Are you wondering when to take childbirth classes? If so, you’re not alone! As a childbirth educator, couples often ask me when to take childbirth classes. If you want the quick answer, I’d say that most couples should:
- Aim to finish their course at least one full month before their due date, and 2 months before their due date if they have the time. And,
- Try not to finish your childbirth course too much earlier than 2 months before the due date.
If you want the long answer, sit back and enjoy the read!
When to Take Childbirth Classes Tip #1: Determine Your Goal
Couples approach childbirth classes for a variety of reasons, which ultimately effects when to take childbirth classes. Some couples want a basic “what to expect at the hospital” type of class. The goal of this class is to feel well-oriented and armed with realistic expectations about their birth facility. This type of education might include a general orientation of the hospital where they’ll be giving birth, what to expect during admission, and the basics of hospital-based interventions, including epidural medication. In a scenario like this, you’ll want to finish the class about a month before your due date to be sure you are able to get it in, just in case baby makes an early arrival. However, timing isn’t quite as urgent.
Other couples may take a childbirth class for the purpose of preparing for a natural, or unmedicated childbirth. These types of classes tend to be a bit longer in length and more practice-oriented than a “what to expect at the hospital” class. They often include more information about the birth process, what to expect emotionally and physically during labor, and pain-management skills for childbirth. A high-quality natural childbirth class will also prepare couples to understand the benefits and potential drawbacks of common hospital interventions. In a scenario like this, you want to finish the class at least on month before your due date, and two months beforehand if you can work it into your schedule.
When to Take Childbirth Classes Tip #2: Plan Time To Practice
As you plan when to take childbirth classes, aim to finish your class at least one month before your due date. This is especially important for couples who participate in a natural childbirth class. Practice is key to a positive natural birth. You will need the extra month or two to practice the labor coping tools you will learn in your class. These may include deep relaxation, breathing techniques, positioning, and a wide variety of other helpful techniques. For example, advanced Lamaze-style breathing techniques, taught in some childbirth classes, can be a powerful tool to help mom form a labor ritual. However, without consistent practice to develop the skill beforehand, mom runs the risk of hyperventilating during labor. It’s not enough to just take the class — expect to practice regularly. Set yourself up for success by allowing yourself that extra month or two to practice and become proficient in labor coping tools before the big day arrives.
When to Take Childbirth Classes Tip #3: Finish Your Class Early
Childbirth classes range in length from as long as 12 weeks to as short as a one-day class. Once you determine the very best childbirth class for your birth philosophy and learning style, pull out the calendar and do a little math! As mentioned earlier, set the goal of finishing one to two months before your due date. Then work backwards from there to determine when to start your childbirth class. If you’re choosing a local, instructor-led childbirth class, be aware that some popular natural childbirth classes may have a waiting list. With that in mind, register a few months in advance. If you choose to take an online childbirth class for natural birth, you have significantly more flexibility about scheduling and registering. Either way, don’t procrastinate!
When to Take Childbirth Classes Tip #4: Don’t Start Too Early
I occasionally meet with couples who have done their homework early, know what childbirth class they want, and are eager to jump in and start learning right away! I love this enthusiasm! And yet, I still encourage those couples to finish no earlier than 2 months before their due date. Why? Because there’s this magical mix of nerves, excitement, and oh-my-goodness-my-due-date-is-getting-closer adrenaline rush that combine to make incredibly attentive learners.
When your due date is far away, it’s easy to sit back comfortably in your childbirth class. You may think, “Well, when that time gets closer, I’ll really dig in my heels and start practicing.” The reality of a large 34-week belly, swollen ankles, and a bit of very normal childbirth anxiety somehow changes a couples outlook. I love to see moms who are excited to practice hands-and-knees positions or drift into a state of relaxation, even in a room full of strangers. They’re joined by partners who sit poised over their course manual with pens in hand, eagerly recording the definition of cervical dilation or the their thoughts about a particular pressure technique. This kind of active learning requires motivation. And there are few motivations in life quite as compelling as a fast-approaching due date.
What if you have less than a month before your due date?
Some couples decide that they want to take a childbirth class and may have less than a month before their due date. They often worry that they’re too late to get started. Rest assured, you’re not too late. This is very common, and many couples find themselves in this boat. What should you do? Try to find a high-quality childbirth class that will work with your condensed schedule. Many childbirth educators offer private classes that you can schedule at your convenience. Other educators offer intensive classes that take place over one or two days on a weekend. Another great option is an online childbirth class that you can take at home at an increased pace. Don’t despair–there are definitely options available for you. Once you find that special class, set aside additional time each day to practice, practice, practice.
When to take childbirth classes is an important decision that will help set you up for a positive, empowered birth experience. Whenever and however you decide to start preparing for your little one, remember these simple tips for success:
- Aim to finish your childbirth class at least 1 to 2 months before your due date, and
- Don’t finish too much earlier than 2 months before your due date.
Best of luck to you!
(Katie Griffin is a Registered Nurse, Lamaze & CAPPA Certified Childbirth educator, and the mother of 5 children. She’s given birth with an epidural and had 4 natural hospital births. She is the instructor for the KOPA PREPARED Online childbirth course series.)
Author’s Note: I’m all about being evidence and researched based. Unfortunately, there are little to no research studies done on the ideal timing of when to take childbirth classes. The answer above is gleaned from my experience in almost 10 years as a natural childbirth educator.
Kopa Birth’s online birthing classes allow you to prepare for a natural hospital birth from the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class and start preparing for your natural birth!