Prenatal Classes: Which Ones are Best for You?

prenatal classesThere is a lot to learn when you’re expecting your first baby.  Caring for a newborn is an exciting new experience for most parents, and is full of joys and challenges.  Because each of us learn in a variety of ways and it takes multiple interactions with a new piece of information to fully absorb it, consuming knowledge about pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and taking care of a new precious life in several different ways is helpful.  Most OBGYNs and veteran moms alike recommend taking prenatal classes to help prepare you for the arrival of your baby.  While nothing is quite like the hands-on experience you will soon get, learning from a professional in prenatal classes can be tremendously advantageous.

Types of Prenatal Classes

Fortunately, there are many options for prenatal classes.  You may want to begin with a pregnancy health and nutrition class that focuses on how to maintain health and wellness for you and your baby during pregnancy.  Between shifting nutritional needs, ways you can and cannot use your body, and sleeping positions, a prenatal class about pregnancy health can help you feel better and stay healthy during your prenatal experience.

Depending on your childbirth plans, there are a variety of prenatal classes surrounding labor and delivery.  A general childbirth class will discuss signs, methods, progression, coping techniques and pain relief during labor, as well as the typical process of a vaginal or caesarean section delivery.  This is usually a one or two day crash course.  If you have a specific labor and birth method in mind, you can also find a series of prenatal classes or workshops that help you better understand how to achieve your childbirth goals.  These include Lamaze, The Bradley Method, Hypnobirthing and Birthing from Within.  Each of these has unique philosophies and strategies for handling childbirth, some of which focus on the outcome, while others are only concerned with the process.

Beyond prenatal classes that cover the short period of labor and delivery, there are classes that help you prepare for caring for your baby once she arrives.  General newborn and infant care classes discuss diapering, feeding, safe sleeping habits, swaddling, skin care and appropriate activities for your baby, among other topics.  You can also take an infant CPR class to ensure you can help your baby in the event of a choking or respiratory emergency.  Breastfeeding classes are particularly helpful to new moms to learn about proper latch, breastfeeding positions, burping techniques, feeding schedules, pumping, storing milk, breast care and more.  Finally, you may want to take a tour of the maternity and postpartum wards at the hospital where you will give birth.  It is good to be familiar with the facility prior to becoming a patient, especially the drop-off and check-in procedure in case you are in active labor when you arrive.

Benefits of Prenatal Classes

Parents often experience stress and anxiety during pregnancy because their lives are filled with many unknowns.  Prenatal classes help prepare parents for what their near future holds.  Visualizing the labor and delivery process, getting hands-on experience caring for a baby doll in a child care or CPR class, and touring your hospital all help get your mind in the game, which many parents find comforting.  While you can talk to veteran moms about their own experiences, getting information for a credible, experienced professional is invaluable.  These trained healthcare providers have helped new moms with a variety of situations and can relay their vast knowledge and share information that your mom friends cannot.  Plus, prenatal classes are a great way to meet other new parents whose babies will be born in your community around the same time as your own.

Where to find Prenatal Classes

The hospital where you will deliver is the best place to begin your search for prenatal classes.  Large hospitals usually have a roster of course options for you to choose.  If you can’t find what you want at your hospital, ask your OBGYN for recommendations.  Sometimes larger OBGYN practices have their own classes or at least know where to send you.  Also look for classes at childbirth centers, community centers or through specific organizations such as the American Red Cross, La Leche League or WIC offices.

Congrats on your pregnancy!  We hope your prenatal classes help ease some of your anxiety over bringing home a new baby and help prepare you for the adventure of parenthood.