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Pregnancy & Birthing Antenatal Classes – knowing your options

pregnancy birthclasses - susan rossPregnancy and birthing antenatal classes are important when educating yourself during pregnancy.

They can also be called pre-natal, ante-natal, childbirth education, childbirth preparation, Active Birth, pregnancy classes, hypnobirth, shebirth, Inside Birth and hospital classes – all of which can be very confusing!

No matter the name, ‘shopping around’ for this very important education is essential.

It is very common for women to be directed to book a hospital class, but you should be ‘offered’ choices.

What you get in a public hospital class:

  • They are usually very large groups, can be up to 12-14 couples.
  • These classes are usually prepared by a hospital based childbirth educator, with ‘input’ from an obstetrician.
  • In my experience, a public hospital is more likely to discuss different options for labour and birth, including dealing with pain.
  • They teach HOW to birth.

What you get in a private hospital class:

  • Also very large groups.
  • Private hospitals tend to focus on presenting how pain management works in their facility, and the classes are often ‘sold’ as techniques for managing the pain of labour, i.e. how readily available is the epidural?
  • Private hospitals are also very good at making sure a woman understands how she should behave to fit into the hospital system, its policies and their regimentation of the birth process.
  • They teach HOW to birth.

Who teaches these classes?

Always ask this question when booking. In hospitals, both private and public, it may be a midwife, a childbirth educator (who may or may not be a midwife), or a physiotherapist. In some hospitals they may rotate their staff from working on the wards to teaching a class. It is important that they are a trained childbirth educator.

In the community you will find a variety of people teaching birthing classes, and a variety of classes.

Questions to ask:

  • How much experience does the educator have?
  • What is their background?
  • Where did they train to be a childbirth educator?
  • At what stage in pregnancy should we attend?
  • What is their philosophy?
  • What size are the classes?
  • What is the cost?
  • Does this include my partner and/or doula?
  • What will we learn?
  • And most importantly – how many births has the educator attended, and in what capacity?

There are a variety of ‘other’ disciplines who have trained as a childbirth educator. Women are benefiting from the naturopath or yoga teacher or acupuncturist who is teaching a birthing class. They benefit from their specific ‘other’ knowledge BUT do they know about the hospital system, about pregnancy and birthing? Will they be able to answer all those ‘other’ questions that come up in classes?

Do yourself and your baby a favour and ask these questions before you book a class, so that you can ensure you get someone who is experienced in pregnancy, labour, birthing, and post-natal care, including breastfeeding.

Advantages of attending a private class

  • The educator is independent. She is not representing the hospital and its rules and regulations. 
  • Most importantly, she should be teaching ABOUT birth, not HOW to birth. Women know how to birth, and these independent classes should be about empowering birthing women.
  • Teaching ABOUT the hospital system is very important, so make sure you choose a class where the educator has had hospital experience.
  • Teaching ABOUT how to negotiate this system is essential. If you have a doula, then this is a role she should be trained to do.

Do I need to attend any classes?

  • Absolutely!
  • Knowledge is power and whilst there is much knowledge shared in books, on TV etc., it is important to have accurate knowledge and an understanding of how birth works and what is happening for your baby physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  • Be empowered! Know your rights and know that every decision you make during pregnancy, labour, and birth has a direct effect on your baby.
  • Remember: Birthing is normal! A woman does not ‘need’ a doctor/hospital to ‘fix’ birth, because women know how to birth, if they have good education and a great support person/doula.
  • It is every woman’s birthright to enjoy her labour and birth and welcome her baby into the world –  her way.

To find your local pregnancy& birthing antenatal classes, search in our directory.

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