This past Tuesday, Alex and I attended our first 'Baby Class'. Like anything else associated with babies, it seems that there is an abundance of choices when it comes to childbirth education classes, should you choose to attend one. The most common choices are Lamaze (taught at most hospitals and by independent instructors), Bradley Method, International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA), HypoBabies, ALACE, CAPPA and more.
Ultimately, we decided to go with the Bradley Method. It's very similar to Lamaze in that the goal is to have as natural a birth process as possible (least medical intervention) and focuses on a coach (usually the partner) offering support to the woman. As far as I can determine, the main difference to Lamaze is that there is no emphasis on heavy breathing or other distraction techniques. Rather, the woman is encouraged to accept the pain of labor as part of the process. It's a simple approach and from what I've read so far, it can more or less be boiled down to "yes, labor hurts, but a woman's body is designed to deal with it."
Our impressions from the first class are mixed. The format was nice and welcoming. A private instructor leads each 2 1/2 hour class for 8 or so couples at a private location (in our case, a leased lounge at a medical office). It's nice to not be at a hospital and the atmosphere is relaxed and open to questions. On the down side, the tone of instruction (at least at the first class) was much more directive than instructive. Our first class was on breastfeeding and after this session it was clear the instructor thought formula was some kind of poison! However, some fanaticism should be expected from someone who has chosen to teach courses like this. That aside, it was nice to go to an 'event' together that focused on preparing for our little girl and hopefully it will become a nice weekly ritual for us.