Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Right Childbirth Class for You

When I was pregnant with my oldest child 20+ years ago, my husband and I attended a series of 5 prepared childbirth classes at our hospital. In our group of about 15 couples, only 1 couple was planning a non-medicated birth. Quite frankly, I thought they were crazy! Why in the world would anybody want all that pain when you could have an epidural and not feel a thing??

I didn't really know that I was in labor when I went in for my checkup on June 22, but my doctor said I was, so we headed on over to the adjacent hospital to have a baby! The doctor came in and broke my water so labor would progress, then a little bit later the anesthesiologist arrived with the biggest needle I had ever seen to give me my epidural. Unfortunately, my husband had run home to grab a few last minute things since (as noted earlier) I wasn't really planning to have a baby that day.

The nurse said that it would feel kind of like a little bee sting when I got my epidural. Since I'm allergic to bee stings, that kind of scared me just a bit. Let me just say it didn't feel like any bee sting I've ever had. It HURT!!!!! Several hours later, the nurse said I was fully dilated and could start pushing. I couldn't feel anything, so I tried to push when they told me I was having a contraction, but I didn't do a very good job of it. After over 2 hours of that, they used a vacuum extractor to get her out and whisked her off to the nursery because she had swallowed a lot of blood from being stuck in the birth canal so long.

I decided that I would never again give birth that way. I began to educate myself, found a wonderful midwife who worked with an OB/GYN group, and nearly three years later had my second child after just a few pushes following a labor that progressed on its own under Midwife Katie's watchful eye. I was still in a hospital setting, but everything was radically different. Babies 3 and 4 were born in similarly natural, relaxed settings.

I have since become a huge advocate for a mother's right to have the birth she desires. If you know you want a medicated birth, then prepare yourself for it by attending a class at the hospital. Huntsville Hospital offers a 2 week or 4 week class for $50. Crestwood Medical Center offers a free 4 week series or a 1 day Saturday class. If you already know you will have a C-Section, it's still a good idea to take a class designed for you.

However, if you are leaning toward an unmedicated birth, you would be very wise to look for more extensive preparation. Jennifer Berry is a Bradley Childbirth Instructor who offers an in-depth 10 week series that will prepare you for any eventuality you may face during your labor. Her students range from couples giving birth in the hospital setting to those who are planning a midwife-assisted delivery. The time and money you spend preparing your mind and your body for birth will be well worth the end result! He class size is limited to just 5 couples, so it is imperative that you make your plans to attend one of her classes early.

If you haven't really given much thought to this matter, spend some time talking with your partner about what's important to you in your baby's birth. Then together you can choose the class that is best suited for your needs.

If you've already had your baby, please leave a comment about your childbirth class and what you most liked or didn't like about it!


  1. I loved my private prebirth discussions with my doula Jeannie Stoolas for my second birth which was completely natural and fast! I was calm and determined! I had a vacuum assisted delivery after pitocin and an epidural for the first birth as well as lots of nervousness. . . prepared by attending the Huntsville Hospital birthing class. I much prefered the natural delivery and the private prepatation!

  2. I took Jennifer's Bradley Method class, and I felt 100% prepared after her class. Not only is the content of the class incredibly thorough, but Jennifer is so much fun to be around, which made the class something I looked forward to every week! I had a natural birth three weeks ago with a midwife in an out-of-hospital setting, and I think that the things I learned in Bradley class were a huge help in making the birth so easy and successful.

    As an aside, I also took advantage of some of the classes offered at Crestwood for free...breastfeeding, newborn care, and Attachment Parenting...as well as taking the breastfeeding class that Glenni offers at A Nurturing Moment. If you can't tell, I like to be prepared!

  3. I've had 3 natural births at Huntsville Hospital with an OB/GYN. The folks there are typically not pushy, but they aren't very experienced in attending natural labor/delivery. I'd love to try again out-of-hospital with a midwife but haven't been able to find any that will do it here in Alabama. Shandus - what midwife did you use?

  4. Preparation is absolutely the key no matter what type of birth you're having! For those who might be interested in Lamaze, I give 12-hour comprehensive birth classes in Huntsville. I teach natural childbirth techniques, but this class is welcoming and open to all women. Not just for married couples, my class is designed to prepare partners of all kinds to assist the laboring mother - whether that partner is a boyfriend, mother, sister, friend, etc. More information at www.dueseasonchildbirth.com.

    Karen Kennedy, LCCE