If the idea of spending any extra time in a hospital isn't for you, you may consider signing up for a private course. These classes are usually held in an informal setting such as someone's living room or a church. Most instructors are certified childbirth educators, but the quality of certification varies; basically, anyone who took a two-day or a two-year course can call herself a childbirth educator, so be sure to ask for her credentials if you go this route.
She should have certification in a particular childbirth preparation technique, such as Lamaze, or from ICEA or the Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (ALACE). These classes are more expensive, $50 to $350, but they also tend to go into more detail than their hospital counterparts, exploring alternative birthing methods and pain-relief techniques that don't involve medications.
These courses are usually smaller than hospital classes, around eight to 10 couples. "The small numbers make it easier to share with the others," says Karen Pestlin, director of teacher training for ALACE.
Though this intimacy is great for some, others find the setting too informal; a common complaint is that there can be too much sharing and too few facts about what's going to happen. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
Leigh Balber, a mother of one, is a writer based in New York City.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, September 2004.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.