Denver obstetrician Robert Bradley, author of
Bradley classes teach couples how to relax and breathe deeply, but the emphasis is on doing what comes naturally: father as coach, proper nutrition during pregnancy, and — most important — knowing all the options beforehand. They also emphasize the
Hypnobirthing and Dr. Grantly Dick-Read
British doctor and natural childbirth pioneer Grantly Dick-Read, who authored the classic
Dr. Frederick LeBoyer, author of
The Right Teacher and the Right Class
Completely confused now? Don't know your Bradley from your LeBoyer? A good first step is to call your hospital or birthing center and ask for printed schedules and descriptions of upcoming classes — many of your questions will probably be answered right then. Once you get a basic feel for what is offered, you can call with follow-up questions about instructor credentials and training, methods taught, class size, curriculum, and costs. You might also ask if there are couples who have taken the course that you can contact as references.
If you've had a previous cesarean section, ask about a VBAC class, which provides couples with information on the benefits, risks, and statistics surrounding vaginal births following a cesarean section. They are usually recommended as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, a prepared childbirth class.
If you find that the classes or curriculum offered at your local hospital just aren't what you're looking for, you can opt for private instruction. The International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) will provide you with names of certified instructors in your area. You can contact the Minneapolis-based ICEA at 952-854-8660 or online at
Touring the Hospital/Birthing Center
Even if you don't choose a childbirth class sponsored by the facility at which you'll be giving birth, you should try to arrange a tour. Getting your bearings ahead of time will save you valuable time and frustration when the big day arrives. When you're in the middle of the mother-of-all contractions, the last thing you want to do is try to figure out where validated parking is. You'll also have less anxiety and disappointment if you know what to expect of the labor and birthing rooms. What you imagine (a flower-filled, sunny room filled with soft music and framed watercolors) may be a far cry from reality.
Classes for Siblings
New sibling classes can be a huge boon for parents who are on their second pregnancy. Typically divided by age group so information can be communicated at an appropriate level, these classes put an emphasis on the emotional side of having a new family member — how things at home are changing, how the family will adjust after baby is born, and what the children are feeling about these developments.
The childbirth educator asked if we had a pediatrician. Isn't it too early?
Your pediatrician will care for your newborn in the hospital, so getting one lined up now is important. Some things to inquire about: Do ill children have a separate waiting room? Are lactation consultants available? How are phone calls triaged and returned?
There's also plenty of practical information provided, including a preview tour of mom's accommodations and some basic big sibling-baby handling guidelines. Even the youngest kids are usually given the opportunity to practice baby care with a doll.
If your child is having difficulty adjusting to the idea of a new baby in the house, a sibling class can make him feel more involved in, and consequently more accepting of, your family's growth. As you might imagine, the ability of the instructor to relate to your child can make or break this type of class, so getting a few referrals is time well spent. If you have the opportunity, you might inquire about the possibility of spending fifteen minutes in the back of an upcoming class to test the waters before sending your child to participate. (See Appendix B for more information resources on childbirth education.)