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A Lesson In Parenting: Birthing Classes...What Are They and Why Are They Helpful

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

Having a baby is a BIG decision and finding out you're pregnant (whether planned or not) is a BIG adjustment and realization....and for many that's just the beginning. In fact, once you are expecting, it's likely that you'll have lots of concerns and questions about what's next and what to expect.

One of the best ways to prepare for the birth of your baby (and all the stages along the way) is by joining a parenting/birthing class that can help address concerns and quell fears and worries while answering many of your questions.

Birthing classes prepare you for more than just the birth of your baby. In fact, they focus on everything surrounding childbirth, including breathing techniques, pain management, vaginal birth and cesarean well as for the changes you can expect from pregnancy, from labor and deliver, and for parenting once your little one has arrived.

Traditionally birthing classes are recommended for moms and dads to be in the third trimester of pregnancy or, on or about the 7th month of pregnancy. However, there are a growing host of classes that start sooner or later than that, accommodating expectant parents at every stage and phase.

In fact, many experts agree that birthing classes are a great way to meet other parents (to be) and to get informed about major issues and decisions revolving around baby's birth and becoming a parent.

Some information you can get includes:

* How baby is developing
* What a healthy pregnancy looks like
* Warning signs to be concerned about
* How to make your pregnancy, labor, and delivery more comfortable.
* Breathing and relaxation techniques.
* Writing a birth plan
* Knowing when you're in labor
* What to expect from labor and delivery
* The role of the coach or labor partner.

Other topics often addressed also include:

* What to expect once baby is born
* Breastfeeding
* Baby care
* Dealing with the emotional changes of new parenthood

Plus you'll get to meet others in your situation and going through the same experience that you can forge a support group or friendship with.

In addition, taking the class with your baby's father can prepare him for childbirth and beyond and it can also create a greater bond between both of you. In fact, there are some classes specifically focusing on dad and others that target new grandparents giving them an insight on to what's new in techniques and safety and what to expect.

The two most common birthing classes focus on the Lamaze technique and the Bradley method.

The Lamaze technique...probably the most recognized and popular (at least in the U.S.) focuses on normal, natural, and healthy childbirth through empowerment, education and confidence. The goal of Lamaze is to explore ways in which women can find strength and comfort during labor and birth. Classes center around relaxation techniques encouraging mom to control her response to pain via training and preparation (known as psychoprophylaxis). Most of this is done through controlled breathing patterns, distraction or focusing on a special object instead of focusing on the pain; or via massage by a supportive coach.

The Bradley method, also known as the "Husband-Coached Birth" puts the emphases on a natural approach to birth and on the active participation of the child's father or birth coach. This method's goal is birth without drugs unless absolutely necessary.

Other areas addressed are proper nutrition and exercise especially during pregnancy, relaxation techniques, and a trust in instincts to become active, informed participants in the birth process. This course is typically offered in 12 sessions....and they "do" prepare parents for potential emergency situations and complications.

Once the baby is born, immediate breast-feeding and constant contact between infant and parent is emphasized.

Keep in mind there are several other types of birthing classes also available...some offshoots of the main two that put the focus on one particular concept (such a breathing or relaxation).

Classes vary in when they begin and how long they last. Some begin during the first trimester focusing on all the changes you'll be going through. Other 5-8 week classes are offered later in pregnancy and are geared at educating parents on labor, delivery and postpartum issues. There are even one-time only refresher courses for repeat parents. Most parents prefer courses that last for six or seven sessions and meet for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours per session. But, then again everyone is different.

The type of class that's right for you is often based on who you are and how you well as your core belief system, time available, and what you hope to get out of it.

You can check out a variety of classes offered in:

* local hospitals
* private teachers
* health care providers
* community health organizations
* midwives
* national childbirth education organizations
* videos and DVDs.

Just remember that before signing up for a class it's best to ask what the curriculum includes and focuses on and what the philosophy is based on. You may also want to ask for a course outline. Keep in mind that a good class with cover a wide range of topics and will prepare you for various scenarios of labor and delivery including vaginal birth; cesarean birth, natural childbirth techniques and the use of pain medications as an option. It will also cover pre- and postnatal care and postpartum adjustment.

Before signing up, make sure to ask plenty of questions including:

* Asking about an instructor's background and how the person was trained
* Asking for proof of certification especially from a nationally recognized organization
* Ask about philosophy and about techniques of teaching a particular method.
* Ask about how the class times break down between lecture, discussion and practicing techniques
* Ask about number of persons typically in a class.

Regardless of the course or method you choose, you'll want to begin checking out your options early, some classes fill up well ahead of the start date.

Long Island Pregnancy Articles > A Lesson In Parenting: Birthing Classes...What Are They and Why Are They Helpful

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