Expert Advice

Birth classes: Find the right one for you

Practicing self-hypnosis, having a yogababy or planning an active labour? Here’s how to find your ideal birth class.

By Fiona Wright
Birth education now comes in as many shapes and sizes as a pregnant woman's belly, judging by the range of antenatal classes available.
There's hypnobirthing, active birth and yoga birth, Calmbirth, Lamaze and more.
Classes might run for six weeks or over a weekend and your midwife can give you and your partner private sessions. You can start early or get a last-minute tutorial in giving birth.
Although hospital–based courses are the backbone of birth classes, there are other ways to learn about what lies ahead once you get the news that you're expecting.
Finding out what's available locally, then arming yourself with as much information as you possibly can, will help get you through the rollercoaster ride that is giving birth.
Here are some popular birthing styles so you can choose which is right for you.
Hospital–based childbirth courses are the most common, but there are loads of other options available. (image: Getty Images)
Hospital classes
When you book in at your public maternity hospital you'll usually be booked into birth classes there. A private obstetrician will most likely refer you to the hospital where you plan to give birth, which will often run classes too.
These courses vary widely but are generally done in the last trimester, covering the final weeks of pregnancy, the process of labour, different kinds of deliveries, pain relief and birthing positions.
Groups might meet once a week over a few weeks, providing an opportunity to meet and make friends with other local parents-to-be.
Hypnobirthing
Hypnobirthing Australia classes prepare Australian mothers and their birth companions with the knowledge, confidence and tools to birth calmly. The 'hypno' part of 'hypnobirthing' refers to the hypnotherapy use during the program to release fears and condition ourselves to release endorphins during birth. Learning this skill helps reduce the need for interventions during birthing.
The program is designed for both natural and caesarean birth as they promote 'positive' birth experience.
Regular group and private hypnobirthing antenatal classes are offered in locations throughout Australia, by certified Hypnobirthing Australia Practitioners.
See Hypnobirthing Australia for details.
Calmbirth
Midwife Peter Jackson developed the Calmbirth program to teach mothers to give birth naturally, without fear, using their inner resources. The course is a 12 hour face to face antenatal program. The Calmbirth program includes psychological and emotional preparation for childbirth.
Participants will learn how to retrain their response to stress; it will teach women to be proactive in birth as opposed to reactive; and the program includes fear release techniques through guided relaxation, as a means to facilitate emotional subconscious healing of fear and anxiety about childbirth, to help move past any negative emotions around birth.
For class locations visit Calmbirth.
Pregnancy yoga teaches women to trust their body. (Image: Getty Images)
Lamaze
Lamaze birth education and practices are based on the best, most current medical evidence available. Lamaze helps mothers understand how their body works and what to do to benefit yourself and your baby during the childbirth process.
The following Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices are the foundation of Lamaze:
• Healthy Birth Practice 1: Let labor begin on its own.
• Healthy Birth Practice 2: Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor.
• Healthy Birth Practice 3: Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support.
• Healthy Birth Practice 4: Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary.
• Healthy Birth Practice 5: Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body's urges to push.
• Healthy Birth Practice 6: Keep mother and baby together — it's best for mother, baby and breastfeeding.
For more information, click here.
Active birth
Active Birth is all about teaching women strategies and birth positions to get through labour with the least amount of intervention as possible.
A lot of independent educators focus on this, and many other classes cover it.
To learn more, visit Active Birth and Beyond Classes, a course designed to build your trust and confidence in your own inbuilt abilities to achieve a satisfying birth and move smoothly into early parenting.
The workshop is structured around:
• Our developing baby
• Changes for me and us
• Giving birth and meeting our baby
• Caring for our baby
• Our health and well-being
• People who are there for us
Yogababy
If you've ever done a 'downward dog' you'll know that yoga is a good idea for those going to give birth. Suzanne Swan, a yoga instructor and director of yogababy in Brisbane, says her classes teach pregnant women about using their breath, good birthing positions, visualisation and relaxation techniques.
"It's about a woman learning to trust her body and her internal resources to help her through birth," says Suzanne, who is also an active birth educator.
Check yoga centres in your area for antenatal classes or visit Yogababy.