A childbirth class is a great way to prepare for labor and birth. The typical class includes up to eight weekly sessions and consists of lectures, discussion, and exercises, led by a trained childbirth instructor.
While approaches vary, the goal is to provide you with information to minimize your fears and help you make informed decisions. You'll also learn techniques to help you relax and cope. Most hospitals offer classes, or you can take one through an independent instructor or organization. Classes range from intensive courses that begin early in pregnancy and continue through the postpartum period to one-shot refresher sessions.
Classes should cover: the signs of labor; the normal progress of labor and birth; techniques for coping with pain; how your partner can help you during labor and; when to call your doctor or midwife.
In addition, they generally cover some of the more common childbirth complications and how they might be handled. Most will show videos of both a vaginal birth and a c-section. Classes should also teach the basics of breastfeeding and newborn care. (If you'd like more detail about nursing and baby care, you can generally find separate in-depth classes on these topics. Early pregnancy classes are usually available as well.) A bonus: You may make friends. Childbirth classes provide a great opportunity to meet other expectant parents who will have a child the same age as yours. Some participants stay in touch long after classes are over.