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Birthing Classes

Birthing classes or childbirth education classes are a great way for expectant moms to learn about childbirth. There may be many different birthing classes available for expectant moms, which gives her the opportunity to find the right one for her.

While there are a variety of types of birthing classes available, they usually share the purpose of preparing the expectant mother and her labor coach for childbirth. Moms should avoid classes that make them feel guilty, such as if they need pain management during labor and delivery or a C-section. They should usually try to find a class that teaches them how to care for themselves and their baby before, during, and after childbirth, as well as different situations that might arise, including emergencies, and what options they might have. Many classes also offer information for the mother's partner or labor coach.

Birthing classes offer an opportunity to talk to teachers, other couples, and the labor coach about fears, concerns, and questions the expectant mom may have. Birthing classes may also help mothers create a birth plan to discuss with her doctor well before labor and delivery. The birth plan should be flexible since things can change during the course of labor.

There are many factors to consider when choosing your birthing classes, especially in areas where several classes are available. Some of these factors include:

  • Teacher’s qualifications
  • Size of the class
  • Class philosophy
  • Teaching style, or how hands on the class is
  • Number of classes
  • During what part of the pregnancy the birthing classes are offered
  • Time and length of classes
  • Class location
  • Cost

Though there are many childbirth philosophies that may be expressed in a birthing class, the two most common types of classes are Lamaze and Bradley.

Lamaze classes focus on the idea that labor is a natural process. This process helps the mother find ways to relax and manage pain, such as breathing exercises and massage. It also teaches about what options are available during childbirth so she can make the best decisions. The Lamaze approach discourages induced labor and other interventions unless they are medically necessary, and encourages women to find a comfortable labor position and to have support from a loved one. It encourages breastfeeding as best for mother and baby.

The Bradley method of birthing classes focus on the baby’s father acting as a labor coach. It encourages the mother to avoid pain medications if possible. This approach also places a strong emphasis on good health during pregnancy, relaxation techniques, and breastfeeding. This method is popular among those who want a home birth or a birth in another non-traditional setting.

In addition to these methods, there are many other childbirth methods taught, including  trends like hypnobirthing classes that teach self-hypnosis for relaxation during childbirth. General childbirth classes offered through women's centers, birthing centers, or hospitals may touch on several methods, offering general information about philosophies of childbirth with specific information about what’s available at their own birth center.

Community health organizations and private individuals such as midwives may also offer classes. Regardless of where the expectant mother takes the class, she should make sure that the instructor is qualified to teach the class and that she is comfortable with what the class offers.

Moms who can't make it to birthing classes can find classes on video, and there are also many good books available on childbirth. Like the classes, moms should find videos or books that fit their situation and help them feel confident about childbirth, not guilty or overwhelmed.


Nemours, KidsHealth, "Birthing Classes" [online]
March of Dimes, Pregnancy & Newborn Health Education Center, "Childbirth Education Classes" [online]
American Pregnancy Association, "Childbirth Education Classes" [online]
Lamaze International, "Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices" [online]

Related Article: What is a Birth Center? >>