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Seve Starling pregnancy support from experts
Pregnancy

Online Birthing Classes: Are They Worth It?

Written By
Jessalyn Ballerano
Certified Childbirth Educator & Doula

Considering an online prenatal or labor prep class, but not sure where to start? Quality childbirth education can be a huge benefit to your pregnancy and postpartum experience - learn what to expect of an online birthing class and type of prenatal program and support is right for you and your budget.

Choosing to enroll in an online birthing class is a great step to getting informed and feeling more empowered throughout your pregnancy, birth and postpartum journey. Make the most of your family’s investment and use this overview to identify the main components of quality prenatal education and learn which class options make the most sense for your lifestyle and preferences!

What you get in an online birthing class

  • Childbirth Education
  • Labor Prep
  • Birth Planning
  • Expert Guidance
  • Social Connection

What kind of online birth class is right for you?

  • Intensive v. Series
  • At-Your-Own-Pace v. Scheduled
  • Solo v. Group

Online birthing classes for different budgets

  • Monthly Subscription or payment plan
  • One time purchase, regular or early bird
  • Insured and public options

What you get in an online birthing class

If you are an expecting parent looking to support a safe and joyful welcome for your newborn, you may be considering online birthing classes. Such learning is designed to help maternity care patients and pregnant families take care of their health, prepare for their baby’s arrival with quality information, and feel more empowered in understanding their options and making informed healthcare decisions with their medical team. 

Nowadays, online birthing classes come in a wide array of options designed to fit the needs of diverse modern parents looking for quality education that fits their budget. Read on for what you should see in any quality online prenatal education program.

Childbirth Education

Most American individuals today are not familiar with the processes of pregnancy, labor and childbirth until they have gone through it themselves, or shared close quarters with someone who has. Just a few generations ago, one may have seen and even attended to a sibling, cousin or another community member who was laboring, birthing or breastfeeding, but today these processes can feel like a mystery. Labor, childbirth and postpartum education in the prenatal or even preconception period can offer reassurance and confidence to anyone navigating this new experience, as most curriculums include topics like:

  • Common pregnancy and full-term symptoms
  • Gentle reminders on overall health, including nutritional and exercise recommendations for long-term pregnancy health and comfort
  • Recognizing signs of labor and what to do when labor starts
  • Learning the primary reasons, risks, benefits and alternatives to various medical options, protocols and procedures
  • Practicing labor comfort, coping and strategies, including positions, breathing techniques, comforting touch and partner support measures
  • Regional details, culturally-specific information or historical context for given procedures, practices or expectations at your local care facilities
  • Strategies and practice for informed consent, decision-making and advocacy
  • Postpartum recovery basics, what to expect in the earliest days after birth 
  • Early newborn care and lactation and infant feeding information

Quality childbirth education can also improve health outcomes - the United States currently has a highly medicalized approach to childbirth yet has higher infant and maternal mortality rates than most countries considered developmental peers. When an expectant or new parent receives relevant, evidence-based, comprehensive information ahead of time, they tend to feel more empowered to work together with their health care team in making decisions for their or their child’s well-being. 

Pregnant people and their support teams may also find joy, wonder or amazement at the incredible details of human reproduction or the holistic information offered in many classes taught by professional childbirth educators and doulas - this can help them to lean into changes of pregnancy and parenting feeling better informed about their physical experience. 

Labor Prep

Along with learning about your options in medical care and what to expect of the pregnancy and birth experience, many online birthing classes include labor preparation for the pregnant client and their partner or support person. Labor prep usually involves a physical process of learning and exploring the ways someone might navigate the strong sensations and energy demands of human labor and childbirth, which can be a long process, especially for first time mothers. 

Labor preparation can also help partners to feel more comfortable and confident about what kind of comforting touch and assistance they can provide, and many couples report that communication and teamwork is easier during labor with a little practice ahead of time. This part of an online birthing class may look like:

  • Practicing different positions for laboring at home and hospital
  • Guided breathing exercises to help you focus, relieve tension, and support you and your baby’s oxygenation during the exertion of labor
  • Specific techniques, holds or touches for supporting a laboring person
  • Information about how pain works in the body and the brain, and ways to cope
  • Getting familiar with any props you want to use, such as a birth ball or rebozo

Birth Planning

As you can imagine, childbirth education and labor preparation will illuminate many options, and some of these might feel like they are particularly important to you or your family for your safety, personal preference, or cultural considerations. Birth planning is another major component of online birth classes - the class facilitator might even offer feedback on your birth plan or a template that you can use to build your own birth plan after learning during class.

Expert Guidance

Medical appointments with your midwife, OB/GYN or other health care provider are great opportunities to ask specific questions about your health, your medical options, or a symptom that you or your baby experience. Beyond that, however, there may not always be time to get all your questions answered - especially those that may be more holistic in nature, perhaps relating to pregnancy comfort, emotions, or planning for the non-medical aspects of your experience. 

Taking a virtual class online allows you to learn from an experienced birth professional with expertise in teaching adults who are in the midst of navigating pregnancy and all that comes with it - including tired days, brain fog, and first-time parental worries. Working with a compassionate and competent doula, childbirth educator, or other birthworker who is passionate about educating expectant families creates an opportunity to receive thorough, personalized guidance and learn from the questions asked by other class participants.

Social Connection

Adult learners in online birth classes often get the opportunity to interact with other pregnant people and couples, which can be a great source of comfort and fun as well as useful information and even social support. Even in a solo learning environment, the connection and empathy you can receive from your teacher can make a hard day or week better - they may also have other students or local networks they can refer you to for ongoing social support and connection. Some group classes also include specific cohort features, such as learning with other parents who share:

  • An estimated due date range or gestational age
  • A health condition or pregnancy complication
  • A regional or facility-based shared experience

What kind of online birth class is right for you?

If you’ve read this far, hopefully it has become more clear to you how the benefits of an online prenatal education program could support you or your family as you navigate pregnancy, labor, birth and early parenting together. Here we list a few of the different formats available for completing a virtual birthing course.

Intensive v. Series

As you can imagine, there is a lot that can be covered in an online birth or prenatal education class, and different curriculums and instructors bring different amounts and scopes of information to their content. Depending on when you enroll in a learning program, as well as you and your support team’s work obligations and daily schedules, you might have a preference between learning as much as you can in a short period of time or spreading out your prenatal education over a period of time.

An intensive online birth class is usually a live format class that takes place over one or two days, and might last anywhere from a few hours to a full weekend block of 6-8 hour days. This is a way of learning that crams a lot into an efficient block of time and is ideal for someone who needs to learn quickly or cannot make a longer commitment to attending classes. It may also be the type of immersive experience some adult students enjoy and often creates memorable bonds between participants. These can be fun and highly engaged learning environments, but a drawback is that there is little opportunity for repetition, which is important for retaining information.

A prenatal or childbirth education curriculum designed to be a series or recurring event will cover all the same information as an intensive, and perhaps even more, but over a longer period of time. This may look like a 1-2 hour class that meets regularly over weeks or months, or it might include a curriculum that you complete independently while meeting semi-regularly with an instructor or group. This is generally considered to be a more lasting way to learn but also means scheduling more time for education - however, many pregnant people do appreciate the shorter class durations and opportunity to return with questions between sessions.

At-Your-Own-Pace v. Scheduled

If you’ve ever signed up for an online class before, you may have had access to the course content for an indefinite or extended period of time. This is a fantastic way to learn for busy pregnant people who prefer to read, watch, or listen to material at their own pace or as they can fit it into their schedule. Convenient, custom, ongoing access to the information you most value is a great idea, which is why Seven Starling's service includes daily learnings that you can access from your phone or device anytime, anywhere, learning in small increments and returning to information as you please.

Scheduled courses are also wonderful learning activities because the live interaction with your instructor or other class participants leads to more engagement by way of questions, discussion, feedback and relevant anecdotes. It also may be helpful to someone who has a better time learning with a lot of direction and structure, as opposed to the self-initiation required to make the most of independent study.

A combination of these approaches will hit the mark for every type of learning and lifestyle - if you can access a live group or expert facilitator as well as information to download or peruse at your own pace, there’s no excuse not to make the most of your investment in your online birthing class, and your learning is likely to be more deeply ingrained and enjoyable with multiple options for repetition, direct engagement, self study, feedback and multiple mediums of live spoken, visual, and written lessons.

Solo v. Group

As described above, there may be opportunities to connect with other pregnant and expecting people in your prenatal education course or labor prep workshop. People who choose to teach such courses are also often passionate, caring support professionals or parents themselves, and may offer a supportive dynamic during class that lends extra depth and significance to your experience. Consider the benefits of connecting with other pregnant families, or if you would find greater value in private, one-on-one sessions in your learning. Note that private solo education is likely to be more expensive than a group offering.

Many group courses include opportunities for individual feedback, guidance or check-ins, but the majority of learning takes place in a group setting, usually by video conference and perhaps augmented by a virtual “classroom” or other platform for sharing messages and communicating with the facilitator or other students. Self-study programs that are downloaded or accessed independently might not  include contact with an instructor beyond recorded materials, but some come with a live consult, orientation or progress check-in.

If both group and individual options sound good to you, you might consider the expert-led group classes and OB-approved, personalized curriculum offered at Seven Starling. Make the most of quality, evidence-based information that you can access on your schedule and the positive benefits of meeting with other expecting families for regular connection and support!

Options for different budgets

Don’t let finances get in the way of an informed, empowered labor and birthing experience. You deserve access to easy-to-understand, high-quality education and support in understanding your options as you move through the joys and challenges of pregnancy. Find out about the costs of online birth classes and the best options for your budget below.

Monthly subscription or payment plan

Since everyone starts their prenatal education at a different time, a monthly subscription is one of the best options for families who want to manage their costs on a rolling basis and are interested in longer term benefits of health education. This option also helps to plan ahead and even turn a subscription on or off as convenient to the customer. Since pregnancy lasts about 10 months and many people who sign up for online birthing classes also seek out postpartum education, the monthly subscription also creates some room for flexibility and planning around what kind of learning and support you want to do.

Some longer or scheduled programs ask for a full fee up front and longer-term commitment, but there may be payment plans available for students who want to break out their education budget into smaller chunks. Ask about your options before committing to an online birth class so you can avoid any unwanted costs and make the most of your investment! 

One time purchase, regular or early bird

If you opt to sign up for a weekend intensive or multi-week series, you can usually expect to pay a few hundred dollars or more to cover the cost of instruction, materials, and time answering questions or completing other services included. Private educators offer courses and workshops based on their practice costs and regional standards. Larger companies or pre-recorded curriculums that don’t offer payment plans or subscriptions might also ask for a full fee up front. In either case, sometimes early bird discounts for scheduled classes are offered, or scholarships may be available to certain members of a community. It’s worth investigating your options because whether it's $100 or $1000, an investment in a quality birthing class is also an investment in your health, and you and your family’s well-being are 100% worth it.

Public and insured options

Public free options for childbirth education are more limited, but they are available - the most robust of these programs tend to be run by local community health workers and are often designed to specifically address economic and racial disparities or otherwise boost public health by way of socially supported programming. Many of these community-based services are donation-funded or rely on state grants, so if you do not rely on these options, consider how you might support their availability for others! 

Hospitals, of course, do offer tours and sometimes also offer classes to their registered patients. If you are birthing at a local facility that offers these, it’s important to find out options early and to register ahead of time and because they tend to fill up quickly or have limited scheduling. It’s great to take advantage of free facility-specific classes, but recognize that the course content may be limited to describing that specific hospital’s protocols, the experience and skill of the teacher may vary, and some aspects of the session may be influenced by marketing priorities more so than evidence-based, culturally appropriate or personally relevant education.

Don’t let the possible costs of a quality online birth class get in your way - as the benefits of quality childbirth education and doula care become more widely appreciated, more and more insurance plans are covering these services as preventative, cost-saving, family-focused measures. This includes Seven Starling - get in touch with us today to find out how you can get reimbursed for up to three months of our comprehensive prenatal and postpartum service and online classes.

Selected Sources

Jessalyn Ballerano
Certified Childbirth Educator & Doula
Jessalyn (she/her) is a Childbirth Educator and Doula serving families in the San Francisco Bay Area, nationwide, and in her new home of Eugene, Oregon. She started studying birth in 2010 as an anthropologist, and often brings a systemic approach to helping birthing people to understand their options, experiences and possibilities. She integrates evidence-based training and research with a holistic mindset and an activist’s passion for reproductive empowerment. Jessalyn serves on the board for the Oakland Better Birth Foundation, where birthworkers, birthing people, and care providers work together to end preventable maternal and infant mortality and address racial disparities in health care. Jessalyn is a CAPPA-Certified Childbirth Educator, SMC Full-Circle Doula.
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