Many people wonder why they should take an out-of-hospital birth class instead of or in addition to the one provided by the hospital. The hospital class is much less expensive (or sometimes even free!) and it will be pretty much the same thing, right?
Well, not necessarily. Hospital classes usually teach a lot of information on anatomy and physiology of birth and give information on many of the medical procedures or lingo that may come up during the birth experience. This is great information and can help you prepare for what to expect and may help you become more at ease with the hospital environment. But is it enough? Does it really teach you what you need to know about HOW to get through the experience of birth?
Hospital classes also must teach to what the majority of their parents are looking for in birth. Most mothers in our area (around 90%) opt for an epidural. Therefore, classes cover only a few coping skills very quickly. For a mother who wants to try for an unmedicated birth, or one that would like to wait as long as possible to get an epidural, hospital classes on their own may not be enough preparation.
An independent, out-of-hospital childbirth educator works only for you, not the hospital. Today, women give birth in an environment that is incredibly political and complex, and an independent childbirth educator wil tell you what the evidence says, discuss the local hospital’s policy, and let you come to your own decisions. A good educator will work with her class to make sure participants learn how to work diplomatically as partners with their providers to come to an agreement on choices for care that work for the entire birth team.
A hospital class is usually very large, with a dozen or more families in the same class. Independent childbirth education is holistic and individualistic, working in small classes with your fears and desires. In an out-of-hospital class, the average class size is about four families, giving you more time to share your individual experiences and discuss openly your concerns, joys, or past experiences.
So why can hospitals offer their classes so cheaply, anyway? Hospitals take a loss on their childbirth edication classes, knowing that if you choose to give birth at that hospital, you will probably choose to continue to use that hospital for the life of that child. They know they will make up the loss tenfold. Independent classes must cover many expenses, like teaching space fees, props/teaching supplies, and time spent. Yet, will it be worth exploring many more ways to cope with pain, having an independent teacher not bound by hospital curriculum/policy, and getting individual attention? If your answer is yes, consider taking an independent childbirth class – either on its own, or in conjunction with the hospital class.