As a childbirth educator, I often hear, "When's the best time to take a childbirth class?" And it's a great question! For a general "childbirth 101" class, it's important to take it close enough to your due (guess) date so that the information will still be fresh, but not too close in case your baby decides to be born early. That being said, there are a few different types of classes available during pregnancy, and not all should be taken during the same time frame.
The Best Time to Take a VBAC Class
If you are considering having a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), it's important to learn as much as possible as soon as possible. For some, questions may center around "should I try for a VBAC," and so taking a class in the first trimester (around 12 weeks) that discusses options and considerations can help you make the decision that's right for you. If you have decided firmly on VBAC, it's also important to take a class early in order to learn the decisions and choices needed to increase the chance of a successful VBAC, including choice of health care provider and birth place. And if you are someone who has made the decision and researched care providers prior to pregnancy, you may benefit from taking a VBAC class in your third trimester in order to feel ready and prepared to VBAC when you go into labor. Women who take a VBAC class early in pregnancy may also benefit from a refresher, if possible, in their third trimester.
>>Lamaze offers an online class for parents called "VBAC: Informed & Ready." This self-paced class answers key questions to help you make a decision about having a VBAC, choosing a care provider who supports VBAC, and developing coping and comfort techniques to help during your VBAC labor.
The Best Time to Take a General Childbirth Class
Most comprehensive childbirth classes cover topics that range from anatomy, stages of labor, decision making, comfort techniques for labor, medical interventions, postpartum care, basic breastfeeding tips, and infant care. Ideally, you'll take this class late in your second trimester or early in your third trimester. Why not later in pregnancy? Well, a good childbirth class discusses how to spot the best maternity care and how to figure out if the care provider you've chosen will honor your birth preferences. If you learn that your care provider isn't the best fit, it's important to leave enough time before birth to change your care provider. Keep in mind, however, that it's almost never too late to switch care providers. But the earlier you change care providers, the more time you have to get to know her and feel more comfortable with her care.
>>Lamaze offers an online class for parents called "Safe and Healthy Birth: Six Simple Steps." This class talks about how the Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices can simplify your labor and birth, as well as information on how to make the best decisions for your care, ways to alleviate fear surrounding birth, typical medical interventions used in labor and birth, and building the best support team for your big day.
The Best Time to Take a Class on Comfort Measures
Some moms opt to take a shorter childbirth class that hones in on comfort measures and coping techniques for labor. Moms who have had children before may choose a class like this as a refresher for a subsequent birth. A comfort measures class is best when taken during the early to mid third trimester, closer to birth (but not too close!). As pregnancy winds down, most women become increasingly focused on the process of labor and birth. Taking a class like this will help you feel confident and prepared for the hard work of birth.
>>Coming soon! Lamaze will soon offer an online class called "Labor Pain Management Techniques for Comfort and Coping." The class will teach a variety of comfort, coping, and relaxation strategies, as well as optimal positions for pushing, and ways to deal with back labor.
The Best Time to Take a Breastfeeding Class
Often, breastfeeding classes are offered separate from or in addition to general childbirth classes. A class devoted to breastfeeding will go more in depth on breastfeeding than what is covered in a childbirth class, with topics like general tips and information, concerns and complications, pumping, and returning to work. It's best to take a breastfeeding class in your third trimester (28 weeks and beyond), and ideally after you have taken another class on childbirth to better understand how labor and birth can affect breastfeeding.
>>Lamaze offers an online class called "Breastfeeding Basics: From Birth to Back to Work." Content in this class includes the benefits of breastfeeding, the mechanics of milk supply, latch, and positioning, how to tell if baby is getting enough milk, and information on managing nighttime breastfeeding, pumping, and preparing to return back to work.
Comprehensive, in-person childbirth classes are ideal for getting the most out of your learning experience. To find a Lamaze class in your area, search our directory of Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators.