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Third Trimester

Q&A: Childbirth Classes?

I’m confused by all the types of childbirth classes. What’s what?

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 expecting woman (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.

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.

Natural childbirth is the goal of this method- about 90% of class participants deliver without meds. The Bradley technique focuses on self-awareness and trusting the body, and emphasizes relaxation (rather than distraction) for dealing with the pain and stress of labor. The 12-week class series also stresses nutrition and exercise as precursors to a healthy delivery. You’ll learn techniques for breathing and tuning into your body, with your labor partner as an active coach.

This method, which teaches posture and movement techniques to ease muscle tension, is actually a general practice 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 early.) You’ll also work to coordinate your breathing and strengthen your pelvic muscles in preparation for delivery.

No, not like that guy you saw in Vegas. Hypnobirthing relies on the power of suggestion to help you relax and let your muscles work as they were intended. Affirmations and visualizations — from yourself, a professional hypnotherapist, or a tape — are used to guide thoughts and breathing and naturally decrease stress and fear.

By Paula Kashtan