Because choosing a name, carseat, and stroller haven’t been stressful enough, now you get to figure out which birth class you’re going to take. We know better than anyone how many options are out there: we’ve taken them and we’ve taught them. While we love our approach, it’s not right for everyone, so to help you decide which class could be best for you (in true Birthsmarter fashion) here’s some more context and our best thinking on your options.
Lamaze is the oldest branded labor coping method out there. You might be familiar with the classic “hee-hee-who” breathing technique seen in all movies, ever. That’s Lamaze. But actually that’s old school Lamaze. Turns out, the “hee-hee-who” breath causes hyperventilating and you 100% need all the oxygen to get a baby out so even Lamaze classes shouldn’t be teaching it anymore. Now they’re “not-your-ma’s-lamaze” (which is adorable) and their childbirth preparation classes focus on a variety of pain coping strategies to help with labor in order to increase confidence and ensure the safest delivery for mom and baby. Pretty standard stuff. There is no set curriculum from teacher to teacher - which also means there is no consistency between Lamaze classes. Skip to the end to find out more of what you should be looking for when it comes to birthing classes since there can be a huge range in quality.
The Hypnobirthing training method rejects the premise that birth is painful and scary. Anyone preparing you for labor should agree that fear of the process will hinder the process. Thus, Hypnobirthing replaces the fear-based narrative with positive messages and teaches tools for self-hypnosis, breathing, and movement. The Hypnobirthing curriculum is prescribed: each teacher offers five, 2.5 hour sessions that prepare the pregnant person and her partner for a medication-free and intervention-free birth. There is a Hypnobirthing Book and there are Hypnobirthing audio tracks available to anyone interested in supplementing a more traditional birthing course.
The Bradley Method prepares couples for unmedicated, intervention free delivery through an 8 or 12 week series. Sometimes referred to as the Husband-Coached Childbirth class, they equally engage the partner as well as pregnant person since having a baby requires an incredible amount of support and advocacy. Given the length of the classes and therefore how much information and practice they can fit in, the Bradley Method has strong numbers to back up its efficacy if you’re trying for a drug-free, intervention-free path!
While Lamaze, Hypno-Birthing, and Bradley are the three big players in the arena, SO MANY other organizations have gotten into the mix training childbirth educators. ICEA, CAPPA, DTI, CEA/MNY, BIRTH ARTS International, the list goes on and on. And to confuse things even further many of us are certified by multiple organizations. So what are you really looking for?
The teacher and location will say a lot about the class you’re going to get.
Obviously in every profession there is a range in quality between professionals and degrees and certifications, do not equate quality. Will your instructor teach you what to expect from common practices or teach you about best practices? In general, classes taught by Labor and Delivery Nurses (especially if taught in a hospital or doctor’s office) are typically intended to teach students about the typical hospital experience. For example, “if your water breaks you go to the hospital, get an epidural, and get a baby!” In New York City, since well over 90% of women receive epidural medication, medical management is the lens with which L&D nurses see childbirth. Because of this, these classes alone are not sufficient to prepare you for an alternative course of action, let alone an unmedicated delivery. While the information presented could easily have been acquired online or in books, parents still often find it helpful to have the information presented all at once from a live expert they can engage with.
In the era of woke parenting, what was once woo-woo is now worthy of investigation. HypnoBirthing, Bradley, Birthing from Within, and even sometimes Lamaze, are all approaches that lean into self-exploration and inner-wisdom. Depending on your level of hippie-aversion, these classes can all add value to your life and birthing experience if you’re down for them. They are typically taught in someone’s home or a parenting-friendly space and are intended to offer strategies to avoid medical interventions as well as provide the time for community building. Teachers who are also doulas, student-midwives, or lactation specialists all bring an additional perspective to the table. Can I throw in two mores nuances? Since you have to sit through this class there’s a difference between learning from an “expert” and learning from an educator. Experts are very good at doing their job, they may even be able to teach it. Educators are going to make sure you learn. You also want to make sure your teacher is up-to-date with the most recent best practices!
That may have been too much context and thinking. Sorry! Here’s what’s up: we believe it is worth investing in your birth. You need to decide how much time and money you can put towards your learning and maximize the value of what you can get from there.
Ideally you are looking for a class that combines physiology (how the body + birth in particular work with relaxation and coping strategies, a sophisticated explanation of our medical environments, and a list of partner responsibilities. From there - you can choose an artsy, spiritual, or sciency flavor to help you take it all in. You can look into class that combine approaches, like us! If there is a dope teacher who knows a whole lot and makes their own creation based on solid information and fun practice, you’re probably good to go.