[UPDATED: July 18, 2012]
A childbirth education class is exactly what it sounds like, a class either held over a weekend or once a week for a few weeks where you learn all sorts of nifty things about your pregnancy and impending birth. One of the nice things about birthing classes is that you practice pain coping techniques that you might use in your labor, especially helpful if you are planning to have a natural childbirth. It's like a dry run and can help build your confidence—ok nothing quite compares to the real thing—but try being mildly uncomfortable by holding ice and observing your breath like you do in Birthing From Within classes and you'll laugh and figure out some things out about yourself before the 40th week. Or try the relaxation techniques of HypnoBirthing.
Many pregnant women also make their first mommy friends in their birthing classes since you are meeting women who may live near you and will be having babies at the same time. Birthing classes are an important milestone for dads-to-be also, helping him become connected to the impending birth as well as prepared.
What you'll learn: signs and stages of labor, basic anatomy, pain coping techniques for women and partners, available pain medications and technology, basics of breast feeding, basic newborn care, cesareans and C-section prevention.
Timing: Most people suggest you sign up for a course so that it coincides with your seventh month.
Price: Usually $300-$500 per couple.
We've rounded up childbirth education classes offered throughout New York City.
HypnoBirthing® - The Mongan Method
HypnoBirthing is meant to give you an understanding of how the birthing muscles work harmoniously when your body is relaxed and you trust the process, reaching a state of relaxation through gentle focusing, visualizaton and self hypnosis exercises.
Emphasis in the class is also placed on how one views birth and trying to move away from a culture of fear. HypnoBirthing is offered by private practioners throughout the city. To find one or for more information on HypnoBirthing® The Mongan Method go to http://www.hypnobirthing.com/new_york.htm or you could consider purchasing their book.
There are also places in the city like HypnoBirthing New York, which also offer classes ($695/couple).
Birthing From Within
Locations: Various, in Brooklyn and Manhattan
Birthing From Within is a technique that uses art and other creative ways to help partners express their fears and hopes. Classes also include all the basics, including some unique pain coping techniques. This method is based on Pam England’s book Birthing from Within. Birthing From Within (the book and the class) is based on the idea that what women and their partners need is time to really explore their deepest question about the birth. To find an educator and more information, visit their website.
Locations: Most hospitals
Lamaze, which used to be the most common pain coping instruction for pregnant moms has almost disappeared from the childbirth education landscape, although it is still being taught at most of the hospital birthing classes in a new and revamped form.
BornClear is a childbirth preparation philosophy created by former motivational speaker Denise Spatafora, who was inspired after giving birth to both of her children at home. Based on the power of the mind-body connection, her work focuses on how thoughts and beliefs create our experiences. Denise believes that it is our cultural belief that birth is painful that makes us experience it as painful. By controlling our thoughts and feelings about birth, we can eliminate the pain of birth. If you are interested in finding out more about the BornClear Method, check out the book: Better Birth: The Ultimate Guide to Childbirth from Home Births to Hospitals.
Some childbirth education classes draw on different techniques, and so can be considered a mixing of best practices.
Two places which offer this kind of class are Birthday Presence and the Prenatal Yoga Center. What's special about these centers is that they both offer a wide range of services and classes for families so which helps build community and provided continuity for you. When many of us have family far away, it's nice to build community in this way.
Check out our classes guide for the latest in everything from Mommy & Me to after school classes.