As your belly grows and your sweet baby puts on the ounces, there are many exciting milestones! The first time you feel those tiny feet kicking, making it to the second trimester, wearing maternity clothes, and making a visit to your doctor or midwife, to name a few.
There’s another important milestone when you reach twenty weeks – the midway point in your pregnancy. As you round the bend to the second half of your pregnancy, it’s time for your attention to begin looking forward to the birth.
The twenty week mark is the perfect time to seek out and register for a childbirth class. Here are twenty reasons to enroll in a childbirth class at 20 weeks:
1) Have time to find a class that works with your schedule. Beginning your search now can allow you time to look around for a class that works for your and your partner’s schedule, or to make short-term adjustments to your schedule in order to be able to attend.
2) Have time to find an instructor who’s a good fit for you. You may have a particular learning style that works best for you, or a particular personality that you mesh well with. Checking out different websites and calling a few childbirth educators can help you get a feel for the person you’ll be spending several hours with, and find someone with the philosophy, experience, and personality you’re looking for.
3) Have time to research different kinds of classes. Some classes are only geared toward a specialized type of birth, while others are intended for people in all settings and birth types. Different classes can have a different emphasis or focus or set of beliefs about birth that they operate from. Starting the search for your ideal class (or classes) at 20 weeks can allow you to peruse the many kinds of childbirth education that are available and choose the one that feels like a good fit.
4) Learn what to expect in a hospital, birth center, or home birth. Finding out about standard procedures in your intended birth space can help you to better navigate the healthcare system during pregnancy and birth.
5) Learn how to cope with pain. Independent childbirth classes help pregnant parents understand a variety of ways to deal with labor pain, and help birth partners understand how they can help.
6) Enough time to take more than one class. With so many childbirth preparation options available, you may decide that you want to take more than one kind of class. Getting the ball rolling at 20 weeks gives you ample time to take in all the classes you need or desire.
7) Time to establish healthy practices during pregnancy. Many classes teach families about sound nutritional choices for pregnancy, or postures or exercises that can help facilitate birth. The sooner you sign up for a class, the sooner you can find out about, and start engaging in these practices that are good for baby and good for you.
8) Be ready in case baby is born before your due date. While many babies come after their due date, some decide to come earlier. Anywhere between 37-42 weeks is a normal time for labor to begin on its own and deliver a full-term baby. It’s a good idea to have completed your class series by the 37 week mark at the latest, if possible.
9) Understand the needs of the postpartum period. Families need support and guidance as they transition to life with a baby. Learning about the needs of postpartum families during pregnancy will give you a chance to put a support system in place while you still have the time and energy to do it.
10) Acquire labor tools before the birth. You may learn really cool things about how a birth ball or rebozo or essential oils can help you during labor. Getting a head start on classes also means leaving yourself enough time to gather the helpful tools you learn about in class.
11) Have conversations with your partner about the kind of support you want. Figuring out what kind of support, words, and touch you may want from your partner in labor is an important part of childbirth classes. Your partner may speak a different love language than you. Attending classes together can help you get on the same page so they can better meet your needs as you bring your baby into the world.
12) Referrals for doula, midwife, OB/GYN, IBCLC (breastfeeding support), chiropractor, birth center, hospital, pediatrician, babywearing educator, etc. Childbirth educators are well-connected in the birth and baby community, and have a long list of resources available to help you deal with the many needs that may arise during the childbearing year, from finding a provider who specializes in the kind of birth you want, to getting assistance with breastfeeding, to finding a pediatrician for your baby.
13) Build confidence. Getting ready to go through labor can be overwhelming and even a bit scary. Learning about the process and specific steps you can take to help you cope through it can help you feel more confident as your baby’s birthday approaches.
14) Build trust with your partner. Parents who attend birth classes together build a foundation of trust together. The pregnant parent can trust that their partner has heard the same information that they have, and that their partner can help them remember things that are important as they drift through the hazy mental space of Labor Land. Trust promotes oxytocin – the hormone that also causes contractions!
15) Time to read or research. You may hear about interesting books or videos from your childbirth educator, or even your fellow classmates. Getting an early start on classes leaves you time to read, watch movies, or research any other important topics that come up during your class.
16) Reduce stress of the prenatal checklist. Parents have many tasks to complete before the birth of their child, from gathering information about childbirth to buying baby clothes, and for some, even moving into a bigger house or apartment. With so many things to do, finding and enrolling in a class (even if it doesn’t start for a couple more months) will help reduce some stress for you as you check things off your to-do list.
17) Learn about the labor environment and establish boundaries/invite helpers. As you learn about the needs of a laboring person, you may find that it’s really important to you to have a certain loved one at the birth with you, or that you feel that you’ll really need privacy. Whatever the case, exploring what helps someone work through labor in class will give you a chance to make arrangements to have the support you need, and set boundaries to keep out the kind of energy you don’t need.
18) Begin building your community of support as parents. Taking group childbirth classes gives you a chance to meet other parents who are at the same stage of life as you. Some people find long-term family friends in their birth classes who support each other as each of their children go through the same developmental milestones, struggles, and triumphs.
19) Help older children adjust to being cared for by someone other than their parents. If you have older children, taking a little time each week to go to a class together while your child stays with another caregiver is a good opportunity for kids to learn that there are other people in their life they can depend on besides their parents. That flexibility will serve you well postpartum when your child can be entertained by another adult for a while so that you can rest or care for the baby.
20) You are worth it. Your experience is worth it. Sometimes a birth class feels like a big investment or time and/or money for pregnant parents. Having a baby is something that only happens once or a few times in a lifetime, and creates memories that will last a lifetime. Being as prepared as you can be for a huge, life-changing event is a sound investment. You are worth this investment. Your birth experience matters, and you matter.