Preparation for childbirth: how does it work?

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When to start childbirth classes? What are we going to talk about? Haptonomy, classical session, yoga or sophrology … Which method to choose? All the answers to the questions you have about preparing for childbirth.

The childbirth preparation course are recommended for all future mothers, whether or not a first pregnancy. On average, women follow 7 childbirth preparation classes in addition to the early prenatal maintenance offered at the start of pregnancy. How are the childbirth preparation course ? What is the support? What place do future dads hold? We guide you.

It is generally advisable to register early enough after pregnancy begins to get a place in the course of your choice. Some maternity wards have many women who wish to attend and, to prepare the groups, they must plan their staff in advance. No question of waiting until the eighth month of pregnancy to be interested. Especially since the childbirth preparation courses do not only deal with childbirth. “These are courses on the whole pregnancy and even after, explains Marie Kissner, midwife at the Morlaix hospital. It talks about the evils of pregnancy as well as the epidural and obviously also childbirth. “ It all starts with an early individual interview, which usually takes place in the 4th month of pregnancy. The future mother meets a midwife who dispenses childbirth preparation course. During this interview, the mother will be able to speak freely about her pregnancy, her life as a couple, her work, but also her fears and expectations with these preparation courses. Group lessons can then begin. “Most often, they start classes at the start of their maternity leave, around 7 and a half months of pregnancy. The class time is not necessarily compatible with their work,” explains Marie Kissner. Note that certain collective agreements allow women to attend before maternity leave on simple proof.

Social security covers 100% of the costs of 8 conventional childbirth preparation sessions for all women. It is sometimes possible to take a course after childbirth, for advice on taking care of your baby. Recall that the first session corresponds to the early prenatal maintenance offered to women in early pregnancy.

Each maternity unit is free to offer its own program. However, you will address the following questions, related to the course of your pregnancy and childbirth.

  • 1st lesson theme : the pregnancy. Baby development and body changes, hygiene during pregnancy, minor pregnancy ailments, medical follow-up, pregnancy symptoms and reasons requiring consultation, how to recognize a contraction, etc.
  • 2nd lesson theme : practical questions. The contents of the suitcase for maternity, the administrative papers to prepare, the examinations, other formalities, etc.
  • Theme of 3rd course : work. Signs of the onset of labor, labor supervision, epidural, induction of childbirth, expulsion, etc.
  • 4th lesson theme : Cesarean section. Indications, scheduled cesarean, different anesthesia, etc.
  • Theme of the 5th course: delivery and postpartum surveillance.
  • Theme of the 6th course: welcoming the newborn.
  • 7th lesson theme : the stay for mom, for baby and breastfeeding.
  • Theme of the 8th course: back to home.

Unless you choose a liberal midwife who sometimes practices individual sessions, childbirth preparation courses are most often held in groups.Women are a bit shy at first, explains Marie Kissner, but quickly they feel comfortable, discuss and ask almost all questions. “ Do you think that the lessons consist only of imitating the breathing of the little dog for an hour? Well you are wrong. Generally, the course is divided into a theoretical part and a practical part. “The first is to explain all the events that can happen during the end of pregnancy. The courses follow the course of the pregnancy, for example the small evils of the pregnancy or the epidural“explains Marie Kissner, midwife. The second part of the course is reserved for exercises.”We can use rugs, balloons or cushions to teach expectant mothers how to relieve back pain, for example, during pregnancy. But we don’t teach them how to breathe the little dog, it’s only in the movies! On the other hand, explains Marie Kissner, we explain to them how to breathe through the belly, how to push, etc. to be ready on D-Day. ”

In order to avoid surprises on D-Day, the courses cover the progress of childbirth. More often than not, expectant mothers can visit the work rooms and meet the healthcare teams.

The classic preparation for childbirth

Called preparation for painless childbirth or obstetric psychoprophylaxis, it is the most known technique. She teaches mom everything she needs to know to best manage her delivery since she knows what to expect. Women learn gestures, positions, to facilitate work and manage the pain of contractions. You will learn for example that inhaling and exhaling deeply helps to develop the abdominal strap and, on the day of delivery, to better oxygenate the uterine muscle fibers. This again helps to alleviate any painful sensations and accelerate baby’s progress. Not to mention that by “fixing” your attention on your breath, you divert it from the suffering felt. Certain positions (on the side, squatting, back to the wall) also favor work. Massages in the lower back (practiced by your spouse) can help you get over it more easily.

Water aerobics

Pregnant women appreciate this method because, in the water, they feel lighter. Weightlessness is therefore an advantage for these future mothers, who can then perform the exercises with more flexibility and above all without fear of a painful fall. At the same time, immersion promotes rest and relaxation. During this moment of intimacy with the baby, the mother calmly prepares for the birth. The pool preparation can start in the fifth month until birth. Each must participate at their own pace. However, this type of preparation for childbirth is not reimbursed by social security. Expecting mothers perform numerous muscular and respiratory exercises intended to relieve pain, dissipate fatigue and relax. That is to say: toning the abdominal and dorsal muscles, softening the perineum, stretching, simulating the push, working the opening of the pelvis, the breath, learning to relax and adapt to the effort . The pressure of the water is also a most pleasant massage for heavy legs, especially as it promotes blood circulation. It is also a good way to continue a gentle and safe physical activity during pregnancy.


Haptonomy or “science of affectivity” aims to help parents bond with and communicate with their unborn child. By contact with the stomach, parents communicate with their child. The father is very invested in this technique, especially to have a place of support during childbirth. Check with your maternity hospital to find out if it offers this practice, which takes place in intimacy, with a midwife. Massages, caresses, pressures manage to modify the muscular tone of the future mother and contribute to the relaxation of all her muscles, including those of the perineum and the uterus. On the day of delivery, the mother understands and feels her baby, which allows her to accompany the birth and not to “expel”.


This method is based on the awareness of his body in order to get to know each other better and therefore learn to react better to the unexpected in life. For pregnant women, this technique can help them understand the physical and psychological changes linked to pregnancy, but also reduce stress and pain. Relaxation and suggestion exercises cause a state of consciousness close to sleep and daydreaming, which helps to tame the sensations to come. These new psychological arrangements then make it possible to control her delivery and above all not to become a mere spectator. You can start as early as the last trimester of pregnancy. The eight sessions take place either in groups or individually and are led by a midwife. Each participant performs the exercises with their eyes closed while sitting or standing. Note that eight sessions are reimbursed 100% by social security and this from 7th month of pregnancy. Before this date, only 70% of the costs are covered (knowing that the prices are around 15 euros).

Prenatal yoga

For over 2,000 years, yoga has become a philosophy of life. Achieving to be Zen and in harmony with your body and mind are the objectives of this method. A method which can therefore be totally suitable for avoiding the minor ailments of pregnancy which sometimes have a psychological origin (back pain, insomnia, heavy legs, nausea). The ideal: start at the start of pregnancy. You can continue without problem until the end. The sessions last about an hour. It’s up to you to find a rhythm adapted to your needs. The prenatal yoga sessions take place in maternity if the establishment offers a preparation based on the principles of yoga or in private lessons. With a midwife, eight sessions are reimbursed 100% while with a yoga teacher, you will have to get your hands on the wallet. For more information, ask your maternity.

The Bonapace method

This Canadian method aims to decrease the intensity of pain during childbirth thanks to the intervention of the future dad. The Bonapace method can be practiced from the sixth month of pregnancy and combines finger pressure and relaxation. The future father puts his fingers, without using needles, on the acupuncture points, located at the feet, hands, back. He can thus, according to this method, relieve the mother by making small pressures on different parts of her body.

Other methods: Tai-chi, Shiatsu, self-hypnosis, fasciatherapy, Pilate method, prenatal singing.

When the baby is born prematurely or the mother has not had the time or the desire to attend classes, how does it work? Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter: “Even if the women visit the premises and meet the teams, these courses are above all theoretical, it will never be like reality. Besides, even those who have already given birth the first time, they cannot know how their second delivery is going to take place!“Because if the preparation courses are useful for answering questions or reassuring future mothers, that does not mean that they are essential!”It does not matter in itself not to have attended, the main thing is that the woman can spot the contractions and come to the maternity ward. The courses are used in particular to learn to manage stress and pain. But anyway, some women who have attended classes come to the maternity hospital so stressed that they can no longer remember what they learned in class!“No worries then. The midwives will tell you everything whether or not you have taken the courses.”Explaining to women the course of events reassures them on D-Day, but in addition it is part of our job to do so and help them during these times“, adds Marie Kissner.

Future dads experience pregnancy differently, but they’re no less curious to understand what’s going on. Besides, future fathers are also invited to participate in the courses. “However, as classes are most often held in the middle of the day, few future dads can attend.“Some maternities offer in their program a course for couples or specifically dedicated to future dads. “There are also courses specially reserved for men: future dads can ask their questions, midwives can explain when to go to the maternity ward, how to reassure the mother, etc. Men often have questions very practical“These courses also allow future dads to reassure themselves before the day of delivery. Men can see the different instruments that will be used during childbirth, but also ask questions about their concerns, which they do not do. not necessarily in the presence of the expectant mother In public hospitals, these courses are free, ask your maternity to find out more.

Your doctor has told you: you are going to give birth by cesarean. Suddenly, you wonder if you should take the preparation classes for childbirth. The answer is yes. “The first reason is that during these lessons, we do not only learn how to give birth vaginally! All forms of childbirth are discussed. Second reason: the lessons allow you to learn to spot contractions. And even if you have to have a cesarean, you have contractions! Third reason: in some cases, when women arrive at maternity and even when a caesarean was initially planned, if labor is already advanced, these women may sometimes have to give birth by vagina “, explains the midwife. Childbirth classes therefore allow women to know all the situations that may arise. Thus, even if an unforeseen event disrupts the planned procedure (cesarean section), the woman will have the concepts to manage it. In addition, midwives know about cesareans, so they can also answer questions and concerns of expectant mothers on the subject. Another advantage of these courses is the exchange between expectant mothers. Because these courses are also for those who have already given birth. You can therefore meet women who have had a cesarean and who can reassure you, for example. Cesarean section is therefore not a good reason for absence from class.

When one has already given birth, the question of whether or not to follow childbirth preparation during the next pregnancy may arise. For Marie Kissner, midwife, the answer is nuanced: “It all depends on the woman. Sometimes she comes because she wants answers to her questions during her new pregnancy. Because not all pregnancies take place in the same way! Other women come back to share their first experience with expectant mothers.“Social security allows each pregnancy to follow these courses, no difference between expectant mothers. As these courses are not compulsory, it is up to the woman to take the process or not to register and to get there. “Many women also come back for the relaxation part of the lessons which is very important during pregnancy“Pregnant women appreciate these moments of relaxation which allow them to breathe for a few minutes and learn relaxation techniques.

* Interview conducted in 2011.

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