4 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Birth Class

It seems like there are a million decisions to make when preparing to welcome a new baby into the family. You’re choosing bassinets and bouncers for your registry, finding a pediatrician in advance, and most importantly, you’ll be preparing for the birth. 

There are two big groups of pregnant people. Those who want to book a birthing class and hire a doula as soon as they hit the 8-12 week window and those who look up around week 36 and realize a baby has to get out of their body. No matter when you’re considering taking a version of childbirth education, how do you know what should you actually look for when it comes to “childbirth education” or “birthing classes”?

I’ve learned a lot over the last decade, working as a birth and postpartum doula, having my own two kids, and most importantly creating Birthsmarter, which has had the honor of educating over 7,000 expectant parents since 2019. So, to help you whittle down what’s truly important and provide some context for taking the information in, I want to share four questions you can ask when researching prenatal classes.

1. What’s their approach to birth and medical interventions - in general?

Whether you’re taking a class from an individual nurse or doula, a birth-education company, like Birthsmarter, or a medical institution, ask yourself what their perspective is around birth as a whole. What can you gather from their website, their online reviews, and their social media feeds? Some folks seem to wildly romanticize the process while others offer education with a heavy dose of fear-mongering. The reality of childbirth is that it’s never either or. Childbirth can be positively transformative and medically risky. It can be a primal experience with the aid of medical interventions. And it can be powerful while you question your strength. Bias in medicine (and life) is somewhat unavoidable but do your best to consider what you’d be walking into and how that approach resonates with how you want to feel.

2. What’s the community like? Who else might be in the class? Including the teacher.

You might be in a situation where it makes sense for you to take an On-Demand Childbirth Education class or book a private class in which case you don’t have to consider other students or families. Sometimes getting the information at your own pace is the ideal set up.

Often though, folks are looking for some kind of group experience. So, if you’re considering a group course, be it on Zoom or in-person, you might want to consider the kind of community that the educator or organization attract. Are you looking to share space with people who want an unmedicated birth or with people more open to medical interventions? Do you want to be in a community that’s inclusive of different family structures, cultural backgrounds, or body sizes? You might not make a friend in your birth class, but having the opportunity to meet folks you might connect with is always a plus since having a baby can be an isolating experience.

3. What’s the class style and teaching like?

There’s a huge difference between being taught by an expert and an educator. In some cases, you’ll have access to someone who considers themself to be both! When you’re trying to assess someone’s content knowledge or expertise you can find out what their other work experience has been. Are they someone who’s attended many births? Do they work with pregnant people in another capacity - as a doula, a physical therapist, a prenatal yoga teacher etc.

Then, ask yourself how your birth educator learned about pedagogy, or the art of teaching. Think about the best teacher you had in high school. What made them great? Their energy, creativity, personal connection? In order for you to be able to retain and recall critical information when it matters, you want to make sure your course is crafted in a way that ensures you’ll stay engaged throughout the class! And, if this teacher works with a larger organization what kind of continuing education does the organization provider to train their teachers how to teach - not just what to teach.

And, is the class meeting in a conference room, a studio space, or in someone’s home? Will you be watching a slide show or engaging in a discussion. Consider how you learn best (through listening, reading, talking, or doing) and make sure the class will meet you where you are.

4. How much does the class cost?

If you start doing some research, you’ll find that some online birthing classes and hospital-based programs are free or very low cost while boutique childbirth education classes can be a few hundred dollars. Given the answers to the above questions, you’ll have to determine how much value you think a class will bring to your experience. If you’re not in a position to simply pay out-of-pocket for the class you’re most interested in, it’s worth checking on insurance reimbursement, using HSA / FSA cards, accessing sliding scale pricing, or registering for a class with a crowdfunding registry service like Be Her Village.

Birthsmarter provides practical wisdom and guidance to new and expectant parents through pregnancy and parenting classes, support groups, and curated resources. You can find their unbiased, inclusive, and award-winning education in person, live online, and on-demand.

JoyLet members receive special perks including 10% off on demand and virtual classes with Birthsmarter using code JOYLET10 at checkout. 

If you have any questions about birth education programs, or want to know more about Birthsmarter classes, be sure to reach out to Birthsmarter directly. We’re happy to help!

Written By: Ashley Brichter

Ashley Brichter is a birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, certified Fair Play Facilitator, speaker, and entrepreneur. She launched Birthsmarter in 2019, to provide practical wisdom and guidance to the next generation of families. Ashley is an advocate for interdisciplinary understandings of wellbeing and is dedicated to modeling critical, creative, and compassionate thinking as a way to thrive in a binary system. Born and raised in New York City, she's currently living in Salt Lake City, UT with her husband and two, quickly growing, children.

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