When most people think of prenatal classes, groups of hippy couples practicing deep breathing exercises together and awkward live-birth videos come to mind. Thankfully, prenatal classes have evolved quite a bit since our parents’ time. Today, there are numerous different prenatal classes available, so expecting couples can choose one that fits their style. While some parents might prefer to wing it, prenatal classes present first-time parents with the information they weren’t even aware that they need to know. This includes pregnancy, labor and birth, baby’s arrival and the first few weeks at home with your newborn.
My husband and I decided to take a prenatal class when we were expecting our first. While we have many nieces, nephews, and godchildren, we knew that experiencing childbirth was different than watching a friend or sibling go through it. We found it difficult to sift through various stories, testimonials, blogs, and pieces of advice concerning childbirth to pinpoint what's relevant to us and our situation.
Our prenatal classes put a major emphasis on the decisions we must make as part of our birthing plans. I had heard the term “birthing plan” before, but I naïvely thought that the decisions we made were limited to giving birth in a hospital versus a birthing center. Our instructors took us through the labor and delivery process and highlighted what our options would be every step of the way. They went through the pros and cons of each choice and underscored our rights as parents. It’s important to decide on a birthing plan for yourself beforehand because you likely won’t have the time to weigh your options in the heat of the moment.
One of the easier questions to ask yourself is whether you want a natural or medically assisted birth. If you choose the natural route, discuss with your birthing partner beforehand which situations would make accepting the epidural tolerable. This way, your birthing partner will know how strongly they should encourage you to stick with your birthing plan. I went into the birthing room gung-ho on refusing the epidural but finally accepted after 18 hours of labor.
Our classes also touched on caring for your newborn at home. They covered topics you’ve likely heard of, but aren’t exactly an expert in. Such topics include skin-to-skin, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, tummy time, SIDS, shaken baby syndrome and newborn baby developmental milestones. Personally, I was so focused on getting through my pregnancy and the birth of my baby that I hadn’t put any thought into what to do with my baby when she got there. The instructors went through the many mistakes new parents make, and also gave us a ton of helpful tips. What I learned helped me understand what was normal and expected of a newborn so that I wasn’t rushing my baby off to the emergency room every time she did something odd.
Before attending, I was skeptical of the benefits I’d get out of a prenatal class. But honestly, I’m so glad that I went. I was much more confident going into my labor and delivery because I knew what to expect at every turn. If you're expecting a baby- especially your first one- I highly recommend taking a class. If anything, it will give you a small sense of control over the birth of your child- an event that will likely be one of the most chaotic and unpredictable of your life.