Many first time mothers-to-be find that going to pre-natal classes with their birthing partner can be very helpful in learning what to expect from the forthcoming birth. Even women who've had children before can find these groups useful.
Types Of Classes
There are a wide variety of classes available; from pregnancy yoga, aquafit at the pool, exercise groups in community centers and even gym classes. You can find natural childbirth classes where you and your partner can practice breathing exercises together in preparation for labor. There are specific birthing methods which offer classes to help promote more natural methods of childbirth. The new Swiss method is becoming more popular and of course there are the well known Lamaze and Leboyer methods. These methods help to empower women, help prepare for childbirth and enable women to make informed choices about labor.
How To Choose
If you are unsure what sort of pre-natal class you want to take, be guided by your doula or your obstetrician. They may be able to recommend a suitable class in your area. The best thing is to find a group that is convenient for you with women in more or less the same stage of pregnancy as you, so you will have an instant support group. It may be important to you to find likeminded women to share your pregnancy and birth with. Alternatively you may prefer to mix with a wider range of people. Just remember that friendships made at this stage in life can last a very long time, so choose carefully.
Depending on where you live, some groups are very conventional and only allow husbands to be the birth partner in the class; others are more liberal and encourage you to bring a friend or partner of either sex. Others may be for older mums, or for women in same sex relationships, so visit the class first before signing up for your whole pregnancy. Make sure you feel comfortable with both the teacher and the other mums-to-be.
What To Expect
Most pre-natal classes offer breathing classes, explanations of the whole birthing process, practice in how to care for a baby and general support from both the class facilitator and the other mums. They may even show a video of a birth, offer parenting classes and general guidance for your new status in life. Here is a place you can ask your questions and voice your fears without feeling that you are being foolish or wasting your practitioner's time.
Type Of Birth
If you choose a class which has a qualified and experienced teacher in a particular natural method you may feel pressured into having a certain type of birth. Some teachers of natural childbirth frown on women who want to use any medical pain relief, instead of hypnosis or whatever method they are advocating. Even if you want to have a drug-free birth, until you are actually in labor you don't know how you will react. Perhaps you plan to have a water birth at home, but go into premature labor. Whatever happens, it is very important that you don't feel you "failed" if you don't have the type of birth you planned. After all, having a baby isn't a driving test!