Childbirth classes - worth it?
December 8, 2015 10:05 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently 5.5 months pregnant with my first, and I will need to decide soon whether to take any childbirth classes. Did you find classes worth it, and if so, are there any particular classes you recommend?

I will be delivering in a hospital and will get an epidural if or when I feel like I need one. I am not interested in delivering outside of a hospital, and I would like to avoid judgment about pain relief options. I'd love to learn more about & practice techniques for coping with contractions aside from medication, and I know that there are both advantages and disadvantages to every option. Basically, information = helpful, judgment = not helpful.

I will be taking a separate "prenatal information" class (offered through Kaiser) that discusses an overview of labor & delivery, breastfeeding, and newborn care. This question is about childbirth classes - Kaiser does offer one for a fee, and I am open to taking either that one, a different one, or skipping altogether.

I am in Los Angeles - specific recommendations welcome! I work full time in an office with some flexibility, so I would prefer an evening or weekend class but might be able to make a daytime class working depending on the schedule. My wife would attend the class with me - she works too, but has a flexible schedule.
posted by insectosaurus to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
One big perk of these classes is to make friends. This is especially true if you take a class that is in your immediate neighborhood. I found more friends at the baby group post-birth, but probably ~25% of the parents in my baby group knew each other from classes.
Having a group of people whom have a baby within a few weeks of you is really nice. My kid is 7 and I'm still very close with a lot of those baby group people.
posted by k8t at 10:12 AM on December 8, 2015 [7 favorites]

It sounds like the prenatal class covers the child birth information, no ?

We took ours at the local hospital, and it was Thursday nights for 3 weeks, each night a different topic (labor/delivery was one, newborn care another, I forget the 3rd, child development maybe ? )
posted by k5.user at 10:14 AM on December 8, 2015

We took the child safety classes (CPR and choking and the like) and the breastfeeding class and the hospital tour. But we didn't not do childbirth classes, and here's why: I felt like I was well informed on birth given my experience with the birth of many friends and family, and my own research, and I felt like going to a class with my partner would just give him reason to panic. That is, if the class says "things tend to go XYZ" and ours went XZY he would panic because of expectations. Where if he didn't have expectations, he would just listen to me and my doctors. My doctors were totally okay with this arrangement.

I did read books, and one of them said, when discussing the role of the partner, to make sure they didn't say "are you okay" over and over again because eventually you would think you weren't. So my partner said "would you like more ice chips" or "what can I do" or "can I push on your back" or "what music do you want to listen to" or engaged me in distracting debates about baby names.

That's obviously a really personal choice and depends on how you and your partner react to things.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:26 AM on December 8, 2015

Response by poster: To clarify - my understanding is that the prenatal class offers a basic overview of childbirth (these are the stages of labor, this is the typical progression, these are the possible interventions) but does not cover anything like breathing techniques or offer more detailed information.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:27 AM on December 8, 2015

I found it very helpful for learning about the particular policies at the hospital I was delivering at and where to go and when to come in and stuff, but found the rest of it tedious and unnecessary and I just wanted to be home on the couch. There are lots of good websites and videos on youtube for breathing & partner massage techniques and stuff, and ideas for things you might want to have as options. It sounds like Kaiser's prenatal info class will cover the specific hospital stuff, so I would personally skip the rest.
posted by brainmouse at 10:28 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

We found it very worth it for our first. We went to a place* that was very neutral about birth options, but had a general philosophy of "all things being equal, fewer interventions is better." That worked for us well, as a science-driven non-woo couple. Moreover, most of the more "natural childbirth" options were given with justifications for reasons why they might be a useful plan. I think there was a great variety of opinions in the class about options (everywhere from "No interventions ever!" to "Hook me up to the epidural as soon as I cross the threshold of the hospital!"), but it was very informational and non-judgey. Because our first was an (unplanned) C-section, we ended up using very little of what we actually learned, but it definitely made us feel less anxious in the time leading up to the birth.

*The place we went is Birth Day Presence (oh, God, the pun). This isn't specifically useful to you because they're in NYC, but you could consider emailing them to see if they recommend a place in LA.
posted by Betelgeuse at 10:28 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

We did a one day class through our hospital which sounds similar to the one you're being offered. We felt perfectly well prepared for our in-hospital, with epidural childbirth. Our hospital had excellent nurses to coach us along in real time, though. Maybe do the hospital tour and see what kind of vibe you get?

I will second dpx.mfx on recommending an infant CPR/first aid class, though.
posted by Kriesa at 10:30 AM on December 8, 2015

By the way, the place that we liked has the following philosophy stated on their web page, which rang true to us. I would recommend that you find a place that has a philosophy that feels right for you.
Although we are certified through Lamaze, we don’t teach any one method; rather we pull the best parts from the most popular methods, as well as from our extensive experience in the field. There is no one right way to labor. We stand by the philosophy that birth is a normal process and hope to inspire confidence in the couples that we teach. It is our goal to teach the full spectrum of options a woman has when preparing for her birth, and then to support her unconditionally. The most important way to approach your birth is with confidence and relaxation. You achieve this by knowing what possible things to expect, developing a pain-coping mindset to move through your labor, and by feeling prepared to work through whatever your journey turns out to be.
posted by Betelgeuse at 10:45 AM on December 8, 2015

My understanding from many mom-friends - if you think you want an epidural, get it earlier rather than later - it's easier to get before your contractions are so close together that it's hard not to move.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 11:00 AM on December 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

We went to a class that was mostly a "this is what is happening in your body and is likely to happen at he hospital" class with some Lamaze breathing at the end. We were primarily there for my husband since I have been at many childbirths and had a pretty good idea of what was likely to happen.

I didn't end up thinking the Lamaze was very helpful, but I was already inclined to get an epidural and I have a fairly calm temperament anyway. Committing to a more in-depth class with more detailed instruction on specific techniques and more extensive practice might have made a difference, but maybe not, since I wasn't really gung-ho about it. Even the technique-specific classes like Bradley are also likely to cover the "prenatal information" material.

Are you a reader? I think you can get most of the information about the various techniques from books and audiotapes that are probably available at your library. If you want more practice with the actual techniques or you want the community, you can take a class once you've established you're interested.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:09 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

In retrospect I don't think the childbirth class I took gave me anything really important in terms of techniques for dealing with labor. In my experience, labor pain comes in two levels: (1) not severe enough to require any special technique to handle and (2) severe enough that no special technique could possibly help. There wasn't really anything in between for me.
posted by Redstart at 11:16 AM on December 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

We did a labor/deliver class through our hospital. I found it helpful to hear about all the options with regard to pain relief and the pros and cons of various things. It was also helpful to have my SO there because I think lots of the info was completely new to me. The classes were a bit of a bonding experience (we also took infant CPR and a newborn care class). In the end I had an emergency C-section, so all of the pain mitigation techniques were all for naught. But I would still recommend taking classes if you and/or your partner find information gathering to be helpful (and also gaining familiarity with the hospital I was delivering in).
posted by JenMarie at 11:19 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I found my prenatal classes pleasant, in that it was time set aside for my husband and me to concentrate on the wonderful thing that was happening, and specifically for him to concentrate on me. And we did meet another couple there that we wound up friendly with, so that was some value. But nothing would up being particularly helpful or educational (I had an emergency c-section.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:20 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

What I found most useful at the classes we attended was a very practical run-down of different interventions and pain relief methods. "Here is an epidural needle, here's how it works, here's what the procedure of getting one will look like," kind of thing. We went over Caesarean sections down to the level of "if you have a Caesarian then there will be a lot of people in the room, and this can feel a bit worrying, but it's just standard procedure - here is what everyone's role is, and here is where they will be positioned around you, and here is how the operation works."

I found this sort of thing really helpful and reassuring; I didn't get much out of the relaxation visualisation stuff at all.
posted by Catseye at 11:31 AM on December 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

During both my pregnancies, I attended private only women pre-natal classes at a physiotherapist. I have recommended it to all my friends, and I also attended after-birth classes at the same therapist. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I also attended the classes offered at the hospital, with my husband, and while I had some benefit from those, my husband was shocked and unable to deal with the information in class.

What was good about the class at the therapist:
- the new friends (as mentioned above) - amazing friendships, some for life
- the knowledge about my body's changes. Even though the hospital had all the information and knowledge, the private setting and small class meant that everyone got all the answers.
- the knowledge about what was to come, and the group discussion about fears and worries. The therapist was very un-judgemental and made a point of underlining that everyone was making the right choices for her, regardless of those choices. Finding such a therapist took time and effort, and it was worth it.
- the exercises: when I was in the hospital, I was by far the person in the maternity ward that day who had the easiest birth (not counting those elder moms who knew what was going on). It's not that I could remember the breathing stuff or anything, it's more that we had physically trained for labor. The class was as much about whole body strength and stretching and building in the right places. We also understood the process in a very profound way, but that was an extra. Again - this was a really smart therapist. Ask everyone you know, including doctors, nurses and midwives.

I found the therapist through friends, but if I had clearly indicated at the hospital that I was willing to pay for private classes and attend them, I would have been pointed to the exact same place. (I know because I asked).

One thing to look for is the privacy and intimacy of the setting. Our teacher could talk about extremely private and intimate stuff, because we were only eight students, we were all female, and she was really good at creating a safe environment where she didn't seem like a hairy old feminist (sorry all, but that was important for me at that time. Non-Judgemental was her key-word, not mine). That way we could talk about sex lives, vagina muscles and bodily fluids among many other important issues.

First time was a breech birth (this is a long story which I won't bore you with, you don't need to do this because I did). Anyway, that was not entirely pleasant, but not terrible either. I had all available meds and I have no regrets. As stated above: in spite of the complications, I had the easiest day at that ward on that day.
Second time was a completely normal delivery with no medication at all, and I promise you I only felt pain for less than 5 minutes. I am not at all pushing med-free birth, only saying that my pre-birth class was amazing and took out all the mystery and most of the pain of delivery.

(The post-delivery classes were amazing too - seriously, we all had celebrity bodies after 8 weeks, at a tenth of the price of a personal trainer and with ten times the fun and friendships)
posted by mumimor at 11:34 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

My wife and I have a two month-old. She gave birth at a hospital. We did the childbirth class and the infant CPR class together, she did the breastfeeding class, and I did the "daddy boot camp" class. We would recommend all of them.

I thought the childbirth class was very helpful with respect to pain management issues - here are the options, here are how they work, etc. It was also good for thinking about the various things that might go wrong, not in a scare-tactics sense, but in a "here is some knowledge so that if a nurse says "X" is happening, you have some advance knowledge of what X entails. The hospital tour was also nice, if only to make things feel less foreign.

I also really liked the daddy boot camp class. It's a one-time class for new dads, particularly those who haven't spent much time with infants. They also recruit guys who have taken the class ("veteran dads") to come back with their 3-4 mo. olds so that everyone can take turns holding a baby (maybe for the first time) and some can change diapers for the first time. It included good discussions about mom/dad relationships and looking for signs of postpartum depression etc.

Our kiddo was about a month premature and also breached, which meant mandatory c-section, and having the advanced knowledge was helpful for both of us.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:35 AM on December 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

They were completely useless in the end for me. The breastfeeding classes operated on an assumption that women would make too much milk at first and then settle in and provided no information that it was actually possible that milk supply production could be badly disrupted by circumstances around the birth.

The childbirth classes provided little information that I didn't already know, but I thought it might be helpful to be around other pregnant women. It wasn't really. While I felt I was prepared, the end result was I wasn't for what happened to me. No one would have been. And nothing I had learned in either the childbirth or the breastfeeding classes was relevant. So wasted time, wasted money, and a lot of emotional loss.

More than anything, I'd suggest spending that money on classes on setting things up for after the baby:

*In-home lactation consultant
*Post-partum doula or mother's helper when your spouse/partner goes back to work
*Names and contact information for therapists specializing in women with PPD and PTSD in case needed, and a partner who can raise you up enough that you'll go if you do need to

Those first 20 weeks after the birth is where, in my opinion, people should concentrate in preparing for.
posted by zizzle at 11:53 AM on December 8, 2015 [9 favorites]

No totally not worth it for the info. My class was overly graphic and you pick up the same info from the ob. Plus you can wiki it the first time you have false labor to distract yourself. Note: your labor may ignore the common course. Meet some friends for tea or go for a stroll those evenings instead.
posted by Kalmya at 12:01 PM on December 8, 2015

We did it for our first because Mrs. Tanizaki signed for everything with our first. Mrs. Tanizaki was induced in a hospital and had an epidural. The class was useless and was far more about feeling good than doing good. We did not do any such class for our second.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:18 PM on December 8, 2015

Useless unless you know absolutely nothing about the mechanics of labor and birth. In which case I say a book would be more helpful.

If you were focusing on learning a specific pain management technique, then sure, but if (like me!) your plan consists of "go to hospital, get an epidural" then there are nine million other ways to spend your time. Been there, done that.

Focus on the post-partum support you think you might need: labor lasts a finite amount of time, but you have months of newborn shenanigans to worry about.
posted by lydhre at 12:27 PM on December 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with zizzle regarding the post-partum being far more important to prepare for.

But, what I did find helpful in my birthing class was the instructor having us watch videos of other moms in birth (hospital, non-hospital, intervention, non-intervention) and pausing in between each clip to describe what was happening. It was a great way for me to understand the different stages of labor and how different women experience them. It was also helpful for my husband to identify them as well. It was helpful to me to know and identify what stages I was in and to mostly relax about it.
posted by jillithd at 12:37 PM on December 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh! But if you have free car seat installation in your area before the birth, definitely do that! We have it in our area where they install your car seat for you and go through the manual of your vehicle and your car seat with you to ensure you have it all installed correctly.
posted by jillithd at 12:39 PM on December 8, 2015

It really depends on what makes you feel more at ease with labor. I liked having a bit of a decision tree for how labor and delivery go and to know the common interventions, issues, and hospital policy that could come up. A week after my class ended I found out I needed a planned cesarean so I didn't use most of what they talked about. We did literally every class my hospital offered and I found these to be the best:

-breastfeeding and newborn care
-coping with pain (it went over and had a time to practice various methods of dealing with discomfort. This was handy even without going through a vaginal delivery)
-Bringing Baby Home - this is a Gottman Institute class and it focuses on the parents' relationship after the baby is born. So essential, even for solid relationships.

Preparing for postpartum is also quite important. Everyone needs resources for the stress and strain a new life brings home.
posted by toomanycurls at 12:43 PM on December 8, 2015

I've taken various Kaiser pregnancy/childbirth classes, including the paid one that you spoke about, albeit up in NorCal. It's been a few years, but I remember you usually go with a partner/coach and you practice breathing exercises, pain management techniques, and so forth, as well as what you may expect on the day you go into labor.

It looks like the Prepared childbirth class is what it's called currently. You don't have to attend the class at your regular Kaiser but maybe another nearby one if you call around and find one that has a weekend class available. It's probably considered full day so I wouldn't expect there to be an evening version, although I have seen a "condensed" version offered before.

I did not experience any judgment during these classes; they're mostly providing information or having you practice breathing/pain management techniques.

If you're still in the Kaiser system, I suggest calling to ask if they have this class available during the weekend, or if maybe another Kaiser hospital has it offered during the weekend...
posted by Seboshin at 1:27 PM on December 8, 2015

My husband and I went to pregnancy/birthing classes. As a nurse I didn't learn anything new, but I think it helped my husband learn what to expect.

If I could do it all over again I'd skip the classes, hire a doula and have a fantastic lactation consultant on standby for after the birth. Birthing class in no way prepared me for the shitshow surrounding my baby's birth and how painful and difficult breastfeeding would be after.
posted by makonan at 1:50 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you are interested in mindfulness or CBT, you may be interested in the "GentleBirth" programme. There's a workshop you can go to or just use the mp3s/book. This link also has more about it: I have found it to be extremely beneficial and informative.
posted by bimbam at 2:24 PM on December 8, 2015

On the flip side I took no classes, figuring I can't really prepare for it and decided to wing it, since it could go so many ways and I didn't want to be stuck on expectations. Got epidural at 5cm. A++ would epidural again. At 10cm a birthing nurse coached me through it, I just pushed into the pain so to speak. I don't regret not taking a class at all.

One thing that helped was my previous meditation experience. Knowing how to focus my mind, let go of unhelpful thoughts and relax into pain rather than mentally fight it helped. Also visualization. These are things you can learn on your own or at a Buddhist centre, doesn't have to be a birthing class per se.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:33 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I took the classes through the hospital we delivered at. They were tremendous, although I think a huge part of that was due to our exceptionally wonderful instructor; we had a sub one day and if the whole class had been with her I think they would have been worthless. Our instructor was a nurse who had spent something like 15 years in the NICU and 20 years on L&D, and herself had four home births and worked as a doula. So she had a really unusual diversity of experience and perspective. Our classes included an exercise where we actually manipulated a newborn-baby sized doll through a replica of a female skeleton, so we could see how the baby had to descend and then turn, as well as an opportunity to see equipment like forceps, a vacuum extractor, a Doppler, an internal scalp monitor, and a hep lock up close and hands on. We took tours of the birthing suites, discussed laboring positions with and without an epidural, and got familiar with the triage and admission procedures used by that hospital.

But the most important thing we learned in the class was one sentence, which I will now share with you: There is no normal in childbirth, but there are a lot of things that are OK. This was repeated so many times throughout the class that when I got violent shakes during transition and my father-in-law asked anxiously if this was normal, my husband and and I chanted "There is no normal in childbirth! But there are a lot of things that are OK!" in unison. I had a labor and delivery that was decidedly not normal* but was very definitely OK, and I think that our childbirth classes really helped me and my husband feel on top of the process even though it was our first time.

*You know how they say that childbirth never happens in real life like it does on TV, where Mom is just hanging out doing whatever and then her water breaks titanically and she immediately goes into screaming contractions? Well, they should say "almost never." Pro tip.
posted by KathrynT at 2:37 PM on December 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

It didn't end up being that useful for me. For one thing, there was way too much time spent on anatomy and stuff that anyone with access to the internet already knows. I also had a very fast, very uncomplicated birth, which meant there was no time to do anything we learned in the class. I think the only big advantage for us was that it was time set aside each week where my husband and were both in the mind of thinking about preparing for the baby, so it opened up some conversations. It gave my husband and I some space to talk about our expectations of each other and our worries about the birth.

What was most helpful to me in preparing for birth was asking tons of women about their experiences. I started with my closest friends, and then got more brave about asking less-close friends. From doing this, I learned that there are lots of ways to give birth, some more intentionally than others, and in the end most people feel pretty good about the experience, even if there were complications. This is something you wouldn't think from reading birth (horror) stories on the internet. Your friends and family are a better random sample. It made me more comfortable with the idea of just going with the flow of the experience (not usually my strength!) One question I asked everyone was "is there anything you did to prepare that was really helpful, in retrospect?" Nobody said birth classes.

If you intend to nurse, I would recommend interviewing a lot of women about their experiences with that as well.
posted by juliapangolin at 2:46 PM on December 8, 2015

Response by poster: This has been really helpful - thank you all for the variety of opinions! I didn't mention it in the question, but we are already signed up for a hospital tour and a CPR/first aid class. Right now, I'm leaning towards looking around for a class that sounds awesome, but not taking a birth class for the sake of taking a class (so skipping if I don't find anything that sounds right).

Additional thoughts and opinions welcome, of course!
posted by insectosaurus at 2:53 PM on December 8, 2015

All of my friends say they wish they had spent more time preparing for after the baby arrives. A few said their classes were useful, but you definitely don't need to do over-kill.

Things like: nursing and all the various options and timing and support methods and options for supplementing, doing a gentle yoga and/or pilates class that is geared around prenatal + postnatal bodies, child development and/or child first aid, and establishing specific people for post-birth help.

Try to find a lactation consultant now and have a meeting if possible. Meeting someone for the first time, when you're exhausted and having trouble nursing, and mentally worn out, with a screaming and/or baby losing too much weight -- it's so so so hard to just trust a stranger in that moment. If you already know them, it's going to be easier to get them to help earlier and without quite as much suspicion.

Are you going to have a doula? They can be awesome helps with the preparation, the actual event, AND the aftercare, and having a non-family member whom you trust in those moments is such a gift.

Best of luck!
posted by barnone at 3:22 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I did the Hypnobirthing home study course and that was VERY HELPFUL.
posted by bq at 4:06 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I came to say what St. Peepsburg said. My birth plan was "Have baby. In hospital. With epidural". I read a lot of birth stories online (I know, Reddit is crazy sometimes, but the people over at r/BabyBumps was really wonderful overall while I was pregnant), but had no specific thoughts about breathing techniques or whatnot.

Labor went from bearable to "ok, I could probably enjoy some pain meds soon" to "Jesus god why is the epidural guy taking forever to get here make it stooooooop" to "well, this is delightful, I think I'll take a nap". A+++ epidural would do again.

It already sounds like you're ok with skipping class if you don't find one that seems like it will be good for you, so I'm just backing you up here and saying that that's a totally fine strategy.

Look for postpartum classes / baby care, especially breastfeeding. If you have a breastfeeding support group / class, however, I visited my local one twice. You might not end up going to any, but it was just nice to know in advance that I could go somewhere and get help.
posted by kellygrape at 4:31 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

We found it to be a so-so class, but there was some useful information. It wasn't a waste of time, although we also learned a lot from YouTube videos and from watching The Business of Being Born.

By far the very best use of our time was taking a breastfeeding class. My hubby agreed that he was happy he went, as it helped dispel a lot of the myths and misinformation he was hearing from older relatives.

If you are anywhere near Torrance or Long Beach I can provide specific referrals. If you need another area of the city I can put you in touch with mom's groups who can give you referrals. Memail me if you're interested.
posted by vignettist at 5:38 PM on December 8, 2015

Someone above mentioned having a doula and judging from the very positive experiences my daughters-in-law have had with them in the last few years I highly recommend you investigate the possibility of having one.

I found childbirth/lamaze classes pretty useless, but maybe they've improved in the last 40+ years.
posted by mareli at 6:43 PM on December 8, 2015

I took dedicated LaMaze classes for several weeks during both of my pregnancies and found them extremely helpful in my un-medicated deliveries. (both planned as unmedicated, but in one there was no time for medication anyway) Helpful both in understanding labor and delivery and options and in coping with labor pain. (almost 30 years ago) The quality of the teacher was important. The first one was deadly boring and it took a lot of focus to apply the techniques. The second, five years later, was much more engaging and at one point in labor I couldn't figure out what to do next but I could picture her in my mind demonstrating the breathing technique I wanted and I just followed along for a bit.

My sister's childbirth plans was as above "Have baby. In hospital. With epidural," but the epidural really didn't work even though they did it 3 times and she had no coping strategies to fall back on and it was awful. -So I recommend having something as a backup and Lamaze was great, for me at least.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:16 PM on December 8, 2015

Mine taught about what labor and delivery looks and feels like, what common medical interventions look and feel like as well as their benefits and risks and some general tactics for laboring and delivery that can help. I found it very useful to understand how the process of baby coming out of my body works, what is supposed to happen. Labor and delivery is a lot of work for most parents and I felt much more confident going in with some basic education.
Best part for me was when the teacher pulled out a model of a human pelvic area and a baby doll and did a demonstration of how the bones in a body move in various positions to accommodate or restrict a baby coming out.
posted by HMSSM at 12:07 AM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Definitely worth it in terms of information on what to expect during that whole time. In Pasadena, CA, we did a series of 3 classes at Huntington Memorial Hospital, and they were very informative. All weekday evening classes.

There was a childbirth prep class that emphasized comfort techniques, pain management options, signs and symptoms to look out for, and a lot of the physiology of pregnancy and childbirth that included positions and activities to ease the process.

There was an infant care class that focused on the basics of diapering, swaddling, safe sleeping setups, feeding, etc. There was also a lot of emphasis on what weird baby things to be alarmed about and what to be chill about. For example, what kind of rash to watch and ointment and what kind to call the doctor about immediately; what poop should look like; what strange marks and indentations are normal, etc. It was a little long, but we were glad for all the info.

A tour of the maternity ward (or Labor, Deliver, and Recovery) areas. This was helpful, and only took about 90 minutres. We were shown where to go, where to park, who to talk to, what the hospital policies are regarding guests, food, visiting hours, etc.

Just for the sake of peace of mind and feeling prepared, I highly recommend them.
posted by bluejayway at 12:27 PM on December 9, 2015

I took a Bradley class with our second baby, and found it really, really useful. I did the standard hospital-based prenatal class with our first, and we did dumb stuff like hold ice cubes in our hands which turned out to be worse than useless once I was in labor. In contrast, the Bradley class gave a really fantastic overview of how exactly your body works to get the baby out and what signs you might notice (verbal, non-verbal, etc.) during each stage. It made me feel much more comfortable with each stage of labor and helped me trust my body.

In terms of dogma, I'd say it's sort of anti-pain meds, BUT not in a judgey way - more like it does a great job of laying out all the possible benefits and risks of each pain med so you understand thoroughly what you are getting yourself into. I think a lot of literature assumes no risk at all with epidurals (etc.) and that's not necessarily the case. (I had lingering back pain at the site of my epidural for months postpartum, and that possibility was totally not mentioned to me when I got the epidural with my first baby.)

I would definitely recommend any class over no class, but I'd put a strong vote in for a Bradley class if you have the option.
posted by meggan at 4:16 PM on December 9, 2015

I liked the feeling of "Ok, I sort of have some idea what is ahead of me, maybe, possibly", but truly the one thing that sticks out that was absolutely USEFUL as a piece of information from the childbirth class I took was this:

If you have a C-section, there may be a lot of people in the OR. This is normal. There will be something like two surgeons, an anesthesiologist, a nurse assisting with the surgery, a nurse or two for the baby, maybe some more nurses. Anyway, a LOT of people, totally normal, does not mean there is anything going on that they're not telling you. Because I ended up having a c-section due to liver complications that could be harmful to the baby, we had extra nurses for the baby, PLUS were told a doctor was aware and one floor away, and I am just REALLY glad that I knew that this was all basically normal, and I was in good hands.

But then, this piece of information was particularly useful for me because of how my labor/delivery turned out, and some other piece of information might be what's really useful for you.

Also, we met other soon-to-be parents in the class, one of whom happened to be in the hospital at the same time as me, which was nice, because our hospital was not allowing many visitors due to swine flu outbreak at the time, so it was nice to see a friendly face and talk about being new parents together! Don't know if that's at all a likelihood with a Kaiser class.
posted by freezer cake at 10:51 AM on December 16, 2015

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