Myths About Going to a Childbirth Class

Teacher helping pregnant woman to practice breathing technique in antenatal class
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It used to be that childbirth classes were mandatory in some hospitals if you wanted someone to come into labor and delivery with you. You’d have to show up with a certificate of attendance, signed by your teacher. Attendance at childbirth classes is not mandatory anymore, though the benefits of childbirth class can be great for women and their partners. You can find classes at hospitals and birthing centers, but also through private educators who specialize in different types of birth preparation (such as Lamaze, Bradley, and so on).

If parents choose not to attend a Lamaze class or other childbirth class, sometimes it's because they believe in one of these myths.

Myth: You Don’t Have Time

Childbirth class is a time commitment, but just how much time will vary. Most certifying organizations for childbirth educators require a 12-hour course; some classes are up to 24 hours long. So even the longest is ultimately only one day out of your life. Usually, these 12 to 24 hours are spread out over six to 12 weeks or consolidated into one weekend. Even if you have an odd schedule, there are many childbirth educators who will teach private classes for you and your partner at convenient times.

Ideally, childbirth classes should be spaced out for better retention. This isn’t to say that there is no place for a crash course, but many of these, particularly those in large group settings or taught by hospitals, are more like glorified hospital tours than true childbirth classes. (Of course, these tours also have their place for learning about hospital policies.) You can also take childbirth classes online.

Myth: You'll Find Out You What You Need to Know in the Hospital

While you will have nurses to care for you during your birth, they have many medical tasks to take care of and potentially more than one patient. This doesn’t leave much time for teaching. Not to mention that by the time you are there you’ll be in labor and not super receptive to learning. You will also miss out on being able to use comforting techniques in early labor (before you get to the hospital).

Myth: You Don't Need a Class If You Want an Epidural

Even if you plan to have an epidural during labor, you can still learn a lot in childbirth class

  • How to tell when labor has started
  • What the process of getting an epidural entails
  • How to cope with contractions prior to the epidural
  • Postpartum comfort measures
  • Breastfeeding, baby care, and more

It's also often nice to be with other couples who are experiencing the same thing you are. Parents-to-be in childbirth classes are a mix of couples who want medication in labor, couples who are undecided, and those who wish to avoid medication. You can still take a childbirth class and get an epidural.

Myth: Your Teacher Will Have an Agenda

Most childbirth educators teach empowering childbirth classes. They want to show you how to get information and process it in a way that helps you make decisions that are right for your family. There is not a judgment process in class. A childbirth educator is paid once when you sign up for the class. Her earnings are not dependent on what type of birth you have.

Myth: You Can't Afford the Classes

Childbirth classes, like the services of all the others who help you when you have a baby, do cost money. Many childbirth educators have payment plans or even some scholarship spots in their classes. You can also talk to your insurance company about coverage for childbirth classes.

While there are some free or low-cost classes, these do not always have the same high standards as other classes. Ask about the childbirth educator’s certification background and current status, how many couples will be in the class (fewer than 10 is the goal), how long the class runs, and if the childbirth educator is employed by a hospital or practitioner’s office.

Myth: Your Partner Will Hate It

While it is true that some partners are reluctant to come to a childbirth class, a good childbirth educator is prepared for this possibility. Helping partners feel more engaged is part of their job description. They will teach certain things specifically for the partners to use in labor to help you and show them how to participate in the birth as much as they wish without feeling uncomfortable.

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