Childbirth education is worth checking out even if you’re dead set on an epidural. Good classes include info on pregnancy, labor and postpartum issues that are relevant and beneficial for every mom-to-be and her partner. Many hospitals offer them so check your local hospital or ask your doctor to suggest a class. You’ll also learn relaxation techniques and get the opportunity to meet other expecting couples which makes class more fun.
Used by one fourth of all mothers, Lamaze is by far the most popular childbirth method. You’ll learn simple, natural strategies like rhythmic breathing, hydrotherapy, massage, position changes and walking to deal during delivery. Your labor partner will also learn how to encourage and support you. The classes (at least 12 hours overall) include a wide range of info on what to expect during and after delivery, possible complications, how to be an active participant and effectively communicate with hospital staff and tips for breastfeeding and interacting once baby comes. Contrary to what you may have heard, Lamaze is not anti-pain meds; all of your options will be covered during class.
The Bradley Method
Natural childbirth is the goal of this method—about 90 percent of class participants successfully deliver without the help of meds. The Bradley Method focuses on self-awareness; it emphasizes relaxation (rather than distraction), and it encourages your partner to play an active part in helping you deal with the pain and stress of labor. During the 12-week course, you'll learn to tune into and trust your body using breathing and relaxation techniques. In addition, the classes also stress nutrition and exercise as precursors to a healthy delivery.
This method, which teaches posture and movement techniques to ease muscle tension, is actually a general practice that's been adapted for expecting women. The Alexander Technique aims to restore your original poise and posture, which will improve balance, coordination, back pain, breathing and digestion as your body adjusts to pregnancy. Consider starting these classes during your first trimester to get the full benefit. You’ll also work to coordinate your breathing and strengthen your pelvic muscles in preparation for delivery.
It kind of sounds like something you might see in a Vegas show act, but HypnoBirthing is actually a viable way to deal with labor pains. The proven method, which ideally you should start learning by end of the second trimester, relies on the power of suggestion to help you relax and let your muscles work as they were intended. Affirmations and visualizations—from you or your partner, a professional hypnotherapist or a tape— are paired with special breathing and meditative techniques to help guide your thoughts in a positive direction and naturally decrease stress and fear. Still skeptical? Recent studies show that self-hypnosis can reduce the need for pain meds.