You’re Having a Hospital Birth, but Are Hospital Birth Classes Right for You?

When expectant parents planning a hospital birth think about childbirth classes, it’s common for them to choose a conventional class at the hospital where they will be giving birth. There are several reasons why this is a commonly-chosen option for some parents.

Most hospitals offer a one-day express class, which may be helpful for families with limited availability, unusual schedules, or those who are reluctant to take a childbirth class. Hospital classes may be helpful, too, for families whose financial resources are limited.

And yet another reason why expecting parents choose a hospital childbirth class is because they simply don’t know that childbirth classes held outside of the hospital are available to them, or that they have options for what different classes can offer to them!

As a BirthWorks Childbirth Educator since 2010, I have worked with approximately 150 couples in that time. It is one of my greatest joys to teach a class that is so unique and I see firsthand the impact that it has on expectant parents. As people are making their birth preparations and exploring their class options, I am frequently asked, “What makes BirthWorks classes different from conventional hospital childbirth classes?”

I want to emphasize that there are a number of different childbirth classes and class schedules commonly offered in most hospitals (such as Lamaze, c-section classes, etc.) and there is a bit of variation with each different class.

Hospitals also employ many childbirth educators and the individual personality and teaching style of each educator will also contribute to what participants take away from a hospital class. While there are a few hospital classes that are the exception with regards to these differences, for that sake of simplicity, I am going to focus on the primary differences between BirthWorks classes and the majority of conventional hospital classes.

How BirthWorks Classes Differ from Hospital Childbirth Classes:

BirthWorks Classes are Not Influenced by any Particular Hospital Policy or Protocol

One might wonder why this is such an important distinction. All hospital Labor & Delivery units have their own standing protocols and policies that hospital staff, including hospital childbirth educators, are required to follow. These protocols and policies can vary from one hospital to the next and may be — or may not be —  evidence-based policies.

The students in hospital childbirth classes may not be aware the degree to which that hospital’s individual policies are influencing the information they are receiving.

One common example of a L&D policy that is NOT evidence-based is limiting laboring patients to clear liquids only, meaning that they cannot eat any solid food after admission and can only consume liquids and foods such as ice/water, juice, popsicles, jello, etc. There is mounting evidence demonstrating that limiting patients to clear liquids only during labor increases the likelihood of maternal exhaustion, which increases the need for interventions such as forceps, vacuum extraction, and c-section. (Read more about this from Evidence Based Birth and American Society of Anesthesiologists.)

Yet, many hospital class participants are lead to believe that they cannot (or should not) consume anything other than clear liquids during labor, simply because they are being taught that hospital’s policy.

Another important reason for this distinction is that hospital class participants may not learn about their rights as a patient, including their right to both informed consent and informed refusal. One such example of this is with regards to a hospital protocol that requires all patients to have IV access (called a saline lock or the old term, a “hep-lock”) started upon admission. Hospital class participants may not learn that about other options within their rights as a patient, including declining any IV access unless it becomes medically necessary.

This is a point we hear often from second- or third-time parents who then took BirthWorks: that they wish they knew what rights and options they had for their previous birth(s) in order to make more informed decisions.

In BirthWorks Childbirth Classes, participants will learn about healthy, evidence-based practices during pregnancy and labor/birth for all types of births (unmedicated, medicated, vaginal, cesarean), along with gaining the confidence and skills to productively navigate through informed consent and informed decision-making in a hospital birth environment.

BirthWorks Classes are In-depth and Comprehensive

For expectant parents who want more than just the basics as they prepare for their birth, BirthWorks gives them more than they could’ve ever imagined! Like mentioned earlier, some parents don’t want this level of preparation for a variety of reasons and there’s nothing wrong with that. But many other parents are craving something much deeper than they’d get at a conventional hospital childbirth class.

Since I first began teaching, I have worked with many participants who have previous birth experiences and who took a hospital class previously. One common description I hear from such participants regarding their experience with a conventional hospital class is: “I could’ve gotten the same information from a couple of google searches.”

BirthWorks Classes not only go greatly in-depth with the information, but they are comprehensive. BirthWorks Classes value all aspects of the entire process of pregnancy (such as nutrition, for example), labor/birth, postpartum, and early parenting.

Additionally, the last class of BirthWorks is dedicated to infant feeding/breastfeeding, so there is no need to take a separate class for that. While preparation for labor/birth is a good part of what we do, BirthWorks Classes are so much more than that, as the labor/birth is only one part of the entire process.

BirthWorks Classes Reduce Fears and Build Confidence

BirthWorks Classes are rooted in a holistic belief and approach. This means that in BirthWorks, emotional and mental preparation are just as much a part of what we do, along with the more general information that many people would commonly associate with Lamaze childbirth classes.

The emphasis that BirthWorks Classes put on emotional/mental preparation for birth is rarely found in any type of hospital birth class. This emphasis on emotional preparation in BirthWorks helps participants to not only identify their fears, but I spend a great deal of time working thru fears with the participants and teaching a variety of tools for them to continue working through their fears in their continued birth preparation. We live in a culture that propagates fear of childbirth, so it’s understandable why it’s incredibly common for people to be afraid of labor/birth. That fear can affect their pregnancy and birth in a number of negative ways, including possibilities such as making fear-based decisions, slowing down the labor process, increasing their sensations of pain, and more.

BirthWorks also builds confidence through sharing information about birth interventions and choices, in addition to identifying and addressing fears. BirthWorks empowers parents to confidently plan for the birth that they want. And if things change during the process of labor, to understand what other options are open to them.

It is such a joy to see my BirthWorks Class participants’ fears reducing and their confidence steadily increasing throughout the class process!

BirthWorks Classes are Experiential and Hands-On

There are several different learning styles that affect how an individual perceives and retains the information they’ve been taught. BirthWorks Classes are facilitated through Experiential Learning — a teaching style that incorporates both hands-on learning along with reflection on the hands-on learning. This has a significant impact on increasing the confidence of our Birthworks participants.

Research has shown that when people learn using experiential techniques, it creates a much deeper and longer-lasting imprint in their brain, when compared to learning in a conventional way.

This is important for birth preparation, as the brain is controlling the entire labor process. In BirthWorks Classes, participants prepare for birth and beyond using a wide variety of memorable and fun exercises that engage them in a powerful way! We regularly hear positive feedback from our participants about how the experiential approach in BirthWorks helped them learn the information in a completely new way (even for participants who had previous birth experiences), and how the BirthWorks’ approach transformed their confidence.

There are a number of other ways that BirthWorks Classes differ from conventional childbirth classes taught in a hospital setting.


Ready to learn more about BirthWorks can you prepare you for your unique birth experience? Read more information about BirthWorks and BirthWorks options. Or, contact us today to find out more. Dates for group classes listed to the right, or if you are looking for a one-on-one experience or need the flexibility of custom scheduling, ask about private classes.


About Sarah Baker

Sarah Baker is Purple Lotus Doula's Certified Childbirth Educator, offering both group and private BirthWorks Classes — a unique, holistic approach to birth preparation. She also offers birth doula services, placenta encapsulation, Healing from Birth class, and essential oil education.

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