**This article will use the term "woman" instead of "mother" in recognition that some women will experience childbirth for an intended parent.**
There are several options for preparing yourself for the labor and delivery of the baby you carry. Knowing the differences of each and when it is recommended to take is important to how birth is experienced and coped with.
Some of the more popular options include: Lamaze, Bradley Method, Hypnobirth, and Birthing from Within. Below are some simple descriptions of each, what they will teach; as well as at what point in pregnancy they are recommended to be taken..
Lamaze is probably the most well-known of methods, since it has become a generic term for childbirth classes in general. The philosophy of Lamaze is not to push having a natural, medication free birth; but to inform on all the options, to teach confidence, as well as how to keep birth simple and safe. Natural strategies like rhythmic breathing, hydrotherapy, massage, position changes and walking to deal with labor are taught and include partner participation.
Class content will include:
Bradley is a 12-week course, where natural childbirth is the end goal. Its focus is on self-awareness, and emphasizes relaxation. It encourages the partner to play an active part in helping the woman to deal with the pain and stress of her labor. Therefore, a person able to act as a continuous coach (partner/doula/midwife) is required, since they will be the main support of the laboring woman.
This course is 12 weeks long. Therefore, it is required to start no later than the second trimester.
Class content will include:
Hypno-Birth focuses primarily on relaxation and self-hypnosis; requiring the laboring woman to rely on the power of suggestion, to help her relax and let her muscles work as they were intended. Affirmations and visualizations are paired with special breathing and meditative techniques to help guide her thoughts in a positive direction, and naturally decrease stress and fear. The goal is to achieve a feeling similar to daydreaming, while remaining in control and happy during labor and birth. Classes do not teach the “what if” scenarios of complications in pregnancy, cesarean sections or medications to keep the fear of birth out.
Hypno-Birth should be started in the second trimester, so that it can be practiced well before baby’s guess date. A support person is encouraged, but is not required for success.
More great information about this approach and its different techniques can be found at: http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/hypnobirthing-calmer-natural-childbirth - 2
Birthing from Within is a series preparing women to give “birth-in-awareness” and as a “rite of passage”. Its goal is not to achieve a specific birth outcome, but to feel good about telling the story later, no matter how baby’s birth was achieved. Instructors use a multi-sensory approach, which includes art and writing assignments designed to help mothers discover the process. These classes can be started as late as the third trimester.
More great information about this approach can be found at: https://birthingfromwithin.com/
Hospital Childbirth Preparation classes will teach the biology of labor and birth; pain management options offered at the hospital; include some breathing techniques; teach potential labor and delivery interventions, such as labor augmentation, vacuum assisted and cesarean deliveries; hospital policies with regard to such things as visiting hours; and includes a tour of the hospital’s labor, delivery, postpartum rooms and baby nursery.
Hospitals offer classes lasting as long as 6 weeks and as little as 1 day. They can be started in the third trimester.
What questions should I ask before I choose a class?
LINKS TO RELATED PEER REVIEWED STUDIES
Comparison of the Bradley Method and HypnoBirthing Childbirth Education Classes
Evidence Based Patient Education to Promote Natural Childbirth Experiences: Educating your Patients to know the Right Questions to ask to meet their Own Personal Birthing Need
"Healthcare professionals need to advocate for evidence-based policy change within a hospital system to revise practices to include more complimentary modalities to support an un-medicated natural labor  and promote community awareness on available options or programs. Allowing a more customer-made labor experience will increase the autonomy of the individual, support women seeking an un-medicated labor, decrease complications/interventions, and increase satisfaction of the labor experience. (Sisiam, 2015).”
Maggie Watkins is the mother of 2 adult children. She has 20 years experience working with pregnant and postpartum families as a private hire doula and prenatal educator. She has a passion for birth and postpartum, along with a strong belief that parents become more confident in their roles the more they are supported and encouraged, without judgement of birth choices; and through the first several days at home with their new baby.