5 Reasons Not to Take Hospital Childbirth Classes

(Or How to Find the Best Hospital Childbirth Class)

Husbands and their pregnant wives at a prenatal class
Purestock/Getty Images

Childbirth classes are designed to help educate pregnant women and their families about all of their options during childbirth. This includes every type of pain relief from relaxation and movement to IV pain medications and epidurals. This is a lot of information to cover, but handled well it can be done. That said, hospital childbirth classes are typically not set up to handle this as well as other types of childbirth classes.

Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Not Enough Time

    A typical childbirth class at a hospital might be 2-4 hours. Sometimes they are slightly longer, but held over the course of one day. This usually means that some information is skimmed or skipped, leaving gaps in the topics that you need to know about before labor starts. Even if every topic were covered, it couldn’t be covered effectively to allow you time to process the information and figure out how to best use it in your pregnancy and birth.
  2. Educators May Not Be Certified

    Hospitals typically employ nurses or other administrators to teach their childbirth classes. The vast majority of these educators are not certified to teach any method of childbirth education. While they may (or may not) have experience in labor and delivery, they potentially don’t have the necessary background to be effective educators in terms of conveying the concepts that you need to be able to walk out the door and use. Add this to short amounts of time and it can quickly become a quick PowerPoint overview of labor.
  1. Classes Too Large

    In order to accommodate the large numbers of women who will be giving birth at a local hospital, you may see large classes. There are classes as large as 100 people being taught. This is hardly conducive to asking questions, particularly of a personal nature. It can also mean that you miss out on something I think is very important in class, getting to know your fellow students. A good class size is 5-6 couples.
  1. Information Typically Biased Towards Intervention and Hospital Policy

    When you have a hospital employee teaching a class, they are usually told what they can and can’t say. If they break from the script, their job might be in jeopardy. There was one hospital where you weren’t allowed to say that an epidural had any risks, which is simply not true. This is something that can vary widely from selling the epidural and skipping all mention of unmedicated births, to not talking about water births because they aren’t available at that location. Ask hard questions about what they will cover and won’t. Ask if they are allowed to talk freely about all topics.
  2. Timing Off

    Many hospital based childbirth classes insist that you wait until you are in your 36th week to take your class. This can mean that you have your baby before class start or that you miss out on information that could have made your pregnancy healthier. It also doesn’t allow you to practice any skills or have conversations about what you’ve learned with your doctor or midwife.

    So, if you’re thinking about taking a hospital class ask them a few questions about the classes before you sign up:

    • Who teaches your classes? Are they certified childbirth educators? Which method?
    • When do you recommend that I take the classes? Can I take them sooner?
    • What topics are covered in class? Will the information given be in depth enough that I could use it to help me cope with labor, either for a short time or the entire labor?
    • How many people are in a typical class? Who can come with me to class?
    • How many hours are the childbirth classes and how is that spaced?
    • Does your facility offer any classes by certified childbirth educators?

    You may be pleasantly surprised and find that the hospital class near you really does offer a spectacular class. At which point, you should sign up early because they often fill very quickly!

    Try this quiz to see which childbirth class is right for you!

    Continue Reading