Any tips to not hate birthing class? Or can we just skip it?
September 14, 2016 9:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm due in 7 weeks-ish, so my partner and I are enrolled in our HMO provided childbirth class. We went to the first class last weekend and both walked out of it thinking about skipping the second class. How can we get through the next 4 hour class without feeling like it's a waste of time, or would missing it be OK?

This is the first class we've taken about anything pregnancy related, so it was our first time in a group environment with other expectant parents. There was a lot of time spent on icebreakers and group discussion, which I don't think I got much out of. Some of it was definitely we're not the sort who like support groups, but some of it was also the nature of the discussion and the format weren't our style.

Part of the reason I want to skip is because we have the book they want us to bring to labor and delivery, so we can just read that, but I also worry we might miss something actually useful.

Things we didn't like:
Oddly heteronormative view of pregnancy and childbirth for the Bay Area.
A segment on guided meditation.
Lots of talk about why we should avoid epidurals and how "natural is best". (Not saying I don't agree, but it had that horribly condescending, judgy tone surrounding lots of similar decisions pregnant women must make.)
Forced group participation that didn't really add value.

Things we liked:
The rundown of when to go to the hospital.
The guide book about what to do.

I definitely get the sense we should just suck it up and kill another 4 hours, but I also worry the next class will just make me feel more alienated and isolated about pregnancy. This has been a theme throughout my pregnancy, mostly because of my discomfort with gender norms, that I've been able to avoid. But I also don't want to deal with other stigmatizing things, such as breast feeding (which, as a breast cancer survivor, I physically can't do).

So how can we make the next class better for us, especially if it's more of the same? Or if we missed it, would we get by?

(Sorry for the rambling, this is a lot of stuff I don't normally articulate.)
posted by kendrak to Health & Fitness (53 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should skip it, and talk to your own doctor about any lingering questions you might have not answered in the first class.
posted by purpleclover at 9:51 AM on September 14, 2016 [15 favorites]

Ugh, I would skip SO FAST anything that went for "natural is best" (which I couldn't disagree with more vehemently. If someone wants to do it, great! make that decision! But there's nothing inherently better about it) and felt judgey and not useful. You have the practical info, get the rest from your doctor and the internet. (Incidentally, nothing she told me was even that helpful - my birth did not follow any of the plans/schedules I was told all first births do).

I lasted through some of the childbirth class but skipped the sessions that were going to teach breathing and partner massage and stuff because ugh. I lasted through hardly any of the "caring for your baby" classes before I walked out during a break after she talked about "avoiding chemicals" (like water? chemicals is a meaningless phrase) and not letting your baby cry for more than 30 seconds ever or you were neglectful and an hour watching the "happiest baby on the block" dvds which a) why am i paying you do show me dvds and b) while i think those have useful info, they are so weird and telemarketery and smarmy.
posted by brainmouse at 9:55 AM on September 14, 2016 [21 favorites]

Skip. We went on a tour of our delivery hospital to get an idea of where to go, where to park, and when we should come in and left it at that. There was no added value for us to go to birthing classes, especially if your approach is different than what they are outlining.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 9:55 AM on September 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

Yes, skip. Get a tour of the birthing center/hospital and ask your doc any remaining questions.
posted by sulaine at 9:57 AM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm a dad who attended with my wife about 15 years ago.

There were a few things we learned that were nice to learn in a group discussion, but it was also sort of like learning about combat from a class. When the first shot was fired, so to speak, nothing we actually learned applied. My wife ended up having a C Section, for one thing.

And the teacher and class contributed greatly to our guilt about being (mostly) unable to breastfeed and for that I will never forgive them. (FWIW, our formula-fed kid never actually grew a second head as we were led to believe he would. He turned out fine)

Skip it.
posted by bondcliff at 9:59 AM on September 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

I will say the opposite. Like anything, you will get some things out of it, and other things will drive you nuts. We went to SIX WEEKS of birthing classes, and in the overall look at it, it was really helpful. I didn't like the social part, either, and we couldn't stand the gender norms as well, but you have to admit, eggs come from women and sperm from men, no matter how you obtain those things, etc, and as much as we hate gender-norms, there are some elements you can't avoid. We also went a several breastfeeding classes, and in the end, only my wife ended up nursing out of the 8 people there--my point being, just go and get what you get out of it.

But that being said, our classes were put on by our hospital, so it included very specific details regarding our hospital.
posted by TinWhistle at 9:59 AM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd ask you to honestly answer this question:

if one teeny tiny thing goes wrong during the delivery, will you blame yourself for not taking advantage of every single learning opportunity you could before the birth?

If there's even the most remote possibility that you will be forever unhappy with yourself because you didn't go to that class where you could have learned (fill in the blank), then I would go to that class.

That question was pretty much my standard barometer test as a parent for my first child. After she was born, not so much.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 10:00 AM on September 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

I just want to say, if any teeny tiny thing goes wrong, anything you learned in birth class will be 100% useless. They focus almost entirely on normal births. If a teeny tiny thing goes wrong, that's why you have nurses and doctors and support people with the internet in the room. I would have been way more upset with myself for letting myself get stressed out by horrible classes late in my pregnancy then by thinking that one non-medically-trained teacher is going to be the difference.
posted by brainmouse at 10:02 AM on September 14, 2016 [60 favorites]

I was a birthing class dropout. I got a doula instead. 100% A+++ would do again.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:06 AM on September 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

So the class only meets twice? My wife and I attended one that met... I don't remember how many times, but more than that. The main upshot of it was that we knew six or eight couples who were all dealing with newborn-baby-issues at more or less exactly the same time we were, which was IMMENSELY helpful.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:08 AM on September 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Here's the one and only thing I learned in those classes that was useful to know when the big moment arrived. If you need a c-section, the surgery takes about an hour or so and the baby shows up about 10 minutes in. That piece of info turned out to be a biggie for me, so I share it with you now in case you don't go back to class.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:12 AM on September 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

If you trust your doctor (and have a reasonably good chance of him/her actually being the one to deliver your baby), skip the class. You've been introduced to the hospital and are familiar with your surroundings. I would focus your energies on making sure you doctor is in tune with what you want.

My hospital/insurance/ob practice did not propose any childbirth classes, and I didn't seek any out. I knew beforehand that I was likely to have a fairly routine delivery, and I was going to seek pain relief. I didn't need the breathing and meditation stuff, and that would have irritated me. Skip the remaining class.
posted by Liesl at 10:14 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have never been pregnant or the partner of a pregnant person, and am not a doctor (but am training to become an Ob/Gyn). I see absolutely no reason you should go to something you hate and that makes me feel bad. The important outcome is that you and your baby are healthy, preferably with as positive an experience as possible. Neither depends on your attendance of this class.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 10:19 AM on September 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

Skip it. Get a tour of the facility and ask your doc any questions you may have.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 10:21 AM on September 14, 2016

Oh, do skip it. (Full-disclosure: non-parent, here.)
"Natural is best" is your first red flag. I belong to a generation of kids whose moms were out like a light during birth (and no doubt were drinking a manhattan in a thermos on the way to the hospital.) There are millions like me. The point is: we are all good.
Hemlock is natural; so is dog poop. What if you don't want to (or can't) breastfeed? Do you want the relentless judgment of MoonDanceMotherGaia on your head? What if you want an epidural? It's not a evil thing; just another choice.
Upshot: skip the class and have a glass of wine instead. Your fetus will thank you.
posted by BostonTerrier at 10:25 AM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Wow. Just wow. I'm amazed at how bad that class sounds.

Is the class provided by the hospital or birth center where you will deliver? If not, I would see if that facility has classes or an orientation/walkthrough/hospital registration thing for expectant parents, just to find something more practical and to the point.

Sorry, but a guided meditation ain't going to prepare you for childbirth. Before my lovely epidural kicked in, breathing exercises were the only thing that made a difference in handling the pain of hard labor. They were hard for me to do, though in the moment, because of the pain. It was really hard to focus. Guided meditation? I would have slapped the person who suggested that. Was that for, like, bonding between the expectant mother and birth partner?

Speaking of which, damn straight that birth partners aren't always men, aren't always the biological father, and aren't always the partner of the mother! In my childbirth class we had a single mother whose own mother was going to be the birth partner, and of course we had a same-sex couple!
posted by Pearl928 at 10:28 AM on September 14, 2016

I also have to say - do not reward anyone who expects you, as a mother, to suffer unnecessarily for nebulous reasons. Some women get PTSD from giving birth naturally. Some, of course are empowered by the experience. But it is such a personal thing.
posted by Pearl928 at 10:32 AM on September 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

My wife and did the two day class at our hospital and it was genuinely pretty helpful, but it was also not at all like what you're describing. We got detailed stuff on the stages of labor and how to breathe, which would have been useful if the baby had ever descended, so maybe read up on those things. The breathing was probably the thing that most wouldn't have been possible to get from a book. (We also got a goatse-esque drawing of a c-section that I may have nightmares about for the rest of my life). Guided mediation would not have helped.

I would Nth getting a tour. Knowing where stuff is and how you check in and stuff is super helpful. I'd read the book carefully, so you know what to ask your doctor about if you have questions, especially stuff on C-sections because those can come on unexpectedly and you'll both want to be prepared. If breastfeeding is included in the class, and you plan to breastfeed, I'd also look into maybe taking a breastfeeding class if you can afford one. The hospital will probably have lactation consultants, but we found them to be kind of hit or miss so it was nice to have a base of knowledge going in.

Mostly, you've got like two months of being a non-parent person left and I would not waste any more of that time on something that's going to make you miserable. The information is all out there in other places.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:35 AM on September 14, 2016

Skip it. It sounds like a waste of time. We went to one 4 hour class-and-tour offered by our hospital of choice. I also read Penny Simkin’s Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn (I think that the newborn section does favor breastfeeding, but isn't super judgey about formula iirc). We felt well prepared, although admittedly I always planned to get an epidural, and did.

I would recommend taking a child and infant CPR and first aid class. That is something I wish we’d done before our daughter was born, not because we’ve needed it but because it’s tough to make time for when you actually have an infant. I would have worried less about choking when she was starting solid foods if I’d taken a class like that.
posted by Kriesa at 10:41 AM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I didn't get that much out of my birthing class, but I enormously regretting falling asleep and missing a "how to care for a newborn" class. I did figure it all out myself, but I was *so* *tired* that I would have liked having had someone lay it all out for me before jumping in.
posted by ohisee at 10:44 AM on September 14, 2016

Our birthing class sounds really, really similar to this. It was being taught by substitutes for the regular teacher. Teacher one had just returned to work after her maternity leave and we heard nothing about how awesome she and her natural birth experience were. Class 2 was a teacher scrambling to cover any of the relevant information that was supposed to happen in class one plus a tour of the hospital. Zero of the information was actually helpful in the birth process. If I had it to do over again, I would total skip it.
posted by goggie at 10:47 AM on September 14, 2016

Skip it, enjoy a leisurely dinner or a movie instead, two things you will find more challenging the months ahead.

Here's the skill you will be practicing: As a parent, including of a newborn, you will be surrounded by people telling you how to do it right...and you will ultimately need to be able to find your own way and what's right for you. Here's a chance to do that. Skipping this class (or the PTA meeting...or the weirdo baby music class with all the strange songs) is a really important parenting skill. I'm not joking.

Get a really good baby health book (I recommend The Mother Of All...series by Ann Douglas but they are Canadian) and you will be fine.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:53 AM on September 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

I didn't go to birthing class, and successfully birthed a child. I read a couple of books and took the hospital tour.

At one point in labor the nurse told me to breathe like they taught me in class and I tearfully (or angrily, I don't remember, could have been either) told her I didn't go to class. Breathing would not have helped the situation anyway, baby had to be forcibly removed with forceps and the OB's amazingly strong arm muscles.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:53 AM on September 14, 2016

When I was in labor, I went into this animalistic fugue state which left absolutely no room for things I learned at childbirth class.

You have my permission to skip it.

OTOH, classes about breastfeeding, newborn care and CPR/choking or whatnot are totally worth taking.

Which, on non-preview, I see were already recommended, so I second them.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:54 AM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

If they're going all "natural is best", just say fuck that shit and skip it. Relevant material.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:57 AM on September 14, 2016

Yeah, if you're looking for permission to skip it, skip it.

Also be aware that not all birthing classes are like the one you took. Ours followed a similar format -- through our HMO (Kaiser), I think we had 4 sessions? But it was very non-judgey. It was much more in the vein of "this is the range of things that might happen, here are some ways to deal with those possibilities, here are some questions you may want to ask the nurse/doctor/whoever." So instead of saying "natural is best" it was "here is what to expect with an epidural, here is what to expect without one, here is how long they take, here are potential complications, here are the odds those complications will occur." The instructor was careful to say "this is what we have evidence to support" and distinguish that from "some people say X helps."

All this is to say that if you don't feel like you're prepared enough from books, the hospital tour, and talking to your doctor, it may be worth scoping out other classes in the area. I'd also second CPR classes. I also got a lot out of our local Daddy Boot Camp, though I'm pretty sure it's dudes only.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:02 AM on September 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

If it doesn't fit with your philosophy skip it. But if there's time, maybe find a class that does fit with your philosophy. I went all natural, I had an eight week class that went over all the things I could expect to happen. I did use the information in the moment and my husband understood what was going on all along the way so he didn't over-worry everything. My class also covered what to expect if I in fact decided to get an epidural or if I needed a C-section.

My friend knew she wanted all the pain relief available. She took the class that emphasized how all that would work. She understood when and how the epidural would be administered, common reactions etc. She also learned under which circumstances she would not be able to receive an epidural.

The point is we both got the education we needed even though we had very different desires for the birth experience.

Having a cohort of other parents going through the exact same weird newborn crap as you is also immensely helpful.
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 11:21 AM on September 14, 2016

We did not take a birthing class, but at the last minute asked a friend who is also a labor and delivery nurse to come over for drinks and straight talk.

The two things she taught me that were super helpful:

1) When a contraction makes you say "oh shit" out loud, that's the real thing and its time to get plans in motion for getting wherever you're going. (This literally happened to me. I'd been having false contractions for a few weeks, and thought my early morning contractions were more of the same, until the actual words came out of my mouth.)

2) During vaginal birth, there is a moment when you feel like (sorry, graphic) you're going to poop the baby out your anus. That's totally normal and a sign the baby is descending into the birth canal. It feels pretty weird but don't freak out.

The biggest thing I learned from her (that's not a soundbite) was her reinforcement that I should trust my body, and listen to it. If I felt like something was wrong, I should speak up, because often that means something is actually wrong. And that I should tell people what was going on with me (ie: I feel like I'm going to poop) because that will give important information to my caregivers. Now, I had a midwife birth in a freestanding birth center, so my experience may be very different from yours. But if you're not comfortable with the class, feel free to skip.
posted by anastasiav at 11:22 AM on September 14, 2016 [9 favorites]

Based on what you've said, I would place a reasonable amount of money that the next class will be mostly breastfeeding. On that basis I wouldn't go.

We went to an all day birthing class and it was that nightmarish we ate an entire box of doughnuts before driving home. Standard deliveries are covered, anything else is basically left as a mystery (which was really unhelpful in our case - if we'd taken the advice of the birthing class we would have been way too late to hospital).
posted by threetwentytwo at 11:23 AM on September 14, 2016

Yeah, skip it.

Humans have been giving birth for thousands of years, mostly without instruction. If it is not your cup of tea, don't waste four hours of your life on this.

Natural is best -- except in cases where medical intervention is best. That isn't a decision for judgey lecturers. It is a decision to be made at the time of birth between you and your doctor.

So, screw 'em. We get enough judgey crap in life without actively signing up for more.
posted by Michele in California at 11:29 AM on September 14, 2016

Thanks for the input so far! We did cover breathing as well, which was OK. We're signed up for the infant care class, which is only 3 hours and I think covers CPR and diapers.
posted by kendrak at 11:30 AM on September 14, 2016

Make sure that your insurance doesn't require you attend as part of their agreement to pay for services - most don't, but I've heard of some that do.

Otherwise, feel free to skip. I didn't get any information out of mine I couldn't have missed, but at the same time here's what I did get out of it which made me glad I went:

- A couple of the other couples were really nice and on our wavelength, and while we never ended up getting together socially afterwards, we friended each other on facebook, and it's been cool watching each others' babies grow up. It's a small thing, but it gives me a smile out of the blue when I don't expect it, and that's a nice gift.

- Our class included an after-birth followup class, where we could bring our babies (which was fun), and talk about our birth stories in as much detail as we felt we needed to decompress. As someone who had a really awful birth experience, that was invaluable for me.
posted by Mchelly at 11:32 AM on September 14, 2016

If it were me, and if the class was already paid for, I might send a quick e-mail to the instructor or agency giving the class to ask what would be covered in the second class. If it's already paid for.

Given your location, I bet you could find a better class if you looked around. You might find other new parents more like you, or at least who seem more comfortable to you, who would be awesome to know. Plus maybe the class would be informative, and make you feel actually less alone rather than moreso.

Seriously - look around.
posted by amtho at 11:34 AM on September 14, 2016

The class is free with my HMO (Kaiser). I have a feeling it might just be the teacher (who's also a doula) and the group (odd being the only pregnant lady who doesn't do yoga) being on one page, and me being on another.

(Might be worth noting - we've kind of avoided reading about birth and pregnancy mostly because we trust our doctor and we're not too worried or interested? We're excited and nervous but not really obsessed with this whole thing.)
posted by kendrak at 11:40 AM on September 14, 2016

I'm another who had a better class than yours (more like craven_morehead) but there was useful stuff covered in the class. I would suggest doing at least a little reading and skipping the class.

For example, I found it very useful to know ahead of time what exactly dilation and effacement referred to, what the numbers they used meant, and where the baby was supposed to be in the birth canal and which way he was facing at different points. It helped me understand what the nurses were saying without having to figure things out when I was otherwise occupied. I also found the tips and practice on relaxing my muscles when my body really, really wanted to clench up to be helpful. I'm not good at physically relaxing on demand, but I got better with practice, and that REALLY can help during labor.

But I agree that you should not sit through a four hour class that sounds like all-natural propaganda if that's going to make you feel worse. There are other ways to get the info that would be good to have.
posted by gideonfrog at 11:55 AM on September 14, 2016

We went to our first one and then never went back. We wanted an academic, clinical education. The classes were a waste of time.
posted by Silvertree at 11:57 AM on September 14, 2016

we've kind of avoided reading about birth and pregnancy mostly because we trust our doctor and we're not too worried or interested?

Please do have a conversation with your doctor about what to expect from labor, what to expect in terms of interventions (ie: will they use a scalp monitor on the baby? Under what circumstances would that happen? -- that's just an example).

Also read a little bit about the delivery of the placenta, because that's something a lot of people don't talk about and its a thing that happens. (Wait, I thought I was done? I'm not done? I want to be done. Oh crap.)

Also, if you haven't already, a very frank conversation about pain management is in order (particularly "this is what a epidural does, how it is administered, and the pros and cons of having one but there are other options as well). I'm always amazed at the women I meet who don't realize that an epidural involves your spine.

Also what tearing is and how to avoid it (peritoneal counter pressure is your friend).

In general, I have to say, giving birth was the weirdest experience of my life. Not in a bad way, but more in a "holy shit I had no idea that was even an option" kind of way. I think for a lot of women understanding the details of what's going on can help the whole thing feel less scary in the moment, because there are definitely moments when you're like "whoah, I am just along for the ride, my body is totally doing these things without me involved."
posted by anastasiav at 11:58 AM on September 14, 2016 [10 favorites]

You could call the instructor and ask for the next class' agenda, and see if you want to attend.

My birth class didn't cover C-section other than 25% of deliveries are surgical. It would have been helpful to know more because we had a surgical delivery. It's important to know what the signs are of problems, like high blood pressure before birth, and signs of infection after.

For some people, birthing class is a way to meet other new parents-to-be, I think that didn't resonate for you.

Best of luck.
posted by theora55 at 12:31 PM on September 14, 2016

Nthing skip. I enjoyed mine, but none of what was taught turned out to be useful. Nothing AT ALL happened the way we expected.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:41 PM on September 14, 2016

L&D nurse here. Full permission granted to skip the hell out of this class, and any others that try to do anything but present you with actual evidence about birth and then let you make your own decisions based on your personal risk tolerance and priorities.

You might like the information found on Evidence-Based Birth.
posted by jesourie at 12:46 PM on September 14, 2016 [11 favorites]

Skip. I attended the first one too and realised right there this is not for me or my husband. I left half-way through. I did not know before going that first time that I would feel so intensly private about me, my baby, and my body and so turned off by the intense pressure to conform and the judgemental attitude displayed about my most intimate life.
I met regularly with a midwife instead, she came to our house and answered our questions. For me this was the best and well worth the money, in addition to seeing the ObGyn etc. My husband also really liked her, as she had some really good insights into gender stuff to share.
I had and have no regrets about not attending a class or group. I did make sure however I had a personal and qualified source of information (I mean a real person, not internet or book).
posted by 15L06 at 1:23 PM on September 14, 2016

Ewww. Skip! I was in the hospital on complete bed rest until two weeks before I gave birth and wasn't able to attend the class I'd been planning to for months.

Well, guess what, turns out I'd read and talked to my OB/GYN enough that it didn't feel like I was plunging into a scary black hole (pardon the pun, maybe) of labor when the contractions started. It probably also helped that I didn't know too much about the whole process, because I feel that that may have made me too attached to a birth plan and thus less tolerant of unforeseen events. YMMV!
posted by Everydayville at 1:25 PM on September 14, 2016

I just want to say, if any teeny tiny thing goes wrong, anything you learned in birth class will be 100% useless.


If a teeny tiny thing goes wrong, that's why you have nurses and doctors and support people with the internet in the room.

I'm not sure what that was intended to mean, but I would really advise against getting medical advice from the internet while in labor in the hospital, surrounded by a staff of people who dedicated their lives to learning the best way to deliver babies in a way that is safe for mother and child. If you're in a position where you mistrust the staff, you need to find a different hospital.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:26 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Skip for sure. I had a baby - our first - six months ago at a Kaiser in Southern CA. We did the CPR class (felt worth it, though of course I hope I never need to use anything I learned), the one-evening babycare basics class (didn't learn anything new, but that in itself was reassuring!), and a hospital tour (very much worth it in order to get an overview of how the facility was set up). We did not do their, or any, birth class - and I definitely don't have any regrets about that.

Also, it's really not okay that the class is pushing a natural birth. Avoiding an epidural is fantastic for some people; an epidural and vaginal delivery is the best option for many; a c-section is by far the best option for others. My baby's heart rate dropped during pushing and she probably would have died without an emergency c. If I had delayed the c section because I was trying to avoid it, she might have ended up with brain damage. Sure, a healthy vaginal birth would have been better for both of us, but a healthy vaginal birth was not an option. Teaching breathing and other non-medication pain control techniques is great, and empowering women to be informed about their options and make their own decisions is great, but pressuring women to avoid medical interventions is dangerous and irresponsible.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:36 PM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

We went to a class that was really weird, and my husband hated it, for some of the reasons you are quoting. I did get something from it, but we quit, and I found an alternative course, which I went to for 8 sessions and paid for myself. It was really helpful in many ways. The teacher was extremely non-judgemental and there were many different mothers-to-be. We all continued on the teacher's post delivery course as well and became friends. I feel the class empowered me, and gave me agency when I was actually giving birth and afterwards.
My first child was in a breach position, so all-natural was not an option. My childbirth teacher was a great ressource in how to handle this situation and even made herself available if I needed her during birth (I didn't - had the best midwife who took charge of a large crew of doctors and nurses).
For my second child, I did go without medicine and doctors and it was an amazing, almost pain free experience. Again, the childbirth teacher was a great ressource during planning and afterwards. I wouldn't recommend this for a first time, but just wanted to note that it can be done and that child birth need not always be a painful medical procedure.
posted by mumimor at 2:04 PM on September 14, 2016

I gave birth 8 weeks ago. I was excited for the class but now having done it I would say skip it. Labor typically takes many hours, and I learned about the process as it was happening. The L&D nurses and residents explained everything as we went along, and my OB taught me how to push when it was time. Nothing that I learned while in labor - the nitty gritty of what was actually happening and how it felt - was actually taught in the class.

Examples: mom and baby are hooked up to heart rate and blood oxygen monitors. The L&D nurses explained how to understand the readings, what was normal, etc. At one point I noticed on the monitor that my son's heart rate had dropped significantly. I pointed it out to the nurse and within seconds the room was full of people diving inside me to make sure the cord wasn't wrapped around the baby's head.

Regarding the epidural, I didn't learn in the class that it would take 30 minutes to get in and how much it would hurt to be inserted. I was having severe contractions by then and the nurse coached me through them with her own breathing technique that she taught me on the spot. I'll never forget that nurse.

My point isn't even that it's impossible to prepare for labor. But your typical hospital class is unlikely to get into the real stuff that goes down - you'll experience that first hand and learn as you go.
posted by curtains at 2:49 PM on September 14, 2016

I took a birthing class with my hippie homebirth midwives and even then they didn't push the "natural is best" philosophy. We also didn't do breathing exercises--the instructor said that many women forget them during labor and feel as if they've failed. We talked generally about the stages of labor (which was the most useful thing I learned; knowing that things were really bad because I was in transition and that they likely wouldn't feel worse after that was comforting), and about different ways of coping with pain--including when and how a hospital transfer would take place and the process in place for getting women pain relief if they wanted it.

I found all of that information really valuable. I think it's worth finding a decent birthing class that doesn't make you feel judged or lectured. The human body is pretty interesting and you're going to go through a pretty intense process soon and knowing more about it can't hurt.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:02 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

The one useful thing I came out of my birthing class with was a birthing plan -- not an ideal birth, but some contingency plans. I was really glad that we planned in advance to have my spouse stick with the baby if she wasn't by my side after being born and that I'd keep a parent with me for support. Because of this, my spouse was able to immediately follow our daughter when she was put under an oxygen tent (looks like a cake stand, I'm told). He knew I had someone taking care of me and he could be with the baby. (About four hours later she was back with me and hasn't had breathing problems since.) If your book doesn't have something like this, I'd talk a bit about both that and which relatives are allowed in and when with your partner.
posted by Margalo Epps at 6:23 PM on September 14, 2016

A few more things to ask your provider about, specifically, if you do skip class:

- labor/birth interventions: what are some of the interventions that could be necessary (forceps, vacuum, etc.)? when would an intervention be necessary? what are the risks/benefits?
- pain management: what are my options? what limitations will I face with each option (you're almost definitely going to have a catheter placed after getting an epidural; many providers will also require you to remain in bed, mostly on your back, after getting one)
- what constitutes an emergency at this point in my pregnancy?
- when do YOU think I need to arrive at the hospital if labor does indeed start naturally?

Of course, there's another slew of questions to be asking if you end up being induced, which your provider will probably start to bring up as a possibility as you approach your 40th week if you haven't yet gone into labor. If that happens, you may want to ask about their induction methods (Foley bulb; pitocin; stripping of membranes; etc.) and the risks/benefits each involves.

Wishing you a smooth delivery!
posted by pecanpies at 6:28 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I skipped the birthing class. I got some DVDs instead. In retrospect I don't regret it at all. The only thing I wish was that I had better communication with my care providers about labor and childbirth. For example, I didn't know things like how my midwives communicated with the OBs on staff and when an OB might step in in case of fetal distress. I also knew very little about epidurals and medical pain relief. I wasn't prepared for the fact that you basically labor on your own in the hospital with the nurses coming in every so often. Just basic stuff about how the hospital works would have been useful to know.

I find that most of the popular materials (websites, classes, internet advice) about how to prepare for childbirth end up focusing you things that are really inconsequential at best (e.g., eating during labor) or flat-out incorrect at worse (e.g., scare tactics or guilt about epidurals). Much better to inform yourself in the way that accords with your general approach to healthcare in general. Childbirth is not really much different from a major medical procedure, so just do what you would do if, say,you were headed to the hospital for a kidney transplant or something. The fact that women are expected to take biased classes in "childbirth" is a bit paternalistic and infantilizing, in my opinion.
posted by yarly at 5:35 AM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Worth looking into a doula -- I wish I had. They can meet with you beforehand and help you develop a sense of your own body and preferences; they can be there during the birth, if you want somebody there who knows what they're doing but is on your side, not the side of medical expedience; they can come by during the few weeks afterwards when you think What Have I Done and hold your hand or give you a break. Different combinations possible, all valuable in their own way.
posted by acm at 2:37 PM on September 15, 2016

Thanks everybody! Due to some family stuff, we're definitely skipping this weekend's class, but feel OK about it. We'll study up with the book and look at some of the resources linked here. We'll talk to our doctor about any questions in the next appointment, but I don't know how much that will help.

Not sure about talking to a doula or a midwife. It seems late in the game to find one who we would vibe well with.
posted by kendrak at 12:28 PM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I switched from an OBGYN to a midwife at 35 weeks (and I am SO glad I did). My doula told me she had had clients who switched providers during labor. It's never too late to find someone you vibe with, IF you want to and have the energy to look around.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:47 PM on September 16, 2016

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