Childbirth classes help you and your partner fully prepare for labor and childbirth. They vary in name and are available at most hospitals and birthing centers, so ask about them as part of your prenatal care. Typically, classes are offered as one- to two-hour sessions over the course of several months or as full-day sessions that take place over one or two weekends.
Childbirth classes are often taught by nurses, who cover more than just breathing techniques used for relaxation during labor, or so-called natural childbirth. They typically address all aspects of labor and delivery, as well as newborn care. You'll likely learn about signs of labor, pain relief options during labor, birthing positions, postnatal care and care of a newborn, including information on breast-feeding.
Typically, at these classes you'll also learn about what will happen to your body during labor and birth so that you feel positive rather than fearful. Especially if you're a first-time parent, you may find that childbirth classes help calm your fears and answer any of your lingering questions. In addition, you may meet other expectant couples who have questions and concerns similar to yours, which can be comforting. If you plan to have a labor coach, such as your partner or another loved one, support you throughout labor and delivery, have him or her attend childbirth classes with you.
Pregnancy books, such as this one, provide a good way to learn a lot about labor and delivery. But they're not a complete replacement for thorough childbirth classes.
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