The idea of childbirth is overwhelming for some, exciting for others. If you think about it, it’s pretty amazing what a woman’s body can do!
You might be wondering how it’s all going to happen in your body, what labor really feels like, and how you will handle it. Most pregnant women worry about the pain of labor. The more you learn about the process of labor in advance, the more relaxed and prepared you will be. The more relaxed and prepared you are, the better you will handle your own labor experience.
Moms can experience a lot of positive emotional effects from giving birth. Find out more in this video.
When you are pregnant, everyone wants to tell you their own stories of giving birth. Different people may give you different advice about what you should or shouldn’t do when you are in labor. They may tell you to use pain medication—or not, to stay in bed—or not, to schedule a C-section—or not, and so on. While certain aspects of labor are the same for all women, each woman’s experience is unique. No one can predict how childbirth will be for you. Remember, real childbirth looks nothing like what you see on TV or in the movies!
A great way to get accurate and helpful information is to take a childbirth class. You’ll learn what to expect from labor and delivery, and how you can make it the best experience possible. You can get answers to your questions from an expert. Keep reading to learn how to find a class, afford it, and get support during your labor.
“I wish I had learned techniques to use during childbirth and how everything was going to work. I had no idea about a lot of things until I was eight months along.”—17-year-old mom, Clark County
Childbirth Classes Are Helpful
Childbirth classes are an excellent way to learn about what happens during labor and delivery. You’ll learn what happens during the whole process, how to be prepared, and ways to feel more comfortable. Many classes also teach the basics of breastfeeding and newborn care. The goal of a childbirth class is to provide information to help you make informed decisions and feel more confident and less afraid.
If you’re the mom’s birth partner—maybe you’re the baby’s dad, a family member, or a close friend—childbirth classes are a great way to learn how you can help, support mom and be part of the big event. One bonus is that people often make friends with other parents in the class, who will have children the same age!
There are many different types of childbirth classes. They last different lengths of time and focus on different kinds of things. To find the best class for you, read an overview of the different types here and talk to your health care provider. If you live in King, Snohomish, or Kitsap counties, Great Starts is a local organization that offers a variety of classes. Many hospitals and community organizations also offer childbirth classes. To find the one closest to you, use our Resource Finder or call us at (800) 322-2588. If you decide not to go to a class, learn as much as you can from the resources listed at the bottom of this page.
I was supposed to have a normal delivery, but ended up having a C-section. I wish I’d known what to do, or not do, to make sure I dilated all the way.”—19-year-old mom, Cowlitz County
How Can I Pay For Childbirth Classes?
Most kinds of health insurance (including Washington State’s Apple Health for Pregnancy coverage) cover the cost of a childbirth class. If you have private insurance, check with your insurance provider about what is covered. If you don’t have insurance, use our online Benefit Finder, or call us at (800) 322-2588 and we’ll help you find a class you can afford.
Getting Support for Labor Really Helps!
You can choose some of the people who will provide care and support during your labor. In addition to the doctors, nurses, or midwives who will be helping you, you may want to ask other people, like your baby’s father or relatives or friends, to help during that time. It’s a great idea to ask people in advance, so they can learn what they need to know and be as prepared as possible.
Giving birth is an intense and very personal experience, and it is your decision who you would like to be there with you. Some women like to have a lot of people with them, while others want just one person in the room. Think about who will be most helpful to you, and don’t be afraid to say no to offers of help from people you don’t feel comfortable with.
Research shows that women who have good support during labor often experience less pain and cope with labor better.
Another great option is to work with a professional doula. A doula is someone who is trained to support women before and during childbirth. A doula provides physical and emotional support, information and helps you communicate your needs to your caregivers. Most insurance companies don’t cover a doula’s services, but many doulas charge based on your income, or even volunteer their time! In the greater King County area, Open Arms offers free doula services to low-income women. Learn more about doulas here, and find a doula in your area.
Guys, Support Your Baby’s Mother!
You and your baby’s mother can talk about what your role will be before, during, and after labor and birth. You can provide labor support, be in charge of packing the car and making sure everyone has everything they need, be in charge of making phone calls to friends and family, or do anything else that the two of you decide.
Decisions You Can Make Now
While you may not know the exact day your baby is going to be born or how everything is going to go, there are some important things you can decide in advance. For instance, where you will give birth and who you want to be with you to provide care and support during labor. You can also write a birth plan, which lists instructions and preferences your health care provider should know about your baby’s birth. Writing a birth plan in advance can help you clarify your preferences—and sharing your birth plan with your health care provider helps them help you have the best experience possible. This form will help you create a birth plan.
Is It Time?
How will you know when you are going into labor? When should you call your health care provider? When should you head to the hospital or birth center? Remember, your due date is not necessarily the day you will go into labor—you can go into labor before or after. Talk to your healthcare provider about all your questions, and make sure you know the signs of labor starting too early and what to do if that happens.
Babies born too early can have health problems, so if you’re healthy, it’s best to wait for your labor to begin on its own. A healthy baby is worth the wait. Learn more here.
After giving birth, some people feel like they can’t cope with parenthood or take care of their baby. Abandoning a baby is extremely dangerous, and may result in the baby’s death. Abandoning a baby is also illegal. But Washington State has a law that allows you—within the first 3 days of birth—to anonymously leave your baby at certain safe places for someone else to care for. If you feel you can’t keep your baby, please take steps to make sure your baby is safe: call Baby Safe Haven at 1-888-510-BABY or learn more online. about how to ensure your baby’s safety.
Labor is painful, but you don’t have to suffer. Download a list of ways to manage the pain. You will feel much better knowing what you can do.
One of the basic concepts you’ll learn in a childbirth class is the difference between pain and suffering. Watch this sneak peek from one of Washington State’s best childbirth educators.
Do you know you’re having a C-section? Read about what to expect.
What is needed to create the best possible birth? Find out in this video.
Lamaze International, a childbirth education organization, has a series of great videos to help you prepare for birth. Here is the introduction to the series:
Here are links to the other videos in the series: