Having your first baby is a mystifyingly unfamiliar experience, so it’s only natural to have questions and anxieties. Without somewhere to find answers, these questions (and about a hundred others) can leave you feeling nervous and unprepared. Since a step-by-step pregnancy manual most likely did not fall out of your pregnancy test kit, prenatal classes are the next best thing.
“Most couples look for these classes because this is a part of their lives that’s unknown. As in all things, the more you know ahead of time, the easier it is for you—knowledge is power,” says award-winning Lamaze instructor, Sheri Bayles, who has over 20 years of experience teaching at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
We are accustomed to receiving immediate answers to most questions, so not knowing what our own bodies are going through, especially when pregnant, can be terrifying. The purpose of prenatal classes is to acquaint expectant mothers with their bodies and the birthing process, as well as what to expect post-delivery.
In addition to learning about effective breathing and relaxation techniques, breastfeeding, and potential complications, new mothers also receive the comfort of knowing that they are not alone in this process.
“The support systems that are developed and the information available to [parents] gives them confidence to be able to work with their bodies,” says Harriet Barry, a Lamaze instructor for the Elisabeth Bing Center For Parents. Through learning alongside other expectant couples, there is the benefit of shared knowledge and experience.
Prenatal classes are also a great way to get your spouse involved. Men often set aside the pregnancy books simply because they are not physically carrying a baby. “This is the chance for the husbands to sort of catch up…it becomes competitive to them because there are other men around,” says Bayles, who notes that she only calls on the husbands to answer review questions.
If your spouse is given a chance to ask questions and participate in the process, he will be better able to assist you throughout pregnancy and after the baby is born.The more you both know, the better you will be able to work together.
Barry stresses, “The important thing about any method is that the woman uses what she has learned according to her needs…everyone is different in the labor process.” While the two most popular childbirth methods are the Bradley Method and the Lamaze technique, there are several class options available through hospitals, community organizations, private teachers, midwives and even DVDs. So, grab (or drag) your significant other and get to class!
How to choose a class that’s right for you:
Do some research. There are lots of classes and educators out there, but that doesn’t mean they are all right for you. (Remember: you can always call and find out more information or talk to a few instructors before you make your choice.)
Talk to moms who have been through the process already, as they may have some tips or references for you.
Decide if you want to take a group class or a private class. Are you someone who learns better from being able to collaborate with others,or do you prefer one-on-one attention?
Always check to make sure your instructor is qualified.