Why Take an Out-of-Hospital
People take a childbirth class in order to be ready for all of the possibilities of childbirth, including interventions, medication, comfort measures and helpful movement for bringing baby down and out. A childbirth class will educate you on the way the body works to birth the baby and usually covers hormones, anatomy, and the typical signs and symptoms of physiological birth. Knowing all of this information will better allow you to be an active participant in the labor and the decisions that are made along the way. The more you know, the more empowered you will feel throughout your birthing journey. Prenatal education is so important whether you get it by reading a book, watching a documentary, or taking a childbirth education class.
Hospital Childbirth Classes
Most hospitals offer birth prep classes. These classes allow you to get a lay of the land, possibly see the L&D ward and meet a nurse or two. However, there are several reasons why people choose to seek their prenatal education outside of the hospital setting.
Length of Class
Hospital childbirth classes are often a single session and leave integral information out. There is lots to learn about childbirth including information about prenatal nutrition, exercises, and ways to prepare the body for birth. A hospital class will usually cover stages of labor, hospital interventions, some comfort measures, and what to expect in their unit. By comparison, an out-of-hospital childbirth class will meet for 4 – 6 weeks and cover prenatal preparation, local resources, leave room to address questions, practice hands-on techniques for massage/positions, and review the full spectrum of options available (from birth setting to risks and benefits on interventions to evidence on inductions, etc.)
Curriculum is Geared Towards Hospital Policies
A hospital class will be teaching their students the usual protocols of birth at their hospital. This is all valuable information, as the students will know what to expect before arriving at the hospital. But they may not cover the true range of options/possibilities within birth. Their teachings are very much colored by their policies and procedures.
For example, we know that the best positions for pushing a baby out are hands-and-knees, squat, side-lying and other upright positions. Many hospital providers prefer their patients on their backs, or more accurately, many providers are used to seeing this position due to the popular use of epidurals. This is all to say that there isn’t much discussion about the true range of possibilities when it comes to pushing. In an out-of-hospital class, the evidence behind pushing positions will be covered in more depth, so the student has a true understanding of their anatomy and options. This is just one example of the many topics that are covered in prenatal birthing classes.
You may find larger numbers in the hospital classes in order for them to accommodate their patient load. This means less time for personalization, answering questions and getting to know each other. If you are looking outside of hospitals for prenatal education, a good question to ask is how large the classes get. A good size class is around 6 couples, which allows for time for discussion and getting to know the other students.
A hospital class will have limitations to their list of resources and referrals. Many of their referrals will be within their network, and they may not know much around supplemental care like physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage, exercise, diet, and even lactation. By seeking an out-of-hospital class, you will likely be connected to a huge network of practitioners and therapies that make a impact on birth and postpartum
Village Birth offers doula services, childbirth classes, newborn care classes, lactation and pregnancy support for Los Angeles. Our space is in Sparrow’s Nest in Pasadena (bordering Eagle Rock) where we hold classes, support groups, workshops, and meetups. Interested in learning more about the birth process and options available in your birth setting? Check out Village Birth’s prenatal classes.