So you’re 4 or 5 months into your pregnancy, your belly is getting bigger, and you realize, “Woah, we’re really going to have this baby; we better get prepared!” But how? Natural birthing classes are a good place to start.
Most of us don’t just stumble into a natural childbirth. It takes a lot of planning and education.
Without a firm conviction to pursue a natural birth, and the knowledge to support your decision, you are not likely to have one. So how can you be empowered to pursue the kind of birth that’s right for you and your family?
Why do birthing classes?
Knowledge is power. The more you know about the birthing process and how your body slowly (or sometimes rapidly) dilates to prepare for your baby’s arrival, the less fearful you’ll be during labor. You’ll also understand the rhythm of pushing and the intensity of transition.
Unfortunately, for most women, the majority of what they know about childbirth comes from Hollywood depictions of a screaming, hysterical woman in stirrups on a metal table.
Birth does NOT have to be that way (and shouldn’t be that way!) By taking a natural childbirth class, one that’s geared toward natural birth, you’ll learn a whole new way of approaching the big day.
Natural birthing classes will help you:
- Gain confidence in your body’s ability to give birth.
- Understand the many benefits of going natural.
- Learn effective and natural pain management strategies.
- Understand the physiological process of birth which will help you feel more confident.
- Be able to ask questions and talk about your fears with the instructor and other couples.
- Create an informed and empowered partner, who will know how to support you
- Nurture relationships with other natural mamas who have similar pregnancy due dates. They can become a source of friendship and inspiration, which is so important as a new mama.
One important note: If possible, it’s best to take a birth course outside of the hospital. While some hospital-run childbirth education courses can be helpful, they usually teach women how to be good patients (with potentially lots of interventions!) and don’t provide a ton of breastfeeding encouragement or education. Most courses are also very short in duration and don’t provide the support and empowerment that’s required with natural birth.
Which birthing classes are right for me?
While there isn’t one right way to have a natural birth, there are many different types of natural birth courses out there, all with their own philosophy, time commitment, and expense. You’ll want to research and find the one that fits you… your personality, your goals and your learning style.
In addition to live classes, many methods include home study kits, online courses, or DVD courses. Many birth classes also have a corresponding book (or a book from which the class was based). Take all of these things into consideration when choosing the natural birth class that fits your and your partner’s needs.
One of the first “natural” approaches out there, Lamaze birth classes are best known for their breathing instruction. In the 70-80’s, there was some controversy about the style of breathing taught by Lamaze. It was shorter, faster breaths which led some moms to hyperventilate, a big no-no in birthing!
However, Lamaze has changed some of their breathing pattern techniques and is supposed to be safe today.
Beyond breathing, their classes also focus on preparing expectant mothers with a six-step approach to enabling a safe and healthy birth. Lamaze aspires to help expectant mothers gain confidence in their bodies’ ability to give birth and prepares mom with natural pain management techniques.
Lamaze childbirth classes provide information on the benefits and drawbacks of all birth choices so that parents can make informed decisions. Some moms have criticized Lamaze as being too hospital and intervention-friendly.
Class duration: Roughly 12 hours of instruction which may be divided into six 2 hour classes or one or two intensive “crash courses.”
Cost: Varies by location. The national average according to costhelper is $110.
Pros: Affordable, somewhat naturally-minded.
Cons: Dated, hyperventilation concerns, not your most natural option.
Bradley Method birth classes are in-person and follow an evidence-based approach to childbirth that supports a safe and healthy birth.
Dr. Robert A. Bradley published his book Husband-Coached Childbirth in 1965, and the classes have helped couples put those principles into action.
Bradley classes are very naturally minded. They also cover information beyond labor and delivery such as nutrition, exercise and postpartum care.
Dr. Bradley emphasized the father/partner as the birthing coach (rather than a doula) and gives him defined roles throughout the pregnancy and delivery.
Class duration: 12 weeks, usually 1 1/2-2 hours per class over a three-month period.
Cost: $200-$500 (10% of your area’s midwifery cost).
Pros: Naturally minded, evidenced-based.
Cons: Old-fashioned, outdated, and too long
Informed Beginnings are in-person birth classes that seek to help families make informed choices about how they bring children into the world.
This birth class emphasizes that natural childbirth and breastfeeding are healthiest and safest for mom and baby, while being sensitive to the needs of families who require medical intervention.
Informed Beginnings also asserts the importance of the role of the partner during birth and a loving support team during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.
Informed Beginnings is a newer course, and is only offered in select locations. Visit their website to find classes near you.
Class duration: Varies by location. We found one in Chicagoland that goes for 10 weeks.
Cost: Varies by location. The Chicagoland class is $350.
Pros: Naturally minded, fresh approach.
Cons: In select markets only, not as popular as other options.
Hypnobirthing (The Mongan Method)
Hypnobirthing teaches moms how to use hypnosis techniques to create a peaceful and relaxing childbirth experience.
Hypnobirthing takes a different approach to labor than most classes. Instead of teaching mamas how to “manage pain,” Hypnobirthing coaches moms on how to avoid a fear-tension-pain cycle.
Hynobirthing birth classes teach that childbirth could and should be comfortable. They teach that labor-related pain if often born out of fear and tension, and this can be lessened using hypnotherapy.
They also have a self-study course for moms who want to do solo.
A three-year study by Britain’s National Institute for Health Research found that self-hypnosis made only a minor difference in helping women avoid pain relief during labor, but it did help them alleviate some fear around birth.
Class duration: Five 2.5 hour classes (doesn’t include “practice” time).
Cost: $160 for the self-study kit; $200-$400 for in person classes, depending on location.
Pros: Helps women alleviate some fear around birth.
Cons: Hypnosis doesn’t appeal to all moms; proven only moderately effective.
Hypnobabies is a competitor to Hypnobirthing. Hypnobabies teaches relaxation and visualization techniques to reduce fear and pain during childbirth.
Unlike Hypnobirthing, Hypnobabies also teaches medical hypno-anesthesia techniques catered specifically to childbirth. Some moms consider it to be a more comprehensive course than hypnobirthing.
Other moms have criticized Hypnobirthing birth classes for being too “New Age.”
Hypnobabies also offer a self-study option that moms can do solo.
Class duration: 6 weeks, 3 hours per class (doesn’t include “practice” time).
Cost: $160 for the home, self-study kit or $200-$400 for the live course.
Pros: May be more comprehensive than Hypnobirthing.
Cons: Hypnosis doesn’t appeal to all moms; proven only moderately effective.
Birthing From Within
Birthing From Within emphasizes birth as a rite of passage rather than a medical event. Birth is a time for self-discovery and as unique as each couple, therefore class curriculum is changed for the needs of the individual couple.
Birthing From Within hopes to prevent or minimize emotionally difficult birth through preparation and pain management techniques. They incorporate journaling, artwork, and other creative outlets of expression.
Birthing From Within birthing classes is probably the most “hippy” of the birthing classes and probably best for the creative types.
Class duration: 5-6 weeks, 2-3 hour classes or weekend intensive classes.
Pros: Individualistic, naturally-minded approach.
Cons: Not available in all areas, may be a little “out there” for some mamas.
Mama Natural Birth Course
The Mama Natural Birth Course is hosted by yours truly (a crunchy mama of two) and Maura Winkler, a registered nurse (RN), doula, breastfeeding counselor and placenta encapsulator.
Our eight-part, online, on-demand course is designed to educate, inspire and empower moms and partners to deliver naturally. The course takes parents through the entire process of preparing for and experiencing a natural birth.
These birth classes also include modules on the first several weeks with baby, with natural postpartum care for baby and mama. We also have an entire class on breastfeeding.
Mama Natural Birth Course students come together together in private Facebook groups to foster a sense of community and provide extra support. Students have 24/7 access to me and doula Maura in these private groups.
The Mama Natural Birth Course also includes bonuses like weekly practice sessions to prepare your body and mind for childbirth, segments on nutrition, as well as a host of natural remedies for common pregnancy complaints.
We donate 10% of all profits to MotherHealth, a midwifery clinic in Uganda that is doing amazing work to lower the maternal mortality rate in areas of the world that needs it most.
Class duration: 12 hours of content divided into 8 classes total. Some students do one class per week, others cram the whole course in over a weekend.
Pros: Convenient (no driving time), naturally-minded, supportive community.
Which birthing classes are right for you?
As you can see, there are many birth class choices available that cater to different learning styles and needs. The important thing is to pick a class that will support you, your partner, and your birth goals.
Of course, we are a little biased ;), but I can tell you that Maura and I poured our hearts and souls into The Mama Natural Birth Course. And we continue to work hard to make it the best-in-class birth course available online for moms who want a natural birth.
Whatever you decide, do me a favor
Whichever route you chose to take, do yourself and your baby one big favor: TAKE A NATURAL CHILDBIRTH EDUCATION COURSE! It will make all the difference and empower you to feel in charge of your birth (no matter how it unfolds) rather than like a victim of intervention after intervention.
Keep in mind that over 80% of women get some sort of intervention in birth, so it will take dedication, education, and support to take the path less traveled. But it is SO worth the work! I speak from experience here. I have not met a single mama who has regretted giving birth naturally. It is truly a life-changing and soul-defining experience!
I wish you the best and most natural birth. ❤️