Great questions; I’m glad you asked.
I *could* tell you it’s as simple as making sure the childbirth class is a Lamaze class taught by a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, but that would be slightly biased. Though we are a fantastic bunch of childbirth educators! Generally speaking, you can ensure you’re taking a high quality childbirth class by first screening the class against three questions: What? Who? How?
1. WHAT does the class cover? If you’re looking for a comprehensive childbirth class (instead of, for example, a “refresher” or shortened “comfort measures for labor” kind of class), you’ll want to find a class that covers the basics, like: all about how labor and birth works, coping measures for labor, early postpartum, and early breastfeeding. Beyond those basics, a quality childbirth class will also include: decision-making skills to for making informed choices in pregnancy, birth, and beyond; a comprehensive and varied range of comfort measures for labor (yes, even if you *know* you want an epidural); information and hands-on tools to help your partner/support person prepare to support you in labor; evidence-based information. If you can’t find the class details on the website, reach out to the instructor for more specific information.
2. WHO is teaching the class? Learn about the childbirth class instructor. Are they certified? With what organization? What’s their level of experience? Are they also a birth doula (not necessary, but offers a unique perspective!)? What’s their teaching style? Words on their website like interactive, hands-on, and engaging suggest a class that will help you maximize your learning and ability to remember. If their teaching style isn’t described on the class description, ask the instructor directly!
3. HOW does the class align with your goals? Last but certainly not least, does the class meet your learning goals? Come up with a list of what you hope a childbirth class will do for you — ie, what you want to learn and how you want to feel afterward. If the class you’re considering doesn’t describe itself in ways that meet your desired goals, you may want to keep looking. Don’t forget to read the reviews, too — see if past participants comment on the things you want most out of a childbirth class. And as with the previous two questions, if you can’t find the information you want online, contact the class teacher.
The online description of a childbirth class is typically the first place most parents screen childbirth classes. Quality childbirth classes will use keywords like: evidence-based, supported by research, informed choice, interactive, engaging, fun, all of your options for childbirth, comfort measures, coping techniques, labor support, doula, partner support, empower, inform, confidence, community.