Taking a childbirth class is one of the most important and valuable ways you can prepare for your birth. Especially if you are planning a natural, unmedicated or low-intervention birth, taking a good childbirth preparation class will prepare you and your partner for the intensity of birth.
Who Should Take a Childbirth Class?
If it’s your first time giving birth or your first unmedicated birth you are planning, you and a partner should definitely take a comprehensive birth class. It’s also important to take a good, physiologic childbirth class if you previously had a cesarean birth (c-section) and would like to have a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) this time around.
In a Good Childbirth Class You Will Explore:
- How your body works, how birth works
- Choosing a provider that aligns with your beliefs
- What to expect in the world of maternity care
- The choices and decisions you’ll face in childbirth
- How to make make a birth plan that supports you and your baby
- Tools to identify what needs you have
- Tips to have a positive birth experience
- How to stack the deck in favor of the birth you want on the big day
- How your partner can help support you
- Tips and tricks for handling the intensity of labor
- What’s normal for the first few months with a newborn
- Being prepared for childbirth
- Confidence and positivity about birth
If you’ve had a baby before and feel confident about most elements of birth, you may want to take a refresher class, a supplement course or a different kind of class than you did last time. Many people hope for a different experience for their second baby. If that’s you, a birth class may help you prepare for that. In this case, a short refresher with a childbirth educator, an online class, or a shorter class is in your favor.
If you are short of time or have crazy schedules or just want the convenience of taking a class in the privacy of your own home, an online class is your best bet. You can go through the videos or modules at your own pace.
You are worth it. This baby is worth it. Your birth experience matters, for you and the baby, forever. Most days you will forget. This is one you will never forget.
Birth is a big deal. In fact, if you think about it, there is no bigger deal. Don’t hesitate to invest some time and money, some thought and planning.
Two (and a Half) Kinds of Childbirth Classes
Childbirth education classes fall into two general categories: hospital-based and independent or community-based. Hospital classes are taught by hospital staff at the hospital for the typical hospital-birthing patient. Independent classes in the community are taught by childbirth educators or other maternity professionals in birth centers, homes, wellness centers, and other community places. Their content and approach to birth varies widely. Online classes are digital variations of community classes that you work through at your own pace.
So, Your Childbirth Class Choices are:
- Hospital Birth Class
- Online Birth Class
- Independent Birth Class in the Community
Hospital Childbirth Classes Review
Hospital childbirth classes are taught by, at, and for the hospital. Though they’re different at every hospital, they prepare you for an average hospital birth.
The class at your local hospital was almost certainly designed for people who will get an epidural. The hospital has little interest in explaining your rights, showing you how to get the birth experience you want, teaching alternate methods of pain relief in labor, or preparing you for a low-intervention or unmedicated birth.
Taking a hospital childbirth class is sometimes valuable for expectant parents. The curriculum and teachers vary so widely it’s possible your hospital will have a great, comprehensive class that provides the preparation you need. The majority of birth classes in hospitals, however, are insufficient for people who want to be involved in their care, deliver without an epidural, plan a vbac, or minimize interventions.
Pros: Usually inexpensive; possibly convenient location; easy to schedule.
Cons: Too short to be comprehensive; biased toward hospital’s needs; doesn’t prepare families for drug-free birth; large group size; no discussion of individual needs or preferences.
Bottom Line: Midwives, doulas, and other birth advocates always recommend an out-of-hospital birth class. If you have a specific kind of birth in mind, want to minimize interventions, or go drug-free, a hospital birth class is unlikely to be what you need.
Online Childbirth Classes
Pain to Power Online Class Review
Written by the creator of the well-known natural birth documentary, Orgasmic Birth, Pain to Power’s Online class is built on the idea that labor can be pleasurable, sensual, and exciting. It includes 9 modules delivered over 9 weeks (you keep access for 1 year), a private Facebook group, workbooks, documentary, E-book, and the creator as your virtual (email) doula. The expanded option includes intervention, postpartum, cesarean, and Spinning Babies content.
Pros: Refreshing perspective on birth as pleasurable; well-curated digital extras/workbooks; extensive comfort techniques
Cons: More comprehensive with expanded option, but minimal discussion of possible interventions, models of care
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a guide to help you feel power and pleasure in labor, here it is. If you need help navigating the choices and providers in maternity care, supplement with another class.
Cost: $140 or $299
Bonapace Method Class Review
These classes focus on scientifically proven ways to reduce pain in labor. Written by a pain researcher and childbirth educator, the Bonapace Method course walks you through all the aspects of the intensity of labor and how to mitigate the pain often involved with giving birth. One of the five modules discusses birth plans, decision making, and birthing rights. The remainder focus on ways to handle the intensity of labor without drugs, including emotional preparation and physical preparation through yoga. Includes lifetime access to 33 videos, 9 audio files, and 9 PDF fun sheets.
Pros: A unique and science-backed approach to handling labor pain without pharmaceuticals; concrete suggestions; written by a pain researcher; lifetime access.
Cons: Lacking information about birth options and possible interventions
Bottom Line: If you’re specifically looking for ways to handle pain in labor, this class is a good bet. Best as a supplement unless you’ve given birth before or do a lot of research about models of care and birth options on your own.
Mama Natural Birth Course Review
Written by the blogger from Mama Natural and a nurse who is also a doula, this series includes 8 videos, birth videos, a Facebook group, affirmation cards, and recordings. You have online access for one year.
Pros: Natural-childbirth focus, portion of profits to charity, popular online option
Cons: One size fits all approach
Bottom Line: If you already know you are a fan of the Mama Natural brand and are looking for a basic online course, this is a good choice.
Kopa Birth Class Review
Kopa birth classes are designed for families hoping for a natural birth in the hospital. The basic online course package includes 12 hours of video class time, natural hospital birth videos, audio and other downloads. The bonus package includes meal plans, a class on emotional triggers, fitness, babywearing, and other extras.
Pros: Hospital-centered natural birth focus; natural birth in the hospital birth videos, tangible tools, optional extras
Cons: Missing: birth planning, how to cope when things go differently, choices in childbirth
Bottom Line: If you plan to have your baby in a hospital and would like to do so with minimal medical intervention and drug-use, this class will support your goals.
Cost: $195 or $245
Lamaze Online Class Review
Online Lamaze classes are very similar to the description above for in-person classes, though you can take just certain aspects of the coursework for a reduced fee. The class includes resources and videos you can access anywhere for a year.
Pros: Very inexpensive; long history of use; includes quizzes and interactive content
Cons: Minimal practical information for handling the intensity of birth
Bottom Line: If you’re short on funds, this is the way to go. Get the basics of safe birth.
Birth Boot Camp Online Class Review
You can see a full review of the Birth Boot Camp curriculum above. Birth Boot Camp also offers their class online. This allows you the advantage or going as quickly or as slowly as you’d like (unless you take more than three months to do it.) The course is 10 videos long with classes taught ‘morning show style’ and includes a field manual, audio relaxation, birth videos, and online help if you need it.
Pros: Comprehensive, natural birth focused; emphasis on what the partner can do
Cons: More expensive for an online class; one size fits all
Bottom Line: Anyone planning natural birth will benefit, though it’s a lot of coursework and videos to do on your own. Military families may especially find the design to be a good fit.
Beyond the Birth Plan Childbirth Class & Birth Profile Assessment Review (Pregnancy By Design)
Online childbirth classes are, by nature, one size fits all. Not this one.
Unlike all the other childbirth classes, the Beyond the Birth Plan Childbirth class focuses on you, the laboring person. Because YOU are the one who is going to be in labor, we thought it important to tailor the class to you, based on your actual personality, beliefs, and preferences. This course gives you tools and educational resources to have confidence in planning for your baby’s arrival.
To start, you take an extensive Birth Profile Assessment. The Birth Profile Assessment is like a personality quiz based on 7 categories that uncovers your educational and emotional needs. The assessment helps to identify your unique beliefs, personality strengths and weaknesses, health, support network and knowledge that will inform how you experience labor and the best prenatal choices for you. Throughout the course you will be directed to pay closer attention to areas where you may need extra attention.
One reason modern families need a birth class (even though we’ve been having babies for ages!) is that maternity care is not like it ever was. There are so many choices in maternity care now, many more than even when your mom had you.
In order to navigate those choices and prepare for YOUR best birth, Beyond the Birth Plan is a birth class that uses your personal profile to tailor the information to your needs and help you determine the best decisions for you.
Pros: Comprehensive, evidence-based birth information; 1 year access; points out which choices you may be interested in based on your personality and profile; a birth coaching section specifically for your partner; relaxation techniques, and a postpartum section which includes breastfeeding basics and a postpartum plan so you’re ready for your baby’s birth.
- Birth Plan Writing Guide & Birth Plan Template
- Pregnancy and Labor Reference Guide
- A Collection of Positive Birth Stories
- Affirmation Cards
- Pregnancy Week by Week emails with articles answering many questions that come up between prenatal appointments.
Cons: Online only
Bottom Line: There is no one size fits all for birth choices, and this course helps you discover what is right for you and your baby. Even if you already took a birth class or want to take one in person, this course will bring it all together and make it personal. Get access to all the information from the birth class and the tools to make better childbirth decisions based on YOUR PERSONAL profile, personality, needs and beliefs.
Use this physiologic birth course to learn about your body and what the options are for pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum and then choose the best ones for you and much more; Taught by a Dr. Elizabeth Pearce a Psychologist who is also a childbirth educator, doula, and mom of 3.
Community Childbirth Classes – In Person
Lamaze Birthing Childbirth Class Review
Lamaze classes are what everyone (especially your mom) thinks when you say ‘birth class.’ Best known for their “hee hee hoo hoo” breathing techniques from the old days, Lamaze has changed a lot.
Breathing is an integral part of childbirth and should be included in preparation for natural birth, but the stylized, specific patterns of breathing are largely gone from modern Lamaze instruction.
Current Lamaze classes emphasize confidence and a teach a number of pain-management techniques. The classes cover six healthy birth practices, their basics for safe birth.
Pros: Basics in safe, healthy birth; Multiple ways to handle pain; Shorter length good for couples with limited time.
Cons: Can feel dated; possibly insufficient to prepare mind and body for drug-free birth; less natural birth-focused than others
Bottom Line: If you’re on the fence about all this natural stuff, Lamaze classes are a good middle ground. So much of the value of a course depends on the instructor, and since Lamaze has been around for a long time, the classes vary quite a bit. The shorter length may work for you, but it’s not the strongest preparation for natural birth.
Bradley Method Birthing Class Review
The Bradley Method course is a twelve-week program that teaches prenatal nutrition and relaxation for an easier birth, with husbands/partners as coaches. It’s one of the most widely available in-person classes, though the content and quality of the classes differ significantly with instructor.
Bradley childbirth classes are very natural-birth centric and include comprehensive pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum information.
Dr. Bradley wrote Husband Coached Childbirth (1965) with the idea that the father should see his partner through labor using specific techniques.
Pros: Focus on avoidance of problems; Natural birth friendly; evidence-based; comprehensive
Cons: The longest of the classes (12 weeks); Outdated materials; Varies widely by instructor; Little emphasis on active, upright birth; Husbands shouldn’t coach something they’ve never done
Bottom Line: If you have the time to do one and hear good things about a particular instructor, it’s a good fit for people planning natural birth. Even if your ‘husband’ is awesome, though, an actual doula is still a good idea for most people.
Birth Boot Camp Childbirth Class Review
Birth Boot Camp instructors provide comprehensive childbirth classes for couples planning drug-free or low-intervention birth based on science, mind-body connection, and hands-on practice. Birth Boot Camp uses a military design theme (the first clients were military families) but the content and teachers are in no way militaristic. It is not a method but provides instruction and practice in numerous ways of handling the intensity of birth.
This curriculum places an emphasis on how the partner can help and wisely navigating the choices in maternity care. The focus is on active, upright birth, moving in labor, avoiding problems and choosing providers wisely.
Birth Boot Camp is a relatively new childbirth class option and was designed to be a more modern and up-to-date alternative to some of the more popular, outdated curriculums.
Participation includes 10 weeks of classes, a big workbook, and an extensive online breastfeeding class.
Pros: Comprehensive, natural birth-focused, lots of help and ideas for the partner, extensive breastfeeding instruction, workbook, online make-up if you need to miss a class.
Cons: May not be available in your area; may be too long for some couples/due dates; military theme may bother some; more expensive.
Bottom Line: Birth Boot Camp is a great choice if you’re planning drug-free birth in the hospital, birth center, or home. Part of the benefit of long classes is that you can develop friendships, but not everyone has time for it.
Birthing From Within Class Review
Birthing From Within classes (and the book), focus on inner work to approach birth in the best and safest way. The classes provide education about common events and procedures in maternity care and cover a number of ways to handle birth intensity. Self-awareness and mental/emotional preparation is the main focus.
The techniques include journaling, art, visualizations, talking about beliefs and expectations, and getting to the core of our fears. Both partners benefit from mindfulness instruction, breathing awareness, and going deep to release tension.
The classes strive to cultivate an attitude of mindfulness, birthing and living in awareness and doing the best we can in any given moment.
Pros: Focus on birth as a rite of passage; Emotional preparation; Openness to all experience; Positive philosophy of birth and bodies
Cons: Lacking some physiological information that may be helpful; may be too ‘woo’ for some; doesn’t cover a lot of birthing techniques; not widely available
Bottom Line: If you’re into self-discovery, feel best when using your right brains, or have a lot of fear to let go of, Birthing From Within will be valuable for you. If you’re looking for lots of information about your choices or what you can DO in labor, you’ll need something else as well.
Hypnobirthing Class Review
Hypnobirthing classes (also called The Mongan Method) have become very popular. Based on the premise that it’s the fear of childbirth causes that physical pain, couples learn relaxation, affirmations and visualization to help the body birth normally.
The creator of this method noticed that other animals didn’t really seem to be in pain when giving birth and set out to design a program to teach women to relax enough that they didn’t feel pain. Avoiding the fear-tension-pain cycle is important for all of us, and hypnosis methods are designed to alleviate fear of birth and therefore the pain.
Some people find that self-hypnosis works well for them and become big advocates of the hypnosis for birth methods. For people that it works for, it works really well. Many more, however, find themselves in labor and with only one way to help themselves.
Pros: When it works, it works really well; alleviates some fears; good preparation for relaxing the mind
Cons: Hypnosis doesn’t work for everyone; focus on one method of handling labor intensity means you only have one tool; less information about choices and what happens in labor; little/no information about how to handle pain
Bottom Line: If you appreciate positive affirmations, know you’re able to relax your mind enough to “zone out” at will or have other experience using meditation/hypnosis, this class may be exactly what you need. If you’re looking for multiple tools, techniques, and ideas to find the right fit for you, look elsewhere.
Hynobabies Program Review
Hypnobabies is similar to Hypnobirthing in that they both use self-hypnosis as a way to alleviate fear and therefore pain. Leaving your thinking, judging, analyzing brain behind can indeed make birth (or any intense thing) much more comfortable.
Hypnobabies teaches real medical hypnosis techniques for a peaceful, relaxing pregnancy, a calm birth partner, and an easier, more comfortable—and sometimes pain-free—birth. Hypnosis-for-birth people sometimes report this class to be more comprehensive or serious than Hypnobirthing.
Hypnobabies classes go over stages of labor, possible interventions, and coping techniques. It includes many audio tracks to use in pregnancy and labor and information about handling pain or getting back into hypnosis.
Pros: Relives fears and prepares the mind and body to relax; when it works, it works well; covers a range of topics; includes a few backup techniques; home study available
Cons: Hypnosis still doesn’t work for everyone; classes not widely available
Bottom Line: While possibly a better bet for full birth prep, the class does still focus on hypnosis as the way to approach birth. This can be excellent for many people, but the home study option is best suited for academic types—people who enjoy reading and study.
Cost: $400-$500; Homestudy/Online: $160
Blissborn Childbirth Class Review
Blissborn classes focus on self-hypnosis as the way to approach and manage the intensity of labor. Similar to the other hypnosis-for-birth classes, it teaches you to tame labor pain with your brain, release fears, and practice skills to enter hypnosis in labor.
Childbirth Class include a large manual and recordings to use in pregnancy and labor.
Pros: All the benefits of hypnosis; lots of practice; assigned homework; hormones and science of mind-body connection; inexpensive
Cons: Less popular, harder to find instructor; hypnosis still doesn’t work for everyone; lacking some background information about maternity care, labor and choices.
Bottom Line: Another hypnosis-for-birth option if you feel drawn to this method, but options for in person classes are limited.
Cost: $400; Homestudy: $187
Sacred Pregnancy Childbirth Class Review
Sacred Pregnancy classes are for moms only or both partners, focusing on the sacredness of birth. The classes are 8 weeks long or a two-day retreat for pregnant women.
Using meditation, journaling, creating sacred space inside and out, inner-work, discussion and sisterhood, these classes prepare you for the rite of passage that is birth day. Connection to others in the group, loving-kindness, and the wonder and joy of motherhood are emphasized.
These classes addresses many of the emotional and mind-influenced issues related to childbirth.
Pros: Full emotional preparation; develop friendships; release fears; a guide for becoming a mother; emphasizes the birth of the mother, not just the baby
Cons: Lacking nuts and bolts of labor and delivery, choices and features of maternity care; lacking significant preparation for handling the intensity of labor
Bottom Line: This is a wonderful course to take if the sacredness of your body and motherhood speaks to you. If it’s your first baby, you want techniques to use in labor, or you’re unfamiliar with aspects of healthy pregnancy and maternity care, take another class to supplement this one.
Cost: Varies widely depending on if you do the retreat-style or 8-week class.
Blended/Independent Childbirth Classes
There are plenty of classes out there that are a mix of these offerings or classes that have been designed from the ground up by experienced educators, doulas, midwives, and other professionals. It’s best to do a little digging, get recommendations, and talk to the instructor before you register for a class.
Many instructors also provide private childbirth classes that can be tailored to your needs, but these will lack the community feel of a good childbirth class.
Just because a class isn’t listed and reviewed here doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. There are many excellent classes available, but you have to do some homework to find the best fit for you.
Supplemental Childbirth Classes
Evidence Based Birth Class Review
EBB offers a supplemental course for parents to help them learn about evidence-based care and advocacy in the modern maternity climate. They also teach comfort measures proven to work and provide a mentorship community. It includes five weeks of online videos, four video chats with an instructor, and two in person classes to practice skills.
Spinning Babies Parent Class Review
Learn how the baby needs to move to get through the pelvis and out into the world. The Spinning Babies class include techniques to help you balance and support your body and baby for easier birth. In person or DVD/download.
Cost: $27 (video); $100 in person
Lamaze and Birth Boot Camp Review
Both offer shorter, topic-specific classes to fit your needs. You can get a short online or in-person class on nutrition, sibling preparation, natural hospital birth, comfort measures, and more.
Birth Profile Assessment
The Birth Profile Assessment is perfect addition to any and all birth classes. The assessment aims to show areas that you the birthing person need to focus on. The feedback generated from the Birth Profile Assessment helps uncover questions that you may have been asking like:
- Am I with the right provider OB or Midwife?
- What will labor be like for me?
- What strengths can I draw on during labor?
- What comfort measures will work best for me?
Beyond the Birth Plan Supplement/Refresher Class Review
Even if you already took a childbirth class, Birth Profile Assessment coupled with the Beyond the Birth Plan Childbirth Class refresher/ supplement can be a valuable addition to make sure your choices fit your personal needs and preferences. No other childbirth class or course offers a personalized look at maternity choices based on your personality. This online birth class is great for second time moms, or feel like you really want to be as prepared as possible.