2020 has been a wild year to be pregnant and welcome a baby into the world. Finding and taking birthing classes has been incredibly tricky for expectant parents.
In our work as doulas, both Meagan and I have seen clients through policy changes happening daily at hospitals, the limitations of who can be in the birth room with you. We have carefully stuck to mask requirements to help keep staff comfortable and families safe.
With all the commotion COVID-19 has caused, there have been many changes with how birthing classes are happening. Many popular birthing classes have moved to online courses, beefed up their online curriculum, and adapted to support the ever-changing and uncertain birth environment.
When it comes to childbirth, unless you have already been there, it’s difficult to explain the sensations and power. However, a little education, coupled with your motherly instincts, can give you a massive boost in confidence when it comes to the big day. Enter childbirth classes.
Keep reading to find out what to expect in online prenatal classes, what you learn in birth classes, the different types of birthing classes, and my favorite nine online birthing classes sure to get you 100% educated and informed.
What do you learn in birthing classes?
A birthing class is a great way to prepare yourself and your birth partner for childbirth uncertainties. This will also allow them to know how to best support you during labor.
While each type of birth class has a different spin on how they teach and how in-depth they go into certain topics, you can generally expect to learn the following:
- Options for pain management
- Comfort techniques, relaxation, and different tools for coping with contractions
- The biology and physiology surrounding labor and delivery
- What to expect from your birth team
- Education about common interventions like the Epidural, Pitocin, and induction
- Common breastfeeding and newborn care tips
- The different stages of labor
- Different labor positions to help align your baby with the pelvis
- Potential pregnancy and birth complications and how they can be handled
- How to prepare a birth plan
- Information on your birth location (hospital birth, home birth, or birth center)
- Hands-on instruction for coping techniques, breathing tools, and relaxation methods
More reasons to take a childbirth class
In addition to hands-on learning opportunities, the benefits of taking a childbirth class include:
- The chance to meet and interact with other pregnant people
- The opportunity for you and your birth partner to get on the same page
- Addressing and overcoming your fears of other emotional barriers
- Sharing your concerns in a safe space with people who understand
- Gaining the confidence and knowledge that can help you feel comfortable with your birth experience
- A chance to explore the location where you are birthing
How to choose childbirth classes
There are many things to consider when researching birthing classes. There are many classes to choose from, each with their own style, technique, and philosophy. Getting the best for your needs is essential.
Each birthing class intends to provide expectant parents (and their partners) with tools and information to make the birth experience the best it can be. Here are some things to consider when choosing a childbirth course:
The general philosophy
Ensure the class is in line with your vision of an ideal birth. If you plan on getting an epidural for pain relief, a course focused on unmedicated labor may not be the best fit.
The teaching method
Is it hands-on? In-person? Online? Do you have access to the course instructor to ask questions? Is it self-paced or at a scheduled time? Finding out all of these things will help you know if the course is in line with your learning style and fits your schedule.
Who is teaching
You should also know whether the class is taught by a private teacher or affiliated with a hospital or other organization. The affiliation may bring bias into the course; for example, a course taught at a hospital by hospital staff might place a lot of emphasis on their standard practice of care rather than your alternative options.
If there is not a course outline available, make sure you ask for one. A comprehensive course covers unmedicated or natural birth, medicated birth, Cesarean birth, interventions you may encounter, and the basics of labor. It should also go over the emotional components of childbirth and the physiological process and variations of normal and what to expect.
Size of the class
Five or six couples for in-person or live classes is an ideal size. Much more than that can make it hard to get your questions answered one-on-one with your instructor. This isn’t an influencing factor if you are looking for self-paced courses.
There are different techniques and specialties for each course. If you are looking for a specific way to give birth or a specialty class, like hypnobirthing or VBAC, make sure the course lines up with your desires.
When to take birthing classes
Generally speaking, most in-person courses are best to start at the end of the second trimester or the beginning of the third. However, the earlier you can begin educating yourself, the better! Many courses apply to all pregnancy stages and help you become well prepared, no matter if you start taking it early in your first trimester.
There is no “right time” to start a class. Keep in mind, the sooner you register, the more options you have available.
Even parents who have already had children will benefit from birthing classes, especially if you are preparing for a VBAC! Remember, no matter how prepared you are, childbirth is full of surprises. The more educated you are, the more ready you will be to make decisions when things take unexpected turns.
The 9 best birthing classes for your pregnancy
There are many childbirth courses out there; it can be hard to know which one is the right fit for you. I have gathered the classes I recommend the most, broken down into why you might want to choose each course and my favorite things about it. Make sure you read to the bottom! You won’t want to miss your favorite.
1. Mama Natural Birth Course: Best for pregnancy in the time of COVID-19
Mama Natural Birth Course will equip you to have your best, most natural birth. For most parents, this means ZERO interventions and feeling in control and empowered on their big day. For parents who do need help, the course teaches them how to optimize and “naturalize” interventions for the best outcome possible.
Hosted by Genevieve Howland, best-selling author, Maura Winkler, CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife), and IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, this course will help you grow in significant ways. You will emerge stronger and more confident — no matter how your birth unfolds.
The Mama Natural course is self-paced, online, socially-distanced, but still allows a great way for you to connect virtually with other mamas in their private student community.
Who it’s for: Genevieve and Maura have updated their course to include a new “Coronavirus and Pregnancy” module covering all the latest information you need to know as a pregnant parent at the time of COVID-19. If you are especially worried about those details, this is the course for you!
Cost: $264, with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
2. Hypnobabies: Best for unmedicated childbirth
Hypnobabies is a complete childbirth education course created for parents who want an easier, more comfortable birth without medication. The course teaches parents how to enter hypnosis, deepen it themselves, and remain mobile during labor, completely comfortable at all times.
Hypnobabies dives deeper into the intricacies of hypnobirthing techniques. This method focuses on unmedicated childbirth and coping through self-calming, relaxation, and hypnosis. They focus on limiting interventions and allowing labor to progress naturally.
In Hypnobabies, our objectives are to help our pregnant couples bond with their baby in utero, teach you how to stay healthy and low-risk and be an excellent consumer, trust in your body, mind and baby, as well as become self-reliant and confident about birthing your own way; safely and *in much more physical comfort*.Hypnobabies
Who it’s for: This course is excellent for parents who desire an unmedicated birth using calming techniques based on hypnosis, that allow you to remain focused and actively participate in your birth. This technique is also great for partners who may be nervous about childbirth. Couples taking this course learn how to cope through labor together, gain confidence, and have a positive attitude as birth approaches.
Cost: Self paced option is $179.95. Instructor-led options vary by location but are around $450.
3. How to VBAC — The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents: Best for birth after Cesarean
“How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents” is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world. It comes perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced video course — all designed to teach you how to increase your chances of having a VBAC drastically.
We know how to give you the wisdom and tools to move you from where you are now to the birth you have been dreaming of — one where you are the ultimate decision-maker, perfectly equipped with all the tools you will need along the way.
You deserve to have all that time spent preparing for birth turn into REAL results and success for you, no matter how the story unfolds. You also deserve to enjoy the heck out of it!
This course is right for you if you:
- Want to feel stronger and more prepared for birth
- Are looking to be confident and thriving on your birthing day
- Want to know the difference between information based on facts vs. fear
- Want to learn how to tell if your provider is VBAC supportive
- Are ready to feel 100% in control of your pregnancy and birth
- Do you need a community of women who get you?
If you’re READY to be confident and prepared for VBAC and learn essential evidence-based information without spending hours sifting through mountains of search results, click here to enroll.
Cost: $299-$374 (30-day money-back guarantee).
4. My Essential Birth: Best for planning a holistic birth
Two professional doulas have concentrated everything they’ve learned from years of teaching classes and supporting parents during childbirth into a comprehensive, thorough course. The course not only teaches you how to prepare your mind, body (and partner!), but how to achieve your best birth.
The result: An incredibly smooth, empowering birth experience that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.
My Essential Birth is a robust childbirth education course coupled with a step-by-step implementation program. You will learn what to expect and how to navigate through birth, but more importantly, you’ll have a straightforward roadmap that leaves nothing out and takes nothing for granted as you implement it.
Who it’s for: This course is excellent for busy parents who are more natural-minded, who would like to take a holistic approach at birth.
5. MamasteFit Condensed Course: Best crash course on a budget
The MamasteFit childbirth education course teaches the anatomy and physiology of birth to take the mystery of labor away. You will understand why you feel what you feel and learn strategies to move through birth with confidence.
The course offers a condensed version of thorough and essential information. There is also the option to upgrade to the full, more robust course later on. The condensed course covers pregnancy and birth anatomy, physiology, labor timelines, comfort measures, and labor support protocol for your birth partner.
Who it’s for: If you’re on a budget, or have limited time to learn about what to expect, this is a chance to learn the basics.
Cost: $49 that can be used as credit should you decide to upgrade to the full course.
6. Labor Confidence with Lamaze: Best comprehensive and FREE course
Lamaze aims to empower you and help you prepare for one of the most important days of your life – baby’s birth day! This online class introduces simple practices shown by research to improve birth outcomes. It also teaches evidence-based comfort techniques to help minimize discomfort and pain during labor.
Who it’s for: For those on a super tight budget that just need the basics, this course will set you up for healthy and safe labor and delivery.
Cost: $0, with the option to purchase several other types of Lamaze courses and course bundles.
7. Evidence Based Birth Childbirth Class: Best for making evidence-based decisions and advocating for yourself
The Evidence Based Birth® Childbirth Class was created by Rebecca Dekker, owner of Evidence Based Birth®, to skillfully mentor you and your partner in evidence-based care, comfort measures, and advocacy. This course will get you ready to embrace your birth and parenting experiences with courage and confidence.
The course includes a combination of online (or in-person) courses with set one on one interactions with the instructor. Now offering online options, you can find an instructor near you or anywhere in the country.
Who it’s for: Evidence Based Birth® knows that every person has their own distinct path. Instead of focusing on medicated vs. unmedicated birth, they focus on giving you tools and helping you understand current research on all childbirth options, so that you can decide what feels right for your family.
8. Birth Boot Camp Home and Birth Center Course: Best for planning an out of hospital birth
Planning on a home or birth center birth? This class will give you the ins and outs of what happens before, during, and after birth, along with labor variations, and videos of out-of-hospital births.
Donna and Haile have made their birth classes interesting, entertaining, and educational! They aim to make the online course as much like a live childbirth class as possible, without leaving home.
The Birth Boot Camp curriculum supports the belief in access to midwifery and doula care for all women. They encourage the midwifery, or physiological model, of care and promote doula support.
Who it’s for: This course has out of hospital birth covered. If you’re considering a birth outside of the hospital system, with midwife care and doula support, this course is a good option.
Cost: $122.50 or $127.50 to have the workbook mailed to you. 7-day money-back guarantee.
9. Fearless Birth, delivered: Best for virtual, interactive, LIVE learning
The Fearless Birth course focuses on learning birth basics while identifying and facing your fears. You will learn how to build practical communication skills, enabling you to be flexible and confident in your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum choices.
There is also plenty of time throughout the class to get your questions answered. Participation and engagement are encouraged and welcome. Course sessions are scheduled, and you will get to meet and interact with your instructors and other birthing families.
BONUS: You will get the original Coping Kit, packed full of useful tools, and shipped directly to your door for real-time hands-on learning of labor and birth coping techniques.
Who it’s for: If you are experiencing information overload and just need to process with someone who gets you, this online interactive course is a great option.
This course is inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ+ families.
Cost: $345 (scholarships available)
Childbirth Courses FAQ
Do you still have questions about birth classes? Here are some common questions and answers:
What are birthing classes?
There are several different types of birthing classes; all of them cover options for handling pain, the physiology of childbirth, coping techniques for labor, and their own additional tools. Childbirth classes also offer your partner or other support people the opportunity to understand birth and the best support you during delivery.
When should you take birthing classes?
Most in-person classes should be started around the 7th month of pregnancy — but anytime before you go into labor would be helpful. You can take courses earlier in pregnancy if you feel that you need more time to build your confidence and knowledge or if you are taking a specialized course, such as The VBAC Link’s prep course.
What type of birthing class should I take?
With choices that include everything from general education classes, self-hypnosis courses that eliminate the need for pain relief, and specialized systems for all sorts of parents, there are many choices. Get to know your options and find a class that best lines up with your desire for birth.
Are birthing classes necessary?
While taking a course is certainly not a requirement to have a baby, taking a childbirth class helps you take the guesswork out of birth. Being educated will help you feel prepared and confident as you enter the birth space.