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How do I choose a childbirth education class?

antenatal education preparation midwife doula

Where to start?

To add to the confusion there are many names for similar classes. Such terms are often interchangeable but some give away what is on offer. Commonly used names include; childbirth education programs, antenatal classes, prenatal workshops, birth preparation course, pre-parenting sessions. Overall they cover similar topics.

It can be helpful to begin by knowing what kind of labour and birth you imagine for yourself?

  • Do you have your heart set on a natural birth with no drugs or medical intervention? Perhaps you’re planning a home birth as well?
  • Are you open minded and want to see how things pan out. Do you like the idea of a natural birth but are considering using the medical options available to you? Planning on birthing in a hospital?
  • Do you know that you will be having a caesarean, either for medical reasons or personal preference?

Whatever birth experience you hope for, and maybe you really have no idea what you want, having some preparation in the form of quality education covering a broad range of topics will increase your chances of having a positive birth experience.

Here is an overview of the different options available to you:

  • Informative sessions: Outline what’s likely to happen during labour and birth and the medications and interventions that are available. Familiarise you with the hospital environment, and their policies. These are likely to be called Childbirth Education as the focus is on being prepared for labour and birth.

  • Practical interactive group classes: with an emphasis on a particular approach to labour and birth. These classes often include details of labour and birth and specifically methods for working with contractions. e.g., Calmbirth, Active Birth, Prenatal Yoga, Hypnobirthing. These are likely to be called by their brand philosophy or Childbirth Education as the focus is on being prepared for labour and birth. Early parenting and infant feeding topics are usually not included.

  • Broader course content covering: pregnancy, labour and birth, pain relief options, natural ways of working with contractions, possible complications and interventions, breastfeeding, parenting and relationships. These are likely to be called antenatal education or pre-parenting workshops as the content is more diverse.

When you have considered what you want covered you then have options about how the sessions are delivered:

  • Face to face
  • Online live interactive sessions
  • Online videos pre-recorded

Each of these choices have their advantages and their limitations depending on what you are personally looking for.

Face to face:

Advantages

  • Tend to be in small groups.
  • Potential for getting to know other parents to be, sharing information and concerns, creating a network of people at the same life stage and in the same geographical area.
  • Opportunity to ask questions.
  • Chance to practice positions and techniques.
  • Hospital classes usually include a tour so you know the facilities offered.

Disadvantages

  • These are likely to be cancelled, or have much smaller groups, as a result of COVID-19
  • Some people may feel discouraged from any group activities since Covid-19 emerged.
  • Places may be limited/ booked out as small group sizes.
  • Extra time to travel to and from venue.
  • Extra expense and/or time for parking space.
  • Potential for time wasting by talking/ questions from others.
  • Flexibility restricted by dates/times course provided.
  • Venue has potential for: uncomfortable seating, room size, temperature, availability of food.
  • Lack of anonymity, socially shy people may feel awkward or embarrassed in small groups.
  • Some hospital classes may have a bias to discuss options based on their individual policies.

Online live:

Advantages

  • Group size not so relevant- unlikely to be restricted.
  • Reduced likelihood of social shyness.
  • Potential for getting to know other parents to be, sharing information and concerns, creating an online network of people at the same life stage.
  • Opportunity to ask questions.
  • Chance to practice positions and techniques without embarrassment of being observed.
  • No travel time
  • Not restricted by geography- can access courses anywhere in the country
  • More flexibility for dates/times
  • Comfortable seating, room, chance to move around, etc

Disadvantages

  • Not actually meeting other families.
  • No chance for hospital tour. Pre Covid many hospitals would be willing to offer a brief visit to Birthing Suite on request. Some hospitals have online tours available.
  • Still need to plan date/time of classes.
  • Reliant on internet connection.

Pre-recorded:

Advantages

  • Watch at your leisure. Can watch all in a short time frame.
  • Chance to practice positions and techniques without being observed.
  • Not restricted by geography- can access courses anywhere in the country
  • Complete flexibility for dates/times
  • Comfortable seating, room, chance to move around, etc
  • No travel time

Disadvantages

  • Not actually meeting other families.
  • No opportunity to ask questions.
  • No chance for hospital tour. Pre Covid many hospitals would be willing to offer a brief visit to Birthing Suite on request. Some hospitals have online tours available.

And you should also consider who is facilitating the course.

What are their qualifications and experience, plus what additional knowledge do they have?

What is their philosophy, intention and/or agenda. It’s not possible to cover every aspect of labour, birth and the newborn period in a few short hours, so naturally the course content will always be biased toward a particular approach.

Possible course instructors:

  • Midwife: Will be fully qualified to know what to expect in labour and birth. Personal approach may vary widely between promoting natural childbirth and advocating medicalised intervention.

  • Hospital Child Birth Educator: Probably a midwife, but also possibly restrained by hospital guidelines and policy.

  • CalmBirth/Hypnobirth Educator: Might not have any formal medical training, and only brief education on all areas covered. Emphasis is heavily on feeling calm and relaxed which research has shown can alter the course of your labour reducing the need for analgesia and making labour more efficient and shorter.

  • Doula: Many doulas do not have formal medical training, their role is to provide support. Their knowledge/experience can vary greatly. One benefit of a doula service is you get to know the person who will offer you support in labour.

  • Yoga Teacher: Might not have any formal medical training. Their knowledge/experience about labour and birth can vary greatly.

Face to face Online Live Pre-recorded
Opportunity to ask questions as they occur to you X X
Limited Class sizes (may be booked out) X
Predetermined dates and times X X
Watch in your own time X
No Additional travel time X X
No Parking availability/expense X X
No uncomfortable foldaway seating X X
Opportunity to eat and drink X X
Meet similar women/families X X
Not restricted to a local course X X
Anywhere in Australia X X

And so you have many possible options available to you depending on your individual needs and circumstances. One thing the research consistently shows is; that having quality antenatal education can reduce the length of labour, decrease your need for pain relief and reduce the chance of intervention. When you know what to expect and you feel prepared your labour and birth is much more likely to be a positive experience.

A Focused Birth offers a series of classes that ticks most of the boxes. It covers a broad range of topics. It’s available Australia wide. You have flexibility over your learning. There are a range of dates and times available. And importantly the principle philosophy is: Knowledge is Power. When you know what to expect and understand how you can influence the process you can feel confident and in control.

Read more about A Focused Birth antenatal education classes

Midwife led Australia wide online antenatal and hypnobirthing class

I have over 20 years experience as a midwife in the UK and Australia, working in both private and public hospitals. I have helped thousands of women in every scenario, from homebirths and water-births, births with complex issues, intervention, and caesarean births.

I currently work in a busy Melbourne Hospital, and am passionate about supporting women and families be as relaxed and confident as they can be whatever the circumstances. I divide my time as a midwife between the Birth Centre and the Child Birth Education Team. This means I am upto date with current research, policies and procedures when it comes to all things birth related.

In addition, I am a government accredited Clinical Hypnotherapist, with an Honours degree in Psychology. In my private practice I specialise in treating anxiety, trauma, fertility issues, pain management and phobias, as well as hypnobirthing techniques.

Bringing together these sets of skills, knowledge, and experience I can guide and prepare you to have the positive birth experience that you desire.

What A Focused Birth childbirth education offers you

  • Comprehensive antenatal classes developed and facilitated live by a registered Midwife and Childbirth educator
  • Access to additional resources and recommended reading
  • Toolbox of relaxation techniques, coping strategies, active birth principles
  • Breathing techniques
  • In depth breastfeeding information
  • Chance to ask questions relevant to your individual circumstances
  • Birth Preference Customisable Template
  • Comprehensive customisable ‘What to pack’ lists
  • Huge list of positive affirmations to choose from
  • Opportunity to address personal issues, such as previous traumatic experiences
  • Opportunity to upgrade to include individual hypnotherapy sessions
Justine Daly, Midwife and Childbirth educator

Online antenatal and hypnobirthing class
from $395 per couple

Next course starts Saturday Aug 21

Dates and booking options