adjustment, nutrition, and exercise.
  • A look at pain in pregnancy, labor, and birth and the beginnings of coping with pain.
  • Comfort measures during pregnancy and labor/birth, pre-labor, timing contractions, relaxation.
  • First stage labor: from beginning to end.
  • What to expect, how to cope and answers to questions like "When should I go to the hospital?" and "Is this the real thing?"
  • How to be a great labor support person.
  • Second and Third Stage labor (pushing and placentas), birth plans, doulas, and lots of neat tips.
  • Labor positions and methods for pushing.
  • Medications, common procedures, and complications.
  • Cesarean birth, fetal monitoring, episiotomy, and more.
  • How to make the best decisions for your birth.
  • Postpartum adjustment, newborn care (diapering, bathing, cord care), sex after baby, your six-week postpartum checkup, bleeding, and postpartum depression.

How Online Classes Differ From In-Person Classes

An online childbirth class is a great idea for some families, but an in-person class may be preferred.

  • Schedule flexibility

  • Only option if there are no live classes near you or you are on bedrest

  • You can go in-depth into a specific topic you need (e.g. breastfeeding and returning to work or vaginal birth after cesarean [VBAC])

  • Meeting other expectant parents

  • Hands-on demonstrations

  • Can ask instructor questions

Classes that are held online may or may not offer a community to talk to other people who are expecting at about the same time as you are. Many people taking a childbirth class really enjoy and learn a lot from other class participants. This is one of the biggest differences. The other being the length of the course.

Online classes, while they may cover similar topics, may be designed to go very quickly. While you do have control over how quickly you take the course, and an online course may need to build in some breaks to allow you to process and act upon the information that you have learned.

How They Work

Online childbirth classes may work in a variety of ways. Some may be text-based, while others may be completely video-based, and some will have a mixture of text and videos. Within the concept of a text-based class, you may have interactive parts as well. It can be very difficult to understand some of the parts of the anatomy and the birth process with only text-based classes. If you are choosing an online childbirth class, you will miss out on some of the hands-on activities, the video can at least alleviate some of this for you.


Online childbirth classes are usually designed by childbirth educators. There are a variety of certifications available for those who wish to be childbirth educators, and those vary greatly both in terms of what knowledge one must possess to be an educator and how stringent the guidelines are for teaching. Sometimes it may be hard to tell who authored the class content but it is sponsored by a medical entity like a hospital. If you are unsure, you should contact the class sponsors to ask who is teaching or authoring the material. 

Which Class Is Right for You?

You should find an online childbirth class that fits your schedule, your needs, and your budget. While taking an online class is not the perfect solution, it will help those who can't get to a childbirth class for whatever reason get the basics under their belt.

When possible, you should supplement this online childbirth class with some in-person experiences. This can be in-person breastfeeding or baby care class or even just by going to a parenting group to meet other expectant parents due about the same time you are due to have your baby. These people can make a great source of ideas, information, and a place to talk about what's going on in your pregnancy and with your babies.

When to Take an Online Childbirth Class

As with any childbirth class, you really want to be able to take your class with enough time to go through each lesson without being rushed. You also want to finish before you start your 36th week of pregnancy. This allows you time to incorporate what you've learned and to practice relaxation techniques and positions for labor. And it means that you get this information before labor starts for most people.

Free vs. Paid

Many people are looking for a free childbirth class option. Certainly, there are free childbirth classes online. Though a free class may not have some of the features that a class that you pay for would have, simply because the author of the online class has no resources to put into interactive features and videos. A free class may also be sponsored by a person or entity with a clear bias, be sure to look for this as you are considering classes.

1 Source
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  1. American Pregnancy Association. Childbirth Education Classes: Types and Benefits.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.