Today’s expectant family arrives in Labor and Delivery having a pretty good idea of what is to come. Having done some research and knowing their options, they have some idea of how they would like things to go. They speak the language of labor and delivery and are able to have informed discussions with obstetricians, midwives and nursing staff.

The information in books and on the web can be overwhelming. Because of the vastness of information available to expectant parents today, a childbirth class is crucial to cut through the extraneous and give parents the preparation they need to make this exciting yet unfamiliar transition.

There are several options for childbirth education, ranging from online courses to hospital classes to out-of-hospital workshops. Information delivered in these courses varies greatly as well, so it is best to look over what is offered so that you choose the right one for your family. Just a little research can help you choose the childbirth education class that best suits your situation.

Read up on the organization that designed the course.

Is the organization that designed the childbirth course reputable? Have they been established for a number of years? What is the instructor certification process?

Find out what topics are covered.

Some hospital-based classes do little more than give expectant parents a rundown of hospital policies. Make sure the class teaches you about the labor process, coping techniques, medical and non-medical pain management, medical interventions.

Childbirth is unpredictable, and sometimes, decisions need to be made in the heat of the moment. Make sure your childbirth class equips you to have an open, informed conversation with your care providers should a decision-making moment arise. You will be most comfortable if you are at least familiar with the language of labor and delivery, so that you have an idea of what to expect and so that you can express your wishes accordingly.

In addition to labor and delivery, some childbirth classes cover self-care during pregnancy, newborn care and breastfeeding. Determine if you want to package all of these learning experiences together, or if it would be better for you to learn about the other aspects of becoming a parent separately.

Determine the program’s philosophy on birth.

Some parents wish to let labor progress naturally, with as hands-off an approach as is medically permissible. Others want to know what the hospital offers to move the birth process along. There are parents who want to give the baby the gentlest possible entrance into the world, and there are parents who want to be mindful of the spiritual transformation that comes with parenthood. And of course, all parents, doctors and midwives place top priority on health and safety of mother and baby.

Also, consider the level of involvement of the support people. Some expectant fathers or family members may choose to be highly involved in the birth process, others may feel out of their element and would rather provide emotional support.

Today, there are several options in childbirth education, and one is sure to suit your individual needs.

Don’t forget the practical things.

When considering childbirth education options, it is easy to get caught up in topics and birth philosophy. However, you need to be mindful of the more concrete aspects of childbirth classes before you commit. Be sure to consider

  • How many months (or weeks) of pregnancy remain? Do you have time to get through a 12-week series, or do you need a weekend crash course?
  • What is the cost of the class or course series? Childbirth classes should fit into your budget. While a thorough class is important, there are so many options that there is no need to break the bank. You can find a childbirth course that fits your needs and your budget.
  • Convenience of classes. Consider location of the classes, especially if you will have to get to more than one class. Also consider the schedule of classes, both for the birthing mother and any support people who will accompany.