Taking a childbirth class (also called a Prenatal Class, Hospital Class Pregnancy classes or Birthing Class) is an important step I believe every pregnant person (with their partner, if desired) should take before delivery. How long does it take, when should people start? Let’s find out!
First off, how do I know this? Hi, I’m Hilary. Some people know me as The Pregnancy Nurse (but I’m also the curly head around here). I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have spent 20 years in labor and delivery. During that time I taught prenatal classes for my hospital. I knew I needed to create my own class without hospital constraints and made The Online Prenatal Class for Couples.
With all that labor experience I know what you need to know before your baby is born!
How Long Does a Childbirth Class take?
It depends on which kinds of classes you choose:
In person Childbirth Classes can take anywhere from 6-9 hours. When I taught my classes were supposed to be 3 hours long for 3 weeknights, but I tried to squeeze them into 2 hours as couples were SO tired. And I knew I needed to share the most important things.
There is also a Saturday “intensive” class that is usually around six hours, that frankly — sounds miserable. 🙁 Reminds me of college… hahah
Online Birthing Classes also vary in time requirements. Most that I see have 5-10 hours of time.
The good news is that birthing classes done online can be started and stopped around your schedule. Much easier to get your partner involved and engaged as well!
I say that my birth class can be done in 3 hours. But, that would be a tight time estimate if you just watched the main videos (you could even speed them up if you want — although I talk pretty fast to begin with). I would guess most couples take closer to the 5 hour mark? Possibly more if they want to discuss the couples questions more.
Many natural birthing classes take WEEKS to do, because they are training you in a method. I recommend Hypnobabies (and I actually give 50% off my course if you combine the two — find out how here). They recommend you take at least 6 weeks. I recommend couples start before 30 weeks just in case baby comes early, they are prepared.
I recommend Hypnobabies because in 20 years at the bedside, along with tons of friends, cousins and my own pregnancies. I have seen people have the most success with that method. It also really teaches the METHOD of relaxation, rather than a specific type of birth. Which, is why it’s the perfect partner with my own class.
Where can I take a birth class?
Obviously, with online courses gaining in popularity there are lots of options.
I actually started my own class in 2015 (it just has been entirely redone for the 3rd time). At that time, there were very few online classes and I have seen the space grow quite a bit. I love that couples have more options. I think that’s important as we all learn in different ways.
Here are some places to look:
- Local Hospital — most offer childbirth classes, but they fill quickly and are very rigid in their schedule
- Local Doulas — If you’re looking for an in-person class, often local doulas have childbirth classes they offer. You can take those in conjunction with their labor services or without — most often they are flexible.
Pro Tip: In Person classes often have a high amount of bias. The hospital has requirements for their class (and doctors have input in what is and is not taught in them). Often the teachers find birth to be done “right when done their way. Which may or may not work for you. Something to consider as you look around.
How to find an online birth class?
Yes, I offer my own (and I guarantee it will get you prepared) — but I do encourage people to find someone that works for them. A few ways to do that:
- See what other content (podcasts, YouTube, articles) the class promotes and see if you like that.
- See if they offer a snippet video on the sales page
- Perhaps they have a free class you can take to see if you’re a good fit for each other.
What should I look for in a childbirth class?
I recommend checking out a few things:
- Experience — How much time has this person spent at the bedside of laboring women? Have they spent it with a great variety of people?
- Openness or Bias — Are they open to you having whatever kind of birth you end-up having (or wanting). Or, will they push you into a “right way to birth” — because, after 20 years I really know there is no one right way for women to have a baby.
- Price — Price is obviously important. However, I also believe in quality so often free birth classes are worth what you paid for them (looking at you BabyCenter). Find one that comfortably fits your budget.
- Options — Do you prefer to learn with video, sound, reading, extra resources, discussion and quiz time? Make sure that you’re able to learn in YOUR way with the class you choose.
Obviously, these are the things I considered when I created my own class, but I also consider them when I take other classes online.
While they can be expensive, it is almost as important to spend your limited time wisely! So, be smart when you pick one!
Who should come to a prenatal class?
Well, of prime importance is the pregnant person. Since labor is happening to you, you likely have more personal questions that you want answered.
I am a huge fan of partners coming and engaging them (and my students say partners LOVE my classes).
That being said, I think it’s important to be OK with you researching and looking into things more than they might want to.
I have a lot of additional articles and videos that I have vetted that moms enjoy watching on their own time. It makes it so that partners can watch the main stuff with them, but moms can get prepared in their own way too.
How much do birth classes cost?
Man, all up and down the spectrum. I have seen them up to $500 — and I start mine at $35 depending on which option you choose.
Some come with personalized coaching (I am hesitant to do that because I prefer to give you to the tools to talk to your provider since they know much more about you than I will).
Some come with extra groups or some products they send to you.
Just depends on what you want.
When Should I Take a Childbirth Class?
I recommend people start sometime between 20-30 weeks.
That gives them time to retain the info (great news with an online class is that you can watch it over and over — I actually have some “key point” videos that go over the key points that people love), and get it in before an early delivery.
When should I take a breastfeeding class?
I recommend a breastfeeding class closer to 30 weeks. They often aren’t as long, and it’s more hands on.
I have a whole article on breastfeeding classes.
My BIGGEST beef about breastfeeding classes/educator is that they ignore the rest of your life and pretend that ONLY breastfeeding matters.
My friend Katie is going to give you the real life tools to make breastfeeding work for you. She has a full course, but also has a couple of smaller classes for specific needs as well:
- Troubleshooting (a totally MISSING part of breastfeeding education)
- Pumping & Milk Supply
- Breastfeeding essentials — gives you JUST the basics!
Are there any other classes I should take?
A lot of people appreciate a hospital tour (which may or may not come with your hospital class). Also, with Covid many are being put online….
A lot of people also like a separate newborn care course. My friend Valerie (who’s also been on the podcast a few times) has created New Parents Academy. I adore her Instagram channel. But she also has a free expecting 101 class!
Her classes also include the basics to infant CPR — which is super handy!
Are Childbirth Classes Really Necessary?
In a word, yes.
As I started to teach classes for the hospital I noticed how much more confident moms were in labor, and even after baby just with those few hours of information.
Labor is like riding a roller coaster. But, if you don’t take a class it’s like riding it in the dark, not having a clue what’s coming next.
If you’ve taken a class it’s more like riding it on a bright summery day where you know what’s next and you can manage the bumps in the day because you knew what might happen.
That’s my best metaphor.
I’d love to see you in my class. I encourage you to check out the reviews. You can even save 10% with code PC10. And, if you’re still not sure if I’m your best option, join me in my free class. No credit card required, no strings. You can even cancel my emails at any time if it’s just not for you.