Childbirth Preparation Classes: Preparing for Delivery

By MD (gynecologist), BSc, MSc (embryologist) and (invitra staff).
Last Update: 11/29/2019

Childbirth is a physiological process in women that occurs naturally (unless complications arise that require medical intervention). Still, it is normal for you to feel fear or insecurity when giving birth.

For this reason, the childbirth preparation classes are theoretical-practical training sessions that aim to physically and mentally prepare you and your partner (if any) for one of the most special moments of your life: the arrival of your child.

Breathing training, toning the pelvic floor or preparing the mind are some of the essential points that you should comply with in the months prior to childbirth.

Childbirth preparation

Childbirth preparation classes are the best tool for learning to control your body and emotions at the time of giving birth.

We recommend you having a medical professional explain what is going to happen when you go into labor, how to proceed and how to control the situation is essential for you to overcome fear and empower yourself.

Childbirth preparation classes are usually carried out by doulas. During the third pregnancy trimester they teach future parents everything they need to know during pregnancy and childbirth. You can either come alone your with your partner and the groups are usually small (between 3-5 couples).

The number of sessions and their duration may vary from center to center. For example, there are modalities of 9 sessions of 1 hour duration, 3 sessions of 3 hours duration, etc.

Finally, although there are various techniques and methods for conducting a preparatory course, all of them usually have the following parts in common:

Theoretical part

First of all, it is important for you to know the stages of labor (dilation, expulsion, and delivery), how long each stage may last, and what symptoms may appear to identify which stage you are in.

Your doula also explains important aspects such as the birth plan, epidural anesthesia, monitoring, etc., and resolves all questions regarding pregnancy and childbirth.

Besides, the childbirth classes also include some basic indications to assist the newborn baby, techniques to establish breastfeeding and what its benefits are, special care for your postpartum period, etc.

Practical part

This includes a series of exercises, gymnastics, stretching and postures to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and prepare the your body for the various stages of childbirth.

Relaxation and breathing control techniques are also included, as this is extremely important so that your baby has good oxygenation and can be born without problems.

Last but not least, it is very important for your doula to teach you how to push correctly at the third stage of labor. Your doula knows some tips on where to make force at the moment of pushing, how to breath, and so on.

Psychological part

It is increasingly common to hear the terms hypnopartum and mindfulness during childbirth classes.

Mindfulness is a millenary technique whose objective is that you are able to connect body and mind to be fully aware of what is happening in each moment. Using different relaxation techniques, mindfulness can help you to control pain and live a more serene birth.

Hypnobirth is another mental preparation tool based on the fact that positive thoughts will help you feel safe and control every moment of labor. If you are able to relax, eliminate stress, fear and worries, you’ll accept the pain more easily, take deep control over the process and ultimately enjoy birth.

Advantages of childbirth preparation

Not all pregnant women choose to attend pre-birth sessions. Some choose the option of acquiring a didactic DVD or having the support of a doula during the last pregnancy stage, for example.

However, we believe that group sessions to prepare for childbirth have multiple advantages, as they offer the possibility of meeting other women in the same situation, sharing experiences and concerns, and feeling a little more accompanied.

In the next section, we are going to explain more benefits of childbirth preparation classes:

  • Elaboration of a birth plan: You’re able to determine the position to give birth, the administration of synthetic oxytocin, the skin-to-skin experience or separation from the baby, etc.
  • Opportunity to resolve all your questions about pregnancy, childbirth, puerperium and the first care of your baby.
  • Having your partner participate in the arrival of your baby and thus promoting the bonding between the two of you.
  • Knowing how to recognize contractions, whether labor has begun or whether it is time to go to the hospital.
  • Learning about relaxation and breathing techniques to help relieve pain.
  • Practicing Kegel exercises and perineal massage techniques in order to avoid episiotomy.
  • Obtaining quality information to make decisions, as far as possible, in aspects such as: administration of epidural anesthesia or opting for a natural birth, breastfeeding or artificial lactation, and so on.
  • Receiving very useful advice for raising the baby (how to change a diaper, bathe the baby, cure the navel, etc.) and the postpartum recovery of the mother.

In short, the preparatory classes are very comprehensive and we consider them to be fundamental, especially for first-time moms who are about to give birth for the first time.

Techniques and exercises

The issue of childbirth preparation has evolved in recent years to incorporate different disciplines that have been proved to be useful.

Nowadays, there are very extensive preparatory classes that can last the whole pregnancy, with which it is pretended that the woman arrives completely prepared at the moment of the childbirth, both physically and mentally.

Some of the preparatory activities that pregnant women may carry out are the following:

Swimming or aquagym
exercises in water help improve muscle tone, blood circulation, and breathing.
Yoga or Pilates
stretching, relaxation techniques and postural correction with fitball contribute to increased flexibility and strength, muscle toning, improved breathing, pain relief, etc.
Stretching
Its objective is to relax and strengthen the muscle of the pelvis, legs and back.
Posture and perineal massage
pelvic and perineal mobilization exercises help to promote the baby's release and reduce the likelihood of tearing during vaginal delivery.
Belly dance
the movement of the whole body and especially the hips contributes to strengthening the pelvic floor and toning the perineum, as well as encouraging the baby's movements during the expelling phase of labour.
Other
the prenatal song for the communication between you and your baby, the sophrology that consists in the visualization of your baby in your uterus or the haptonomy that looks for the contact through the touch of you and your partner with your baby.

You can learn more about these activities in the following article: Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy.

Other methods of childbirth instruction

In addition to what has been said so far, there are also some specific methodologies in terms of mentalization to prepare for childbirth. We will discuss them below:

Lamaze technique
this philosophy considers birth to be a normal, natural and healthy process; and that every woman has the right to choose a birth without medical intervention. The programme is based on providing women all the information they need to feel safe and have a conscious birth without pain. In addition, in this method the father plays a fundamental role at all times, since he helps his wife to relax through massages, visualizations and breaths that counteract the pain.
Bradley method
also has a very natural approach, as it aims to avoid administering medication during childbirth. It is based fundamentally on the physical exercise and the good nutrition of the pregnant woman. It is usually the method of choice for couples who decide to have a home birth.
Cárcer Aguirre Method
teaches a form of deep abdominal breathing, called synchronous breathing. This method does not take any posture on the medication to calm the pain.

The type of childbirth preparation course or childbirth philosophy will be chosen by the woman based on her beliefs and personality. However, it is important to be advised by a specialist or by acquaintances who have previously lived the experience.

FAQs from users

Are birthing classes covered by insurance?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Chilbirth preparation classes are usually covered by health insurance. Out of the pocket costs would range between $100-200$ without insurance coverage.

When should childbirth classes begin?

By Óscar Oviedo Moreno MD (gynecologist).

Childbirth preparation courses usually begin around the 6th-7th month of pregnancy, although they also can be started at the first pregnancy trimester.

They consist of a theoretical part and a prenatal gymnastics part.

The most common decision of couples is to carry out a course of 6/8 sessions during the last months of pregnancy.

Can my partner attend birthing classes, too?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Of course. In fact, it is recommended that the woman be accompanied by her partner in the birthing classes, so they can do some exercises together. In addition, it is important that the partner knows the necessary methods to help the woman to relax or to push at the right time.

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References

Authors and contributors

 Óscar Oviedo Moreno
Óscar Oviedo Moreno
MD
Gynecologist
Bachelor's Degree in Medicine & Surgery from the University of Caldas (Colombia). Specialist in Internal Medicine by the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana of Bogotá. Degree standardized in Spain in 2003. Specialist in Gynecology & Obstetrics from the Complutense University of Madrid, with residence at Hospital Clínico Universitario San Carlos de Madrid. Expert in Reproductive Medicine and Certification in Obstetric-Gynecologic Ultrasound (levels I, II and III). More information about Óscar Oviedo Moreno
License: 282858310
 Zaira Salvador
Zaira Salvador
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Technical University of Valencia (UPV). Biotechnology Degree from the National University of Ireland en Galway (NUIG) and embryologist specializing in Assisted Reproduction, with a Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV) and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI) More information about Zaira Salvador
License: 3185-CV
Adapted into english by:
 Romina Packan
Romina Packan
inviTRA Staff
Editor and translator for the English edition of inviTRA. More information about Romina Packan

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