It is pretty expensive to be pregnant, and to have a baby, and then to go on to raise the baby to adulthood. You need maternity clothes, and baby clothes, and prenatal care, and vitamins. You can control the cost to some degree to suit your budget, but many expenses just cannot be avoided. One place many parents-to-be try to save a little money is be choosing to skip childbirth education classes, because those cost money, too. Some expectant mothers decide that they want an epidural, or other drugs, as soon as it is possible while in labor. They go on to figure that childbirth education classes are a waste of money and decide that those classes are only of value to the nuts who want a natural birth. They choose to leave all of that breathing and panting to nuts like me, while they spend the money saved on a nicer crib or more decaf lattes.
This is a big mistake, for a number of reasons. Now, I am a bit biased, as a midwife, and a natural child birth educator, so you know that right out of the gate, but childbirth education classes benefit all women having their first baby, even if they choose the drugs. To begin with, childbirth education classes give you the low down on what really goes on in your body, and with your baby, during labor, and after the baby is born. The more informed you are, the better choices you will make. Also, the more you know, the less scared you tend to be, and labor can be scary if you have absolutely no idea what to expect. Some women read more than others, and some just know more, but every women who has not had a baby needs the information given in a childbirth education class.
For instance, I was teaching a group once and one woman asked me if she would need to take her pants off to have her baby. I let her know that, yes, the removal of below the waist clothing was fairly necessary, well, except for socks. This gave her time to get used to the idea of pants-free childbirth, and it was information that she sincerely did not already have. Even if you read a lot, you may have questions that the books just do not answer. It is better to ask before you are deep in labor, because at that point, you may not retain much information.
Another good reason to take childbirth education classes is that, generally, you cannot get that epidural until you are at least five centimeters dilated. For many women, getting to five centimeters not only takes some time, but there is some pain involved. The breathing techniques that you learn in childbirth education classes really do help a whole lot, and are invaluable while you, and your cervix, are making it to five centimeters. You will be more relaxed, and in control, and more relaxed means a faster labor. Knowing how to breath while in early labor also saves the nurse on the OB floor from having to teach you the basics while she is trying to scrape you off of the ceiling because you are miserable at two centimeters because you do not know how to relax and breathe.
On the topic of being relaxed, and having a shorter labor, there are some women who just have really short labors. None of my labors were especially long, but it was nothing like my younger sister who had an incredibly short labor with her first child, and barely made it to the hospital for her second child. In fact, she was having her hair done when she realized she was in labor, and her husband, who was not getting his hair done, did not have time to make it to the hospital for the birth once he got the call. Ladies, when labors go like that, there just is no time for an epidural, no matter how much you scream for it. The baby is coming and you just have to let it happen. If you have one of those remarkably short, yet very intense, labors, it is really handy to know some breathing and relaxation techniques to get you through the natural birth you never wanted.
Those are just a few reasons why every first time mother-to-be should take childbirth education classes. There are many more good reasons, like allowing your husband, or partner, to get educated a bit, too, because labor is scary for unprepared dads, as well. Think of childbirth education classes as a very sound investment. I have yet to hear a woman say, “Boy, I really wish I’d have skipped childbirth education classes. I didn’t learn a thing.” Childbirth education classes are one of those Nike things–just do it.