The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Knowledge Is Power
Ironically, the more birth becomes medicalized, the more important it is to take a good class. "Everyone thinks they've prepared well, and the doctor or midwife will give you a song and dance about having the delivery you want," says Dunham, who was induced with her first baby. "But labor is notoriously variable, and situations arise that require decisions." That's where you reap the dividends of having had a teacher who explained each possible intervention and showed you how to be your own advocate.
"Most women would attend classes if they knew labor preparation is not about teaching women to 'breathe,'" Crenshaw maintains. "It's about building confidence, exploring birth options and making informed decisions that contribute to a satisfying labor and delivery." For example, surveys have found that most women who receive epidurals are not properly informed of the risks, she says. "It's easy to choose something if you think it will decrease pain but has no consequences," Crenshaw explains.
While there's no perfect labor-prep class, it's worth looking for one that answers your needs and suits your personality (see "Labor-Prep Schools," next page). If you're highly anxious, you might consider HypnoBirthing. If you're interested in learning as much as you can about the birthing process, you might prefer to study with a Lamaze or a Bradley teacher. Or, like Cara Drinan, you may want to hedge your bets. "I didn't put all my chips on the class," she says. "I'd already hired a doula."