Navigating pregnancy for the first time is a lot. You’ve got hormones swirling around like a whirling dervish. You have errant hairs popping up everywhere. You’re plagued by worries about what your parenting style will be once the baby arrives. All of this and your tiny human isn’t even here yet! You still have to get through labor and delivery (gulp). And while staying at home when you’ve got a case of pregnancy fatigue sounds pretty appealing, as the coronavirus pandemic sends nearly the entire global population into self-quarantine, this means pregnant women can’t go to birthing and Lamaze classes even if they wanted to.
Luckily for you, Mama, we live in a time when vast amounts of knowledge are right at our fingertips — including online birthing classes. So, don’t feel bad if you’re about to cue up a video on your laptop from the comfort of your couch. You can even squeeze the cushions when you practice your pain management techniques. Just think of them as your pushin’ cushions.
So, get comfy because we’re about to give you the scoop on some free online birthing classes: where you can find them, why you should take them, and more.
What do you learn in an online birthing class?
You’ll soon find that there are myriad options when it comes to online birthing classes, and many of them have specific focuses. In general, though, you’ll find classes that will teach you methods of relaxation, breathing techniques, labor positions that help with childbirth, the stages of labor and delivery, pain management options, how to create a birth plan, what types of childbirth complications could arise (and how they’ll be handled), and the different protocols for vaginal delivery and C-sections.
And although they all tend to get lumped under “birthing classes,” many of these programs help prepare you for newborn care. This might entail brushing up on baby anatomy and physiology, discussing breastfeeding (at length), and any postpartum red flags to look for once you’re home from the hospital with your sweet little bundle of joy.
Are birthing classes necessary?
If you’re asking whether all expectant parents take childbirth classes, the answer is no. It’s not a requirement. It isn’t like Monopoly — if you don’t sign up for one, nobody’s going to pop out and yell, Do not pass go; do not collect $200! Still, there are plenty of reasons you should take an online birthing class (or more than one). After all, you don’t even need to change out of your PJs.
As with anything, there are pros and cons of online childbirth classes. One aspect that could be considered a con is that you won’t have the chance to interact with other expectant mothers face-to-face (a con that becomes a pro during quarantine). Another con might be that you won’t get hands-on demonstrations from experts. Then again, if you’re an introvert, this probably sounds like a pro, right? Of course, hospital birthing classes come with plenty of frustrations, too. For instance, during the six-week birthing class for our first baby, we encountered a wing of the hospital where roughly a dozen different birthing classes were happening in various rooms – each at a different point in the process, plus natural birthing and hypnobirthing classes. In each of the first three weeks, we found ourselves in various (seemingly wrong) classes, but never the same one. We gave up on birthing class after week three. No regrets.
But on-location childbirth classes offered by your hospital also mean you get a chance to tour the facility and see exactly where you’ll be bringing your bubela into the world.
On the pro side, online birthing classes give you a chance to banish your fears by beefing up your knowledge. They also give you and your partner a chance to bond in a more intimate setting while you wade through the ins and outs of childbirth together.
How do you choose an online birthing class?
Here’s where you’re going to have to put in some legwork. There are several key factors you’ll need to spend a little time thinking about: your birth philosophy (is it compatible with the class?), the teaching method (is it interactive or pre-recorded?), the curriculum (is it comprehensive or specialized?), flexibility (are you required to log in and “attend” each week?), and the childbirth technique being taught (which do you prefer?).
What childbirth techniques might be covered?
Even if you ultimately decide you want medical interventions — think an epidural — it’s good to at least have a basic grasp of natural childbirth techniques. Things happen. By the time I got to the hospital to deliver my son, I was too far along to have an epidural. The doctors attempted to give me pain medicine via IV, but both my blood pressure and the baby’s bottomed out. So, after a few scary minutes on oxygen, natural childbirth it was! Since I had been operating under the assumption that I would be getting an epidural, I wasn’t really prepared for the pain that followed (it probably didn’t help matters that my son weighed nearly 10 pounds).
So, let me be your cautionary tale. The following techniques have been proven to aid in natural childbirth: the Alexander Technique, the Bradley Method, hypnosis, Lamaze, water delivery, Birthing From Within, and hypnobirthing (learn more about each by clicking here). Explore them to see which one vibes best with you and your partner, and be prepared to lean on it if necessary.
Is hiring a doula the same as attending birthing classes?
Not quite. A doula will help expectant parents prepare for the birth by explaining what to expect, helping craft a birthing plan if asked and, in many cases, accompanying the parents during labor. They’ll also be there in the aftermath to help with recovery, nursing, etc.
Some doulas may coach expectant moms on breathing techniques and birthing positions, but not all. Many doulas will instead direct you to classes, resources, and experts in that field.
What are some of the more popular online birthing classes?
There is no shortage of classes to choose from. You can even find birthing videos on your favorite streaming services (#NetflixAndPrenatal, anyone?). There are free online birthing classes, online birthing classes for couples, online birthing classes for C-section parents and, well, let’s just say there’s a lid for every pot.
Here are five of the more well-known options.
You’ve probably spent at least a little time on BabyCenter.com reading over parenting forums. Well, it just so happens that they also offer free childbirth classes that run the gamut from the basics, like how to time contractions, to the specifics.
There’s a reason your Mama and your Mama’s Mama before her swear by “Lamaze.” While many people opt to take the more comprehensive classroom version, Lamaze.org does offer a free online class called Labor Confidence. And if you love it, you can always pay to enroll in Lamaze’s e-learning series for a more in-depth discussion of the six “healthy birthing practices.”
Based on the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative, this online program empowers women to pursue an all-natural, drug-free, doula-supported childbirth. All my crunchy mamas, check it out. There are several class options available at various different price points.
This top-selling online birthing class is another great pick for more holistic-minded moms. Taught by an experienced doula, it walks you through the entire process of preparing for and going through with an unmedicated delivery. It’ll set you back $264, but it does come with a no-risk, 30-day money-back guarantee.
Created by a registered nurse and Lamaze instructor, Kopa focuses on making sure parents feel prepared going into childbirth. This means covering essentials like relaxation techniques, labor positions, breathing methods, and more. Depending on your budget, you can opt for the Prepared Essentials course ($195) or the Prepared Plus ($245).
WeeHuman is a fairly new site, but we like their style. They offer multiple packages that range from $90-$150. Each class is taught over zoom and lasts about 90 minutes, including roughly 30 minutes dedicated to a Q&A. With only fifteen couples in each class, you’ll have plenty of time to get your question answered. As an awesome bonus, WeeHuman offers your friends and family the option to buy vouchers and gift you with the classes.
Before signing up for any of the above, however, do your research to see if the hospital where you are planning on giving birth is offering their own online class. With the coronavirus pandemic calling for swift revisions to our normal way of life, many hospitals that offered in-house classes and sessions have moved them online. You should also check in with your obstetrician as larger practices offer monthly classes for expectant parents.
One major hospital offering online birthing and breastfeeding classes is Johns Hopkins Medicine and costs $50. They describe the class as an “interactive, web-based class that uses videos, personal birth stories, animations, activities, and games to teach all of the essential information parents need to know to prepare for their birth.” Best part: Your registration allows you access to the eClass for six months, so you can always come back and refresh your memory.
When should I take online birthing classes?
You’re going to get tired of hearing this, but it really does depend on the class or classes you pick. If you take your online birthing classes too late, you might miss your window entirely. To avoid that, you could choose to register for an “early bird” class so that you can soak up some knowledge with (a) plenty of time to spare, (b) before mom brain sets in, because that’s definitely a thing, and (c) before you become too engrossed with other must-do baby prep and/or are too uncomfortable.
Bottom line, though? One of the best things about online birthing classes is that you have the freedom to take them whenever you want. Just make sure you leave yourself enough time to at least squeeze in the basics of childbirth and postpartum care. You may think you won’t really learn anything, but you’ll see how that swaddle muscle memory kicks in at 3 am when your newborn is crying.