I’ve been asked a few times, “why should we take a Your Birth class instead of the one at the hospital?”  On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer;  the hospital teaches Lamaze and it’s half the price.

Let’s take a look at some important aspects of a childbirth class and and see how hospital classes stack up against private education.

The Educator

Hospitals usually task an labor and delivery nurse to serve as their childbirth educator.  Nurses may be skilled at clinically managing your labor but they aren’t necessarily the best educators.  RN’s don’t receive instruction in how to teach when they go to nursing school, so while they may have a wider knowledge base when it comes to birth, it’s mostly medical knowledge and they aren’t necessarily better skilled at translating that knowledge to the student.

Certified childbirth educators, on the other hand, have completed a course of instruction that not only tests their knowledge of childbirth, but ensures that they are skilled at facilitating a successful childbirth class.  Also, private instructors have a passion for teaching about childbirth that you may not find at the hospital.

“Certified” is the key word.  Hospitals, doulas and midwives may offer childbirth classes, but you want to make sure it’s a quality course and certification is an excellent indicator.  There’s nothing wrong with asking to see the instructors credentials.

Quality

How do know it’s a quality course?  The easiest way is to ask prior students.  Rarely do you find a couple who attended both a hospital class and a private class, however, what you can do is ask to see course evaluations from prior students.

Additionally, it’s a not a stretch to expect an experienced, trained and certified educator to offer a higher quality course than an instructor who has little or no training or experience.

Hospital classes are typically not designed to ensure the student receives a quality education and is pleased with course. The hospital simply knows that your insurance is paying for the class so it’s offered every month regardless of who shows up.

A quality private class on the other hand will enlighten you to the fact that there’s a lot you don’t know about childbirth and will challenge you to learn even more.  In fact, a good test is to ask yourself do you have more questions about childbirth after the class than you did beforehand?  Chances are, if you realize you have a lot to learn, than it’s a great class.

Many certifying organizations require their instructors to provide feedback on their classes, so ask for referrals or course evaluations from prior students.

Curriculum

Most hospital courses are designed to teach you two things:

  1. Hospital policy and
  2. How to be a good patient.

At a hospital class taught by a Labor and Deliver Nurse you’ll learn a few basic terms and a little about the process. What you’ll take away from the class is what you can expect when you arrive at the hospital and your medical “options.”  The curriculum will probably be loosely based on a workbook but you’ll find that most of the material isn’t covered.  One local hospital identifies its classes as “Lamaze” even though the instructors are not certified, course is only 8 hours, and the content doesn’t even mention the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices.

Your private childbirth educator, however, isn’t limited to hospital policy and clinical definitions.  You’ll find that an out-of hospital class will present you with many more options and describe the birth process in way you can better understand.  Clinical procedures and definitions will be covered, but most private classes will also educate the student with evidence-based facts that hospital doesn’t share.  You’ll learn many more hands-on exercises (with the opportunity to practice) and see videos the hospital won’t show.

If the instructor is not certified then chances are the curriculum will include only content the instructor has decided teach.  Others, like Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators (LCCE) teach a curriculum developed over years of research by experts in the field.

Facility

A hospital class is usually limited on time and has dozens of students.  The classroom at one local hospital is taught in a space no bigger than a bedroom and can have as many as ten to fifteen couples.  There’s hardly enough room for everyone to sit, let alone move around and practice the few techniques.  It also includes a tour of the labor and delivery ward.

Private classes are usually held in a more private setting, such as the educator’s home.  My classes are a held in yoga studio with lots of room to sit on birth balls, yoga mats, chairs, and peanut balls while still having plenty of space to practice the many new relaxation techniques and coping strategies you’ll be learning.

Private class sizes are limited which allows for a more personal experience.  And if you have any questions, your instructor is usually available between classes and even weeks after the class is over.

The labor and deliver ward tour is free, by the way.  Just stop by the hospital anytime and ask for a tour.

Cost

A childbirth class at the hospital will cost anywhere from FREE to around $100.  Also, if you’re giving birth at that particular hospital, chances are your insurance will pay for the class.

A private class, however, will usually start at around $100.  If your instructor is certified you should be able to ask for an invoice to present to your insurance company for reimbursement.  I’ve even taken payment from couples using a Visa card tied to their Health Savings Account (HSA.)

Remember, to look for a certified instructor teaching an established curriculum.  Because when it comes to childbirth, the old adage “you get what you pay for” doesn’t always ring true.

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