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Decoding Childbirth Education Classes

By Danielle |

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There are so many different kinds of childbirth classes out there… most new mothers have no idea where to even start. You’ve got the hospital classes, Bradley classes, Lamaze classes — heck when I decided to become a childbirth educator, I had to research much more in depth to decide which my own teaching style and beliefs on childbirth really jived with.

Before getting into what kinds of classes there are, I want to talk about why women truly need childbirth education at some point during their pregnancies. Last winter I wrote a post about a study that came out regarding the level of education women have regarding pregnancy. I was shocked to know that over 24% of women thought a full-term pregnancy lasted 34-36 weeks. An infant born in that time frame would not only be considered premature, but also spend some time in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).

That study included the following:

“Researchers asked the mothers, “At what gestational age do you believe the baby is considered full term?” Nearly one in four (24%) chose 34–36 weeks, half chose 37–38 weeks, and the remaining quarter chose 39–40. Researchers also asked, “What is the earliest point in the pregnancy that it is safe to deliver the baby, should there be no other medical complications requiring early delivery?” More than half (52%) of the new mothers chose 34 to 36 weeks, while fewer than 10% chose 39–40 weeks. For neither question did women’s responses vary significantly by age, ethnicity, marital status, education, region of the country, or income.”

Showing that there is a true need directly across the board.

So… what kind of classes are there?  Well, there are the typical hospital-based classes, Lamaze classes, The Bradley Method, Hypnobirthing, Hypnobabies, ICEA classes, Birthing from Within, and many forms of independent teachers who do not identify with a certain kind of method or background, which often poses teaching restrictions, or a pre-fixed type of curriculum.

Hospital Classes — I must say I am slightly biased when it comes to hospital-based childbirth classes. Not just because I feel that one day is not enough to learn what mothers really need to know, but because they are often taught by labor and delivery nurses from the unit, so in many cases there will be bias on the way they would like to see things done or encourage their students in a certain direction.

Although not all of these classes are like that; there are some great and informative childbirth classes offered in one 4-8 hour class through the hospital. If sitting and learning for that period of time is something you think you would be interested in doing, these classes may be right for you.

Lamaze — I decided to become a Lamaze teacher myself after learning about it more. Contrary to what people believe, it is not all about breathing. Lamaze focuses on teaching about the six healthy birth practices :

  • Let labor begin on its own.
  • Walk, move, and change positions during labor.
  • Have continuous support during labor (doula, support person, etc.)
  • Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary.
  • Avoid giving birth on your back, and follow your body’s urge to push.
  • Keep mother and baby together after birth (skin-to-skin contact) and breastfeed.

All are really great practices that help promote healthy birth but are also founded and supported by evidence based on medicine, unlike many common practices in the hospital today, which are done because of practice patterns or provider preference. Another amazing part of Lamaze is the philosophy that women should have confidence in their abilities to give birth to their babies, which seems to be an issue with our society today.

The Bradley Method — The Bradley Method is a 12-week course focused on husband- or partner-coached childbirth, with the core belief and teachings that women can embrace the natural process of birth. One of the main focuses of Bradley is that “with the right preparation, most women can avoid pain medication and routine interventions during labor and birth.” The curriculum focuses heavily around nutrition, diet, and exercise during pregnancy and also teaches techniques for coping with pain during childbirth such as deep breathing.

Hypnobirthing — Hypnobirthing, or The Morgan Method, describes itself as a rebirth of the teachings of Grantly Dick-Read who was one of the obstetric pioneers in natural childbirth. Their website states, “The method teaches you that, in the absence of fear and tension, or special medical circumstances, severe pain does not have to be an accompaniment of labor.”

Hypnobabies — Hypnobabies is described as hypnosis for childbirth. Many people have found this to be controversial because of the religious aspects that can impact or surround hypnosis. Hypnobabies describes itself as different from other hypnobirthing programs:

“Hypnobabies is very comprehensive and successful, uses medical hypnotic anesthesia techniques from Gerald Kein’s amazing painless childbirth program, as opposed to simple visualization and imagery, and contains the same kinds of hypnotic scripts used by people who undergo surgery with hypnosis as their only anesthetic.”

I interviewed a mother who gave birth using hypnobabies on my website earlier in the year, and her story was truly amazing: Talking Hypnobabies with Michael

ICEA Classes — The ICEA does not promote a certain curriculum but instead offers certification and training to those interested in becoming a childbirth educator. They have the benefit of being a certified childbirth education instructor without having to stick to a certain curriculum. What I have noticed since starting my training is many instructors certified through the ICEA are also certified through Lamaze.

Overall these are basic classes with no set-in-stone type of format or background like many of the others listed above.

Birthing from Within — Birthing from within is a program that focuses on spiritual-based preparation for childbirth and parenting. The classes are not as widely offered nationwide as most of the others listed above, and many people have to opt for the self-study program if they are interested in Birthing from Within.

It sounds like a lot to take in — I know… it is scary! But becoming educated on the process of childbirth with the maternity care system the way it is in our country currently is very important to mothers, not only for their own peace of mind, but for their safety!

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About Danielle



Danielle Elwood is a straight-shooting Florida based mom of three and emerging indie author. Read bio and latest posts → Read Danielle's latest posts →

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31 thoughts on “Decoding Childbirth Education Classes

  1. Kristin says:

    The Bradley Method actually focuses mostly on relaxation and a trained coach and also teaches how to stay healthy and low risk through nutrition, and exercise. Not the other way around. Want a great Bradley class?

  2. Angie Scharnhorst says:

    If you’re interested in the Bradley Method, take a class from a teacher trained by the three developers of the Method!

  3. Jen says:

    I love The Bradley Method as well! I have had all my kids using these techniques. The teachings of Bradley Method have stood the test of time. Actually, though, the Bradley website is

  4. Lucy Juedes says:

    I want to encourage expectant moms to look into Lamaze! I’m a mom of 3 and became a Lamaze educator 3 years ago. With Lamaze classes, you get up-to-date, evidence-based information. You’ll also practice several relaxation techniques as well as many laboring and pushing positions. We also help you work with your ob or midwife to make it most likely that you’ll bring your baby into our world the way that you want. Lots more info is at

  5. Jenny B says:

    I absolutely agree – no matter what kind of birth you are aiming for, much of the fear is taken away by knowledge. It’s your body, learn what it does! My opinion is that a 1-day class is probably not enough, but there are tons of books also available to help educate women who don’t have the option of Bradley or Lamaze classes!

  6. Dianne says: check it out. DR. Bradley’s methods taught by caring compassionate teachers!

  7. Lindsey L says:

    Bradley Reborn is the best of Dr. Robert Bradley’s positive and inspiring philosophy WITH updated materials, current research and 21st century technology and techniques of instruction.

  8. Michelle says:

    Bradley Reborn is a knock off of the TRUE Bradley Method. It is run by some renegade former Bradley teachers who were reprimanded for not following the rules of teaching the method. Don’t be fooled by imitations :) They don’t require their instructors to have had a natural childbirth or to have even breastfeed their babies. You won’t get a great education from them. So sad they are in it only for the money, not to educate. Stick with the original with an 86% effective natural birth history! THE BRADLEY METHOD…

  9. Susan says:

    Bradley Reborn brings the method into the 21st century and focuses on what the “millennium couple” wants from a childbirth class–up to date materials, a crisp and easily navigated website, knowledgeable teachers who are updating their education regularly, and a leadership team which has a clear vision of what Dr. Bradley wanted to bring to birthing families. http://www.bradleyreborn rocks!

  10. Danielle625 says:

    @Michelle – I don’t see why it is a big deal if an instructor has/has not had a natural birth before. It doesn’t make them any less qualified or dedicated to natural birth in general.
    For someone like me, I would be incredibly mad if I was denied some sort of certification because I had not given birth naturally despite tries to do it.

  11. Sarah says:

    The goal of ALL of these types of birthing classes is that mothers have the best births possible without being subjected to unnecessary interventions and fear. No matter which method or brand name you choose, the important part is to get educated and make the best choices for your family. The best way to decide which one is the best for you is to do your own research and actually call instructors in your area to speak with them personally.

  12. doula says:

    I took Bradley classes with my first pregnancy, had two unmedicated births (the second was a homebirth), became a doula, and then became a certified childbirth instructor, first teaching independent classes and now teaching them through a local hospital.

    I just wanted to say that not all hospital classes are one day classes. The childbirth series I teach is three two-and-a-half-hour sessions, with two additional sessions as options (one on breastfeeding and one on baby care).

  13. Julie says:

    The main principles of Lamaze really are so similar to what Bradley teaches. It should serve as a good reminder that all independant classes generally are put there to help educate women on what is natural about birth & how to feel confident in the process (thru education). The Bradley Method is one of the the only that require a Bradley Birth in order to be an educator. However, for someone who has a passion for natural birth but has not been able to have one themselves should not be denied the abilty to become an educator. Even the author of this post is a vital role in the natural birth world & has had 2 c-sections. If she were not speaking out for natural birth, our community would be lacking a great voice… She deserves (as does any woman) to be able to educate others just as much as you or I do who did do a natural birth. Bradley vs. Bradley Reborn will be an on going debate- but let’s not lose the real focus. Helping women interested in a natural birth become as educated as possible & prepared for the birth ahead.

  14. Michelle says:

    @ Danielle – It is important to me that the person teaching me HOW to have natural childbirth had one herself. It is also important to the countless women who call to take classes with me. In addition, these women ask if I have had my baby within 5 years. They also don’t want “outdated” information from someone who gave birth 20 years ago. My students want practical information not theoretical information. All the cute photos in color in the textbook is NOT going to change that fact! It’s like hiring a dive instructor who never stepped foot in the water. I don’t care about their passion for diving if they never did it! There are other jobs for people who have passion for something but not experience. I’m not saying passion is not needed, just not in the teaching arena of something so serious. It’s the most important decision you make..HOW WILL YOUR BABY BE BORN. You can’t leave it to amateurs.

  15. Danielle625 says:

    @Michelle – Someone can teach evidence based childbirth classes without going through it. Some of the best childbirth teachers in my area have had 3+ c-sections. Not only that but the only home birth midwife delivering in my area has had 2 medically necessary c-sections. I don’t think women think twice about her training, and education when it comes to hiring her.
    I think it is silly, and offensive, that is my opinion.

  16. Lindsey L says:

    First of all Bradley Reborn people are not instructors who were reprimanded for no following rules. I, for example, followed all their many and inscrutable rules. I just saw a far better product and made the switch to Bradley Reborn as an educated and informed choice. As a ten year instructor with The Bradley Method I was NEVER required to do any continuing education to recertify. I did so on my own because I wanted to improve my skills. I started buying other companies and organizations DVDs of natural births because the Bradley ones were so embarrassing in their lack of quality. My first birth was 42 hours, 32 without pain meds and the last ten with a low dose epidural I was coerced into getting. It MADE me want to show others that they could advocate for themselves and do better than I was able to do that time. Went on to have four more children naturally and even at home, but was a fine educator for years before that. I now work for a homebirth CNM midwife. She had all three of her children by the standard of the time, hospital, medicated and no breast feeding. And yet she is THE MOST wonderful midwife and has never experienced that which she facilitates day in and day out. I think it is a ridiculous argument of insecure people who believe that their one or two birth experiences are the totality of their ability to be a good instructor. The fact that I had a bad experience with epidural and can tell women from from personal experience that it is not the end all and be all and did not improve my experience is actually a strength. But my 8 years working doing labor support, attendance at many continuing education courses and Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction are gifts as well. Having a new organization that values additional education and credentials is not a bad thing. Yes, people should investigate all their options, we teach that. But, Bradley Reborn can market the differences in what they offer and women can decide what appeals to them.

  17. Knitted in the Womb says:

    86% unmedicated births with The Bradley Method?(R) REALLY? Where does that data come from?

    I was forced out of The Bradley Method(R) because I challenged the stats. I firmly believe that The American Academy of Husband Coached Childbirth(R) has not recalculated their statistics since, at best, the 1980′s. I gathered statistics from The Bradley Method instructors from 2002-2005, ultimately getting data on over 1000 births. What I found was:

    * 20.5% cesarean
    * 74% of vaginal births were unmedicated, which means 59% of all births were unmedicated

    This is MUCH better than national averages, but it is not at all what The Bradley Method wants to market, so they commit a crime of false advertising by continuing to insist that over 80% of “Bradley Births” are unmedicated.

  18. Danielle625 says:

    @Knitted – In my area, though being heavily involved with ICAN, I noticed a trend of women that took Bradley classes, and ended up having to have c-sections. At least that is what I personally observed in Connecticut.
    I am sure there are plenty of women who went on to have beautiful Bradley births, but I just have never met one IRL.

  19. Knitted in the Womb says:

    Danielle, is it possible you are noticing women who took Bradley and had cesareans because being involved in ICAN means you meet up with more women who had cesareans than had vaginal births? I’d encourage you to call up your local Bradley instructors and ask them to share their stats with you.

  20. Danielle625 says:

    I think I should re-phrase that. LOL Thought my involvement in ICAN, and being a doula and childbirth educator in training. Although the majority of women who did come to ICAN that did actually take a childbirth education class, ended up being Bradley students.
    I am not sure if it was because of Bradley instructors in our local area though.

  21. selena says:

    @Danielle Do you think it is possible that so many Bradley moms go to ICAN is because they were taught about it during their Bradley class? Bradley is the only method that teaches exercises and nutrition to avoid C-sections. Typically the teachers follow up with their students post birth and address any problems they are having including directing them to ICAN if need be.

  22. Danielle625 says:

    @Selena – I have come across a lot of childbirth educators out there that not only include a lot of techniques for avoiding c-sections, but hand out information on ICAN in their classes.

  23. Michelle says:

    No one ever polled me. I personally have a 92% natural birth rate since 2006 in a high c-rate section of the country. I also attend births as a doula (CAPPA) which helps to provide my continuous education. I have had 3 natural births myself, 1 in the hospital and 2 at home. I am a PHD clinical pharmacist who has treated women for postpartum depression and have given many ob/gyn physicals. I know the value of unmedicated births. I work with countless women who want VBACs after taking “bogus” (less than 12 weeks courses) childbirth education classes. To me, only the 12 week model works. You have to train your body and eat well consistently. The Academy supports me 100%. Our passion for such a senstive subject has taken us all over the edge. Let’s just agree to disagree. We will never see eye to eye on the specifics. We do however choose to help women.

  24. Amy says:

    WRT The Bradley Method…here do they get their “86% unmedicated” stats? As a former teacher, I didn’t turn in birth logs for years…and other teachers I know didn’t either. Sorry, AAHCC, I’m not violating my students’ right to privacy (and HIPPA) to tell you whether or not they had an epidural, or “drugs for repair.” That’s none of your business, thanks. If the woman made informed decisions, feels empowered and she and her baby are healthy…that’s all you need to know. There’s nore to birth than getting or not getting an epidural.

    And honestly, it’s really none of anyone’s business what kind of births your instructor had…has she studied the physiology of birth, has she helped other women have natural births, is she passionate and a supporter of natural birth? That’s all you need to know. The fact that your instructor had a natural birth really hsa nothing to do with you (general you). Restricting the title of “natural birth teacher” actually lessens/negates the birth experiences of women who have experienced natural birth but not the “ideal” that Bradley strives for.

  25. Amy says:

    OMG, I just realized I have about 1000 spelling mistakes. Oh well.

  26. Jessi says:

    What’s with the man with boobs in the picture? Do we really want dads to think that childbirth classes are going to humiliate them? Shame is a big deal for guys. I think there could have been a better pic for this article.

  27. Sheridan says:

    If you want more information about hypnosis for birth, I have gathered over 250 birth stories from moms using Hypnobabies at
    There are some great videos there too!

  28. Callie Foulk says:

    What? No mention of BirthWorks International? BirthWorks has been training childbirth educators and doulas since 1981 with the philosophy that “Birth is Instinctive”. BirthWorks is the only program that isn’t a method. It’s a process and it’s about helping women have more trust and faith in their innate ability to birth. BirthWorks childbirth classes provide an integrated mind/body/spirit approach to childbirth education. BWI educates expectant parents about instinctive birth and how it works (such as the importance of reducing neocortical stimulation) as well as providing experiential exercises that acquaint each mother with how her individual pelvis will open during birth. BirthWorks believes that the emotions and beliefs of a birthing woman will have a profound impact on the birth outcome, so classes provide an opportunity to uncover fears and to heal from previous birth related traumas in order to remove obstacles to normal birthing. BirthWorks does not believe in teaching women a birthing “method”, because the knowledge about how to give birth is born within every woman and, therefore, does not need to be taught. As BWI advisor Dr. Michel Odent says “if it’s a method, it’s not natural.” BirthWorks and ICAN were affiliated in the 80′s, before BWI became a full-fledged non-profit organization with its own board of directors. BWI has always been passionate about cesarean awareness and prevention. BirthWorks is inclusive and welcomes women with any birthing history into their training progrm. BWI honors and respects each woman’s individual path to birth. For more info: Please join BWI on facebook:

    Here is a video of Ina May Gaskin, Elizabeth Davis, Michel Odent, Jan Tritten and other members of the BWI advisory panel talking about why they support BirthWorks International:

  29. Soshanna says:

    I think it is wonderful that there are many options for different people to choose from. I used HypnoBirthing – the Mongan method for the birth of my second and had an amazing home water birth which compelled me to become a trainer. I have educated many women to go on to have a wonderful birth experience and I love what I do.

  30. Marissa says:

    Wow, people are really bashing the Bradley Method? I had two kid with the Bradley Method and my labor and delivery were wonderful, and barely painful. I’m due with my third in a month and I’m using the Bradley method. It’s honestly the best method out there. To Danielle: I live in CT as well and NONE of the women in my class, or any women they know had to have a C-section. The Bradley Method is wonderful.

  31. Leilani says:

    Opinions please. What orgaization would you choose? CAPPA vrs. ICEA certification to become a childbirth educator.

    Thanks for your input!!

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