A Guide to Childbirth Preparation

Alternative approaches to childbirth preparation are more popular than ever. Here’s a closer look at some of the ways expectant moms are planning for the big day.

When Regina and Todd Grosby found out they were expecting their first child, Regina went online to find out as much as she could about the various approaches to childbirth preparation.

Make Way for Baby
Take a closer look at some of the more popular approaches to childbirth preparation.

  • Lamaze

  • The Bradley Method

  • Birth Works

  • Birthing from Within

  • HypnoBirthing

  • “I had fairly definite ideas about how I wanted my baby to be born,” says
    Regina. She doesn’t want to be given any drugs during her labor and delivery and it didn’t take her long to zero in on the Bradley Method of natural childbirth.

    As a first-time mother-to-be, Regina is among the majority who wants to be prepared. According to a recent survey by the Maternity Center Association (MCA), 70 percent of first-time mothers took childbirth education classes. (The percentage drops to 19 percent for those who have given birth before.)

    Unlike Regina, however, many expectant mothers don’t have definite ideas of what they want. They don’t know where to begin to find the right method and the right instructor to meet their needs. To further complicate matters, new methods and hybrid methods keep cropping up. Here’s a quick look at some of the most widely available methods to help you prepare for your baby’s birth. Click on each method for a more in-depth report.

    g: 0in 5.4pt; width: 94.5pt;" valign="top">

    • 6 classes

    • Information on childbirth and options

    • Focuses on coping tools and communication


    " valign="top">

    • Relaxation

    • “Natural” breathing

    • Tuning in to the body

    • Support from a labor coach

    t; width: 1.45in;" valign="top">

    Birthing from Within


    an style="font-family: 'New York';">Method

    an style="font-family: 'New York';">Philosophy/ Goals

    an style="font-family: 'New York';">Format and Content

    an style="font-family: 'New York';">Techniques Used

    an style="font-family: 'New York';">Where and How Used

    an style="font-family: 'New York';"> 


    Fully informed, confident and supported women will want a normal birth with minimal interventions.

    • Breathing patterns

    • Relaxation, a focal point

    • Comfort measures

    • Support from a labor coach


    • Used primarily in hospitals, but suitable for birthing centers and home births.

    • Assumes teamwork approach.


    Bradley Method

    With proper education, preparation, and the help of a labor coach, women can give birth naturally.


    • 12 classes

    • Pregnancy nutrition

    • Relaxation and “natural” childbirth options

    • Assumes no drugs will be used.

    • Can be used in hospitals, but better suited to birthing centers or home births.


    Birth Works

    Childbirth is instinctive. “No one right way.” To develop a woman’s self-confidence.


    • 10 classes

    • Experiential (such as pelvic bodywork) and emotional preparation

    • No breathing patterns, but slow breathing to promote relaxation

    • Working with contractions

    • Can be used anywhere.

    Emphasizes the mystery and spirituality of birth. Preparation is a journey of self-discovery.


    • 8 classes

    • Multisensory exercises

    • Practical information and exploration of personal and cultural beliefs

    • Relaxation

    • Tuning in to the body

    • Support from labor coach


    Used in a variety of venues and types of births, such as waterbirths.



    Based on the 1920s’ work of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read.

    • Five classes

    • Self-hypnosis

    • Prenatal bonding

    • Options and tools, such as massage, for childbirth


    • Self-hypnosis

    • Visualization• Relaxation • Meditation

    • Support from labor coach


    Can be used in any birth setting, but works best if sanctioned by health-care provider.

    Empowerment with a Capital “E”!

    These methods differ in philosophy and approach and the classes vary in length, content and teaching strategies. But one common denominator is the goal of empowerment, whether it’s called confidence-building (Lamaze), “being powerful in birth” (Birthing from Within), or “releasing limiting emotions and fears” (HypnoBirthing).

    Finally, hospitals and birthing centers often offer their own childbirth preparation classes. These classes may be based on one of the five methods described above or may be a hybrid of different methods. They have the advantage of helping expectant parents to understand what to expect from that particular institution and to become comfortable with both the facility and the staff, though many classes not sponsored by hospitals arrange to include a tour, too.

    While empowering the mother-to-be was certainly a byproduct of childbirth preparation a generation ago, today it’s at the heart of it.