Two pregnant women talk to each other at a childbirth class.
Childbirth classes are a great opportunity to meet other expectant moms who have similar questions and concerns. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Have you recently purchased a phone? I know when I was looking for a new one I checked online, read reviews, talked to people and then watched some YouTube videos where people discussed some of the different phones.

In other words, I did my research.

You may be wondering: What does this have to do with having a baby?

I like to compare phone shopping to having a baby. Since most people spend quite a bit of time researching for a new phone, wouldn’t you also want to spend time researching and preparing for your birth?

Childbirth classes seem to be having less attendance across the nation.

I know our providers here at Spectrum Health Gerber Hospital encourage people to attend our childbirth classes, because they know it helps the patients.

So why is it that moms-to-be don’t always see a need to prepare for the birth of their child?

A survey by Childbirth Connection found that some expectant moms are looking to other sources of information in lieu of childbirth classes. They’re “turning to television (68 percent), books (33 percent), friends and relatives (19 percent), and the internet (16 percent),” according to the organization.

Here are my thoughts on some of those sources:


Moms-to-be think that TV will get them ready. That’s not often the case. I remember a few years ago when we had two different patients delivering babies, and they both thought the same thing: Their baby would be there within the hour.

After an hour in labor, one patient asked her nurse, “Why hasn’t the baby come yet?” Surprised, the nurse reminded her that babies take their time, and first babies can take a while. The patient said that on “The Baby Story”—a reality television show—the mom had her baby in an hour. The nurse had to explain that the show was a time-lapse.

So, television doesn’t always show reality. Many shows portray the mom screaming, in bed all the time, and emergency things happening without the parents knowing what is going on. These things aren’t true.

We discourage laboring in bed. Research has told us for years that being in an upright position allows gravity to help the baby move through the pelvis in a better position, as opposed to lying down. Also, things are explained to you as they are happening.

Remember: You have rights as a patient to ask any questions you want.


Books can certainly be helpful, but they’re still much different than talking to someone in person.

Friends and family

Friends and relatives can be helpful, sometimes. I just talked with a patient who told me she didn’t need classes because her mom was going to be with her in labor—and her mom birthed four babies naturally.

That’s great! But her mom didn’t know about all the options or the things that are now available for expectant moms. Her mom had labored in bed and birthed using stirrups. There are so many options now!


I love it that I can Google anything I want, but I don’t always learn the facts. Sometimes, it’s just someone else’s opinion. And sometimes it’s wrong.

Chance or circumstance

Another reason patients avoid childbirth classes: “It just happens.” Labor, that is.

Well, this is somewhat true. Labor does happen, and it will continue on to the delivery of a baby. Again, however, research has shown us that there are things you can do to help labor along. One big thing that makes a difference is improving your relaxation.

Some expectant moms have also said, “I’m having an epidural anyway, so I don’t need to go to classes.”

One conference I was at said the epidural failure rate is about 15 percent across the U.S. What’s more, you don’t start immediately in labor with an epidural. Wouldn’t it be good to know what your options are?

So this brings us to the critical point: What actually happens in childbirth classes?

Here is just a smattering of what you’ll learn about in class:

  • Anatomy. This helps you understand what’s happening in labor. When you hear comments like, “You’re 6 centimeters dilated, 100 effaced, station O,” you’ll know what that means.
  • Normality. You learn what’s normal and what’s not in labor. You’ll learn the stages of labor and how labor progresses.
  • Relaxation. The importance of relaxation cannot be overstated—and there are many ways to help you stay relaxed in labor.
  • Options. There are many labor options available where you’re delivering. At Gerber Hospital, for example, we have nitrous oxide, aromatherapy and birth balls.
  • Tips. You can help labor move more quickly by following certain tips, which you can practice at childbirth classes.
  • Positions. There are plenty of options for delivery positions.
  • Golden hour. What will happen after the baby is born? We discuss important aspects such as skin-to-skin contact and delayed cord clamping.
  • Medications. What medications are offered at your delivery location? We discuss the pros and cons to all of them.
  • Breastfeeding. We talk about the how and the why.

Most importantly, you’ll be able to ask questions and meet other expecting parents.