As a childbirth educator, I am often asked whether or not someone should take childbirth classes. I explain my bias towards taking a childbirth class and the education process it promotes. I extol the virtues of shorter labors and knowledge of procedures and complications that may cross your path. To say I am biased would be an understatement, though the scientists and practitioners back me up. The bottom line is that childbirth classes are beneficial to everyone, no matter what type of birth you are planning - medicated, unmedicated, cesarean or VBAC.
The trickier question becomes, what about second time parents? Are there any benefits for them in a childbirth class? While this question hasn't been addressed by science to my knowledge, I can answer it both as an educator and as a student. My answer is a resounding - YES! The reason I think that childbirth classes are beneficial for people who have already had a child or already had classes is multi-faceted:
Having taught hundreds of childbirth classes I can say that no two classes, even with the same instructor and the same outline are ever the same. The reason is that the class participants really make a class what it is about. I can talk about episiotomy in a class and no one will ask a single question. The next night, same outline, the same topic and I get four questions, which leads to a discussion that didn't happen the first time I taught the subject.
The other change that falls under the category of class participants is what they are bringing to class. Some have extensive knowledge on certain subjects that they are able to share with the class. This might be because of their job - I've had pediatricians, anesthesiologists, first aid instructors, car seat safety inspectors and other professionals in my classes who brought additional knowledge to the class. There is also the element of the second time parent who can bring the veteran's view point of labor and birth.
The basics really do stay the same for most classes, though there are always variations on who teaches it and how it's taught. Perhaps your first class didn't teach what you expected or didn't provide you with everything you were looking for that time around. Taking a course a second (or more) time allows you an opportunity to learn things you may not have learned the first go around. Choosing a class is very important for these issues. Perhaps you're looking for a class for a certain reason. Maybe you'd like a smoother check in at your place of birth and knowing certain procedures done there would be helpful. Perhaps you feel that you didn't get everything you needed to know about relaxation down the first time and need a refresher course. Whatever the reason, finding the right class is very important. Interview potential instructors. Ask them not only about fees and locations, but about the graduates of their classes. Are they willing to give you names of previous attendees so that you can talk to them about their class experiences? What type of learning style does she cater to in class? Videos? Lecture? Demonstration? Make sure that your needs will be met by this particular instructor before signing up for a class.
The Time Factor
We're all short on time. It's a matter of fact. Anyone who already has children probably is thinking that they don't have time to attend childbirth class again. After all, after dinner, it's bath time, story time, then bed time. By then you're tired and want to read a bit before you hit the sack. I'm hear to tell you that you'll be glad you made the time. My husband and I have taken classes for each of our children's births. We've actually taken a total of nine entire series and a couple of one day events. Why, we were so dedicated with our first child that we took every class we could find from every philosophy available in our area. After that we settled down and choose a class with each child that would give us a basic education and get us focused on having that particular baby. You see, we viewed the class as date night out with the baby. A total of 12 hours was all it really was for us. When we looked at it that way, how could we go wrong?
Our classes became our time, alone as a couple, to focus on this baby and this birth. It got us back into the groove of doing relaxation, it helped refresh us on certain exercises to help prepare my body for birth and basically got us in the right frame of mind. Granted our questions were different each time, it's amazing what you learn as you hear something again. You might simply not have heard someone say something the first time around, but now with a bit of life experience under your belt it makes a world of difference.There are refresher courses available in some areas that hit the basics but meet for fewer sessions. Sometimes they will meet with a normal class, but only the middle sessions, skipping the first and last classes. Ask area instructors about this option. Also check to see if you can find a childbirth educator who would be willing to teach a private class. You might hit topics that are important to you with less of a time commitment, but you do lose the participation of other couples unless you can find other parents interested. This option also works well for couples with odd scheduled, parents on bed rest or families who would like to include older children in the childbirth class experiences, perhaps even at the birth.
Remember the birth of every baby is special. Preparing for that birth is time well spent towards the addition of a new family member.