Berkeley Parents Network
Google Custom Search
Home Members Post a Msg Reviews Advice Subscribe Help/FAQ What's New

Childbirth Prep Classes

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Classes & Lessons > Childbirth Prep Classes

Questions List of reviews

McMoyler Method Birth Class

April 2010

Hi there, My OB recommended the McMoyler Method birth class to my husband and I. I'm wondering if there are any couples who have taken this class and are willing to share their thoughts and feedback. The class seems relatively new and I haven't see any reviews or postings on BPN. Our preference is to have a natural hospital birth but we are not opposed to medical intervention if deemed necessary during labor. Did you feel like the McMoyler class was adequate preparation for a natural birth? We also plan to have a doula at the hospital with us. thank you! lisa

My husband and I took the McMoyler Classes in 2007 with the upcoming birth of our first child and found them to be very good. In fact, when our 2nd child was born in November, we found ourselves referencing McMoyler's material again to refreshen our memories of what to expect and do. She is fun, realistic, open and honest. We thought the whole program was useful, helpful and entertaining. Hope you find them as positive of an experience as we did. Good luck and enjoy the journey! sc scoles
Hi there, my husband and I took the classes 2 years ago for our first baby and I thought it was great. It really depends on your partner though. Sarah McMoyler was a nurse and really focuses on explaining what is going to happen in the birth experience, how you are going to feel, and what to expect from figuring out breast feeding. She really tries to get the partner to try to understand the pain you are going to experience and how to help you get through it. My partner was very glad he took the classes and has nothing but good things to say about it. But he has to have a sense of humor since she jokes and teases the males in the group to try to engage them. Several of the women in the class and myself almost peed ourselves with laughter during the exercises. There is one empathy exercise to try to make the males understand even somewhat the pain you are going to have with natural childbirth that was the most rewarding thing for me! I have even made other expecting parents try it (who did not have access to the class). I am sure there are classes with different focuses. This one assumes that you are going to have a successful natural birth- but tries to get you to understand the end result should be a healthy mom and baby. Heather Thornsley

Alta Bates - Preparing for a newborn

March 2010

My ob-gyn gave me a whole write-up with general advice to first-time expecting parents and it mentions two classes offered at Alta Bates, one for childbirth prep and another for caring for a newborn.

It's not very clear what gets covered (things we may already know from other parents, friends, or the books we are reading). Also, the classes last only a few hours and cost $130 each. Healthnet doesn't seem to cover the cost.

If you have an opinion on how useful these classes were, or were able to get by without them, we'd appreciate your experience. Do you know of any lower-cost alternatives?

If the dismal job market was kinder to us, we wouldn't be thinking much about taking these classes, but unfortunately we do. Jodi

I took both the childbirth and newborn classes at Alta Bates. My oldest is now 8 so my memory is a little hazy. Definitely skip the newborn class. There is SO much info out there (friends, books, web, your pediatrician) that it is not worth it. The childbirth class also, for us, was not worth it because I ended up with an unplanned c-section, and c-sections are basically not covered in the class at all. The childbirth class DID help allay fears about labor and delivery, but again I think if you 'do your homework' about what to expect the class will not be necessary. Liz O.
Call HealthNet and ask if they are covered. I had HealthNet HMO and took childbirth, nursing, and sibling classes there and all 3 were covered. It makes sense--you have fewer dr visits if you know when NOT to come in. I would verify that they are or are not covered before you decide. Sue
I took both the childbirth and parenting classes at Alta Bates and I thought they were fantastic. I read a lot of books and websites but I personally needed the classes to really focus on what I needed to know. The instructors were excellent--even in all-day intensive courses, they kept my attention and were very very knowledgeable, approachable, fun, reassuring, etc. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

But if cost is an issue, the free 'dealing with pain' workshop and the free tour also covered some overlapping information and both were also excellent. Good luck! recent alta bates 'grad'

Twin childbirth classes?

Dec 2009

I have read the many recommendations for childbirth classes and didn't see anything for twin births. Assuming i can try for a natural delivery (based on baby ''A'''s position), i am hoping to take a class with my husband from a teacher who has experience with twin vaginal deliveries. Any recommendations? In addition.....i am scheduled to see Dr. Arzou Ahsan for prenatal care and would like to hear current experiences with her and her practice with regards to natural delivery,and, if any twin moms out there have had her as their OB and how she was for you. thanks! Really, twins?!

I presume both of your babies are vertex/vertex .... You may get responses from people knowing of prenatal/childbirth classes for multiple gestations -- but any class for singleton pregnancies will give you basic information about the mechanics of labor and birth. Pushing two babies out is just more tiring than pushing out one :) (What? There's ANOTHER one in there? :) ) But the way is paved by the first and the second may come much more quickly - or your uterus will decide it needs a rest in between. I'm not sure what you are looking for .... Just know beforehand that you won't have a nice, noninterventive birth-center type birth -- multiple gestation increases the risk (this is real and not medical scare tactics) and you may be advised to get a labor epidural on board, in case of need for a crash C/S for one of the babies. Labor may initiate and progress without intervention without pitocin. But you will be monitored. You will have an IV access. You will also be pushing in the OR with a C/S table ready to be opened in case of emergency, and there will be double infant resuscitation set up, double the amount of NICU staff for the babies. Once the second baby is out, everyone will chill out and extra staff will leave the room.

That said, the staff will be very supportive of you and will make the experience as great as possible. (I presume you will birth at Alta Bates - Dr Ashan is awesome, I used to work with her -- good choice!) You will be able to nurse fairly quickly afterwards, bond, those very important things, provided babies don't need to go to the NICU. Good luck! L&D RN

My husband and I took the 4-week childbirth class at Alta Bates (with Jennifer Subasic Marks) and though I was the only one pregnant with twins, the class met my needs, emphasizing natural childbirth, while educating about medical options, and the instructor was good about adding in various caveats about the twin situation (e.g., you're required to deliver (and the very end of labor) in the O.R. at Alta Bates with twins, even for natural/vaginal births, you're generally more monitored, etc.) Wherever you take the class, I would really recommend taking it early, much earlier than with a singleton pregnancy. It's much more common to have an earlier birth and/or to go on bedrest in a twin pregnancy. I ended up on complete bedrest at 29 weeks, so if I hadn't taken a class already I'd have been out of luck on that front. Plus, even if not on bedrest (hopefully not!), you'll likely be less mobile toward the end.

Dr. Ahsan wasn't my doctor and I never met her, but she is in the practice I worked with, and I've had experiences with most of the other docs. (Any of which, depending on who's on duty that night/day, might deliver your baby). There's one doc I don't like, but the others are really good. Dr. Thomas (who I hadn't met before that day) delivered my twins vaginally (though I did have an epidural, due to needing to be induced w pitocin after water breaking). They all seem to have a fair amount of twin experience in that practice and everyone was supportive of my desire to have a vaginal birth (if the babies were head down, which they were).

Good luck! And be sure to join twins by the bay or your local twins group-- it really helps! proud mama of twins

It's not a class on the mechanics of childbirth per se, but The Tulip Grove does a great class on surviving the first year with twins. Good luck! Twin mom

Birthways vs. Alta Bates for childbirth prep class

Oct 2009

Hi. My husband and I preparing for the birth of our first child in January! We have decided to definitely work with a doula, and we have many friends who have shared their birth stories with us, so we feel somewhat comfortable with what we might expect. Also, we feel glad to have a doula, a non-hospital advocate who will support us through the process...However, in terms of taking a prep class, we are debating between the Alta Bates one-day intensive which would certainly present the hospital-slant, but sounds very thorough nonetheless - OR - a six-week Birthways childbirth prep course. The one-day seems great because it's efficient; however, the Birthways courses seem wonderful, and we like that they prepare you for how to navigate the hospital procedures, etc. Any advice on what route to take? Thank you! Emily

we were torn between a class at Birthways, hypnobirthing and Bradley. In the end we chose Bradley with Sabine in Berkeley. Couldn't have been happier with our choice. She is a wonderful teacher who makes it interesting and useful. We also had a wonderful doula who was a valuable asset in the hospital for my husband. However I think the time we dedicated to preparing for the birth was the most useful thing we did. We had a natural (non-medicated) birth and it didn't happen by accident. Showing up every week really makes you think about the process. anon
If you want to be able to successfully navigate the hospital and its protocols during labor, I highly recommend the Bradley method. It's 12 weeks and oh so worth it. Sabine Henrie (510-843-2091) is an excellent teacher in the East Bay area.
I am a doula and I usually recommend to all my couples that they participate in a longer-series childbirth class. There's a lot of information to cover, and it's better to have extra time to let it sink in and consider the information. Sometimes classes give homework, such as mindful awareness practice, or breathing exercises, that are better to practice over a longer span of time. More preparation the better!

In addition, these classes are the first great resource for meeting new families with babies the same age as your own. Forming a positive parenting community is very important, especially for first time parents. Even if you connect with only one couple in your class, that's great! Maybe from that one couple you will meet another like-minded family, and so on and so on until you have a nice little new mom/dad group going!

I don't know if you've already chosen a doula yet, but if you have, you may want to ask her what her recommendations are. Good luck! laurel

If you really want to learn about childbirth and really be ready invest the time. My girlfriend did a one day prep course with her husband and during labor he gave her the deer caught in headlights look. Believe me, that's not what you want. In my opining the best prep for what to expect is a Bradley course. They will take you through EVERYTHING, the stages of labor, hospital practices, drugs, c-sections, exercises, labor positions, etc. They really teach you how to be your own advocate and make it the birth you want. I think another huge benefit was seeing birth after birth after birth in class. It really takes the mystery out of birthing and makes the process seem very natural no matter how you do it. I puked with both my kids but it's totally normal. That little gem would have worried me had I not been ready for it. Sorry if you feel that is TMI but it's birth, you should get over it now. And if you have never seen a live birth you should before you go in. A story is one thing, watching the thing actually unfold is a totally different experience. I wouldn't say Bradley is strong in teaching relaxation technique but that is part of your homework, so you really get what you put in. If you want the natural drug free birth you need to invest the time to mentally prepare yourself and your partner. Your doula can only take you so far if you, yourself are not prepared for what your body is going to go through. Ellen Klima was our teacher and is a doula. She was wonderful. My advice is invest the time in this once in a lifetime experience. Bradley Advocate
I highly recommend the 6 week childbirth class at Birthways, we took the class with Nickie Tilsner. We wanted a natural drug free childbirth and used a doula. Birthways is definitely slanted in that direction and our instructor was a very knowledgeable doula. I met a great group of moms in that class formed a mom's group. anon

Birthways vs. Kaiser for childbirth prep class

May 2009

Can anyone recommend good childbirth preparation classes? We are considering those offered at Kaiser Oakland and Birthways and open to other suggestions. It's our first child and we're interested in natural techniques, but an open-minded approach. We're also interested in meeting other new-parent couples. We thought we might meet more like-minded people (and more local) at Birthways than at Kaiser but we're not sure it's worth the extra expense. Thanks!

I took the Birthways 3-weekend class ('Childbirth Preparation Intensive') last fall with Constance. A midwife at Kaiser actually recommended that I NOT take the Kaiser class! She thought I would get a better perspective on natural childbirth in the Birthways class. I had a drug-free delivery after laboring in the water tub, so I can't argue with the results. The extra expense is not that immense, since Kaiser's childbirth classes aren't free. I can't say that we learned anything earth-shattering in the class, it was just a supportive environment where we covered the basics. The Birthways class also convinced me to hire a doula, which ended up being a blessing. Mary
Hi there- You didn't mention it, but have you considered Bradley Method? I took the course and I feel like it prepared me incredibly well for labor. If anything, I felt like I really knew what to expect with this huge ''unknown'' event that was about to take place. Bradley Method focuses on knowing what to expect and how to cope, so that the ultimate goal is to go drug-free. For some reason or another, it is not always possible to do so, and this method does not ''berate'' you for that. More than anything it prepares you for the journey so that you are able to do your best!

We met some great couples in the class and we still get together all of the time - even now that our little ones are 7-8 months old, and I see our kids growing up together.

The class takes a lot of dedication - about 8 weeks, and focuses on ''Husband Coached Childbirth'' - so both partners should be present for each class. It really is a great way to get actively involved in what is about to be one of the biggest events of your life! Drop me an email if you would like more info! Caroline

My husband and I are Kaiser members, and we took both the Kaiser classes (free) and a 10 week Bradley Method class with Sabine Henrie in Berkeley ( The two experiences were like night and day. The Kaiser class skims the surface. I still think you should take those classes, because if you are going to give birth at Kaiser, that will give you some insight into the ''Kaiser'' approach to birth, but the Bradley Method classes we took were amazing and full of so much rich information, not only on preparation for birth, pain management, possible drugs, possible positions, but also all the emotional issues that come up between you and your partner, nursing issues, caring for your newborn, resources, etc. etc. It was really amazing and so was our teacher. It is not just for people who want a ''drug-free'' birth, because all the preparation you do will help you if you are in a situation where it is too early for medication. With the classes we both felt more more emotionally prepared and educated to make decisions for ourselves. I was going to go drug-free, but with unforeseen complications, I was able to navigate my way through a myriad of issues without freaking out or giving in to the pressures of more stronger medication/cesarean. Contact me if you want to talk more. Elisabeth
I'm a Kaiser member who decided to do the childbirth class at Birthways and I was very happy with my choice. When I started my prenatal care at Kaiser Oakland I was told that I HAD to enroll in the first pregnancy class (I forget the exact name, it was about the first trimester.) It was a waste of my time and I was angry that I'd been made to go. The later classes might be of higher quality but I had such a negative impression that I didn't want to enroll in them. I feel that Kaiser, coming from a public health perspective, 1) targets a very wide audience and therefore assumes you know nothing and spends large amounts of time imparting very basic information; 2) has large classes; and 3) assumes that common medical practice is the only way to do things.

I liked that Birthways had smaller classes and wasn't associated with a hospital. Because the teachers are doulas, they have experience with local hospitals and can tell you what are common practices but also what your options are. I also felt that I was treated as an individual with my own hopes/fears for my birth experience, which I didn't feel at Kaiser. There was a lot of information on the physical aspects of birth, medical practices and questions to ask at the hospital, and a range of coping strategies. I felt like the class emphasized supporting drug-and intervention-free births, which is something I wanted. The class at Birhways definitely eased my fears about birth and gave me overall positive feelings about the entire process. And I absolutely used some of the techniques I learned during my labor. Laura

I highly recommend taking the Kaiser childbirth prep class at the hospital you plan to give birth at. We took it in summer 08 prior to our baby's birth in Sept. 08. Both my husband and I thought it was useful, he maybe more so. It covers both medicated and non-medicated pain control options and does not give undue weight to either. (We were and are fans of natural childbirth, and that's what our son's birth was.) It is very helpful to know what Kaiser wants you to know going into your birth, whether it works out that way or not! Also it is fun to then run into the other couples on the maternity ward (two others were there at the same time, one in the same room as us!) and in the Kaiser moms group. Regardless of taking the Birthways class or getting a doula or whatever, take every class Kaiser offers! Kaiser Mom
I got sooo much out of Betsy Appell's Zen Hypno-Birthing Class ( She increased my confidence, was savvy to hospital and home births, and it was such a calming, relaxing environment to come to each week. We Learned breathing skills, positions, partner exercises, and more! She's a fabulous teacher and as my midwife did a beautiful job catching my baby! Courtney
Try looking at Loving Arms childbirth prep classes. The class is 8 weeks long and includes breastfeeding and newborn care/postpartum. Me and my husband took this series in Spring/Summer 2006 and they were very thorough, interesting and useful. They provide a mix of ideas that they have put together after YEARS in the birth business which gives these classes lots of credibility (in my opinion). These classes definitely lean towards natural childbirth, so if you are interested in learning how to get an epidural as quickly as possible, or scheduling a c-section this series is probably not for you.

Everyone I know who has taken these classes would provide rave reviews.

Contact Janaki Costello for enrollment at (510) 525-1155

By the way, in case you didn't know, she is THE lactation consultant around these parts and teaches a fabulous session on breastfeeding. susie

I didn't see the original post, but wanted to share my experience. I took the Kaiser class (in Oakland) in late 2006 and was very pleased w/ it. The class of 8 couples (not too big in my opinion) was taught by a doula who regularly works at Kaiser - so got a good perspective on what to expect at Kaiser, but also perspectives from a doula on what they do and strategies for a drug-free birth.

I agree that the class doesn't go into a lot of detail on pain management, if you want a drug-free birth it's worth investing in a class that focuses on that or in a doula. I'm surprised by the number of negative responses to the class - I have to think that the quality must vary by the teacher/facility - so may be hard to predict in advance what you'll get? I never felt pressured to take the Kaiser class - but due to poor planning on my part didn't have any (affordable) alternatives.

One option would be to do a non-Kaiser birth class and take the labor and delivery tour at the facility in which you're delivering. The L&D tour is free and covers the logistics of how the hospital works and things like when you should call/come in (ended up working well for me as a refresher for #2), which are important details to be comfortable with before you go into labor. Kaiser's not so bad

Free Childbirth prep classes?

Jan 2009

hi there, can anyone recommend a childbirth preparation class that is free or almost free? I would like to have a natural, unmedicated birth with only the absolutely necessary medical interventions. I have seen many childbirth classes that look good but are simply unaffordable to me at this time. Our baby is due in a couple of months. thanks!

While I can't point you to a free class I do have a suggestion. If you can't afford a class consider self study. Susan McCutcheon's ''Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way'' (while a little dated in tone) offers a great structured way for a couple to prepare for an unmedicated birth. I'm also a huge fan of ''Birthing from Within'' which features a large number of techniques with guidance on how to learn them with your partner (it is worth noting, however, that the authors of BFW are a bit hostile towards anything Bradley but I still find they can be used in tandem.) And, finally, Ina Mae Gaskin's ''Ina Mae's Guide to Childbirth'' provides both the lessons of a very experienced midwife and the stories of many other women. Those 3 books taken together could well be used to create a home study program for yourself. Good luck! a Berkeley Bradley teacher, SabineH

Inexpensive Childbirth classes

Jan 2006

Hi, I'd love to do a childbirth class that gives an alternative view to the hospital one we did with our first child - hypnobirthing or Lamaze. However, we just can't afford $300+ for a series of classes. Are there any more reasonably priced ones around? Anon

Use a Doula in training for a more inexpensive option! Answers
I would highly recommend the birthing class at Yogalayam on Alcatraz Ave in Berkeley. Saraswathi Devi teaches this 3-session class. It is a really wonderful, intimate experience with your partner that focuses on breathing and positions. I don't remember the exact cost but it was much less than the others. We only made it to two sessions and still found them to be very helpful. The # is: 655-3664. Best of luck, Suzanne
Hi- I am a hypnobirthing instructor and I'd love to help you in any way that I can. Please contact me if you would like to talk- feel free to e-mail or call Hope to hear from you!! Cecilia cmlindslp[at]
Check with Waddle and Swaddle on Shattuck, in Berkeley. If anyone would know, they would. You can check out their site at cemeallen
I'm a childbirth educator (Bradley Method) and I know many of us are very willing to get creative to make our classes accessible to anyone. In my case I have had students space out their payments over an extended period of time, and I'm also willing to work on a barter system (especially for computer/web site help, accounting, graphic design, massage therapy, etc.) Another idea, if a Bradley class in particular is of interest to you, is to take a class with a teacher in training (aka a Provisional instructor.) They tend to charge significantly less and yet you get the same 12 week class and all the materials. There is a provisional teacher just starting up in Berkeley. If you are interested in finding out more about that option please feel free to email me directly. SabineH
We took a great childbirth class that used mindfulness as a way to prepare for childbirth and parenting. It would be really interesting to do for your second child. it was great for both me and my husband. It definately helped during the birth, and even more importantly life with a newborn and infant. I am pretty sure the price is more than $300, but that the teacher (Nancy Bardacke, she's GREAT) is probably open to sliding scale. I would give her a call and see if she might be able to accomodate your budget. check out her website http:// Lisa
I have been a ''Teacher-in-Training'' for the Bradley method of childbirth. I hope to begin teaching in early February and will have reduced rates for my first couple of series. The Bradley Method teaches:

- Natural childbirth, which means avoidance of all drugs and interventions unless medically necessary.
- Excellent nutrition, the foundation of a healthy pregnancy
- Many different relaxation techniques
- Physiology of pregnancy, labor and birth
- Information about obstetrical practices including narcotics, commonly used substances, and interventions used to ''manage'' the labor and ''deliver'' the child
- How to handle unexpected situations such as emergency cesarean or out of hospital birth
- Postpartum care of mother and child
- Parents take responsiblity for the entire pregnancy and birth as informed consumers of the obstetrical service
- Classes are 12 weeks long, during which time the mother is in training for a major endurance event, labor and birth, and her partner is in training to coach her through it.

Instead of seeking to control the sensations of labor with distraction methods, you will learn exactly what will be happening in your body so that you can trust your body to do what it's made to do. Using natural breathing combined with different relaxation techniques, you and your coach will find what works best for you.

Please feel free to contact me if you are interested or have any questions. kwinkleman[at] Kim Winkleman

Saraswathi's yoga birth prep class at yogalayam was very valuable and a great value. 5 years ago it was $90 for a couple for 4 sessions and you could bring a doula or other birth team member too. jessweiss

Childbirth class that includes meditation/mindfulness

Aug 2005

My partner and I are looking for a childbirth class in the Bay Area that includes meditation/mindulness techniques. Please let me know of any recommendations and info. regarding length of course, price, and orientation/style of instructor. Thank you. Alexis

Try Nancy Bardacke's class - it is Mindfulness-Based Childbirth, or something like that. It is 9 evening classes, one all-day retreat, and a post-birth class. I can't remember how much it cost (it was more than 3 years ago), but it wasn't cheap... BUT it was definitely worth it.

Nancy does all the usual childbirth prep information, but she puts the whole thing into a context of a daily meditation practice, and uses that framework to get people to examine their fears about the whole thing, and learn to not freak out if something unexpected happens in the birth - i.e., be in the moment. She also has couples practice all these different meditation techniques to deal with pain, many of which were very helpful to me during labor. My son's birth ended up being wonderful and free of any panic. Not that things went the way I wanted them to, but it was okay that they didn't, and I felt at peace during the process.

Her website is Jen

Nancy Bardacke teaches a mindful birthing (and mindful parenting class) in Berkeley. Nancy was a guest on Childhood Matters, the parenting radio show I produce, and was just incredible. I plan on taking her next class in September. For more information about Nancy, see

If you'd like to hear our show all about Mindful Parenting, see http:// The show aired on February 27, 2005.

Hope that helps! Susan

For a mindfulness childbirth and parenting class I'd highly recommend Nancy Bardacke's courses. She is located in Berkeley near Telegraph and Alcatraz. You can find more information on her web page at

I believe she has two new classes starting in September. Give her a call and see if this is a good match for you. Her number is 510-595-3207. ~Kim

Have you thought about hypnobirthing? I found it to be much more in keeping with my own vision of birth (peaceful, mindful) than the more traditional methods (Bradley, Lamaze, etc.) More info at There are several local providers discussed in the BPN archives: or the people at can email you a list. The Nuture Center in Lafayette ( also has some good classes. JP
Check out

I took the one day class and highly recommend it, although I'm sure the longer classes are even better. I can't say enough about how great these techniques are or how much they helped me to get through my labor naturally.

Also, I noticed you said you and your partner. You might be straight people using an inclusive term, but if you're a lesbian couple I also strongly suggest that you check out the childbirth classes at Maia Midwifery, The classes are not mindfulness-based, but they also gave us something totally invaluable -- a community of other lesbian moms with babies the same age. Good luck! anon

Nancy Bardacke teaches an incredible class called ''mindfullness-based pregnancy,childbirth and parenting education.'' It's based on the work of John Kabat-Zinn and uses his book ''full catastrophe living'' as a resourse. It helped my husband and me tremendously. I highly recommend the class and I really loved Nancy's calm and supportive demeanor. Her # is 510.595.3207.
I would strongly recommend the mindfulness based childbirth classes I took in Berkeley with Nancy Bardacke. Finding a community of like-minded people to engage in childbirth classes with was what I believe most helped me to have the natural childbirth that I wanted. You can contact Nancy at 510-595-3207 or johanna

Birthing class for natural labor at Kaiser

May 2005

Hi, I am expecting our first child in mid September, and would like recs for Labor and Delivery prep classes. The BPN web archive has only dated recomendations (none less than 5 year past). I am enrolled with Kaiser and will be giving birth at the Oakland Hospital or, possibly, the Walnut Creek facility. I plan on taking KP's class, but wonder about alternatives and/or supplements to KP classes. Not sure what method I'm interested in either, but would like to labor as naturally as possible... none or least drugs and least ''clinical'' or pathologized as possible, given the reality of a hospital birth. thanks, Sara

If you don't have a particular birthing method in mind yet, I highly recommend you check out hypnobirthing and see if it's a fit for your philosophy. I found the pain-management and self- hypnosis techniques it teaches both practical and effective (had an awesome, natural childbirth) and really liked its view of birth as a natural process rather than a medical procedure. I'm pretty sure there are recommendations for specific providers on the BPN site. J
I took 2 birthing classes - Bradley and Hypnobirthing. It sounds like Bradley might be what you're looking for. It was a great 12 week series. The best thing we did in preparing for our birth. We took it in Berkeley from Sabine 843.2091. We learned the stages of birth, what labor looks like, what happens in a hospital, newborn info...and so much more. I planned a home birth, but had to transfer - but, had a natural, drug-free, vaginal birth. I also loved hypnobirthing, but it doesn't have the depth of info that Bradley had. lori
Try Nancy Bardacke's class ''Mind in Labor.'' She teaches both a one-day and a several-week class at CPMC in SF. I took the one day class. It was great! It was a huge factor in enabling me to have a natural birth. I learned how to breathe, how to watch a contraction so I could know when it was peaking and then subsiding, how to relax between contractions. And my partner learned how to support me. Highly recommended! anon
I delivered at KP Oakland in March and took both the KP birthing class and one through Birthways. I actually found that the KP birthing class was wonderful. The instructor was very knowledgeable, thorough, and engaging. The Birthways class was not bad, but in retrospect we would have been fine with just the KP class (we took the 2 Saturday Mornings option at Kaiser and the short option at Birthways).

Neither class promoted any single ''method'' and both classes were very pro-natural birth. The Birthways class was a tad more in depth (because it was a tad longer) but there was nothing very different presented. I think the classes were important 1) for me to be comfortable with what was going to happen with my body 2) for my partner to learn the techniques and 3) for my partner to learn how I respond to pain and soothing. Both classes did this. I remembered very little of what we learned during labor - it was my partner that remembered a lot of the breathing techniques (with some help from our doula). So for us it was important to choose a class/classes that had a format that my partner could digest and that would make me feel comfortable.

Also, the Birthways class included a breastfeeding day, but I found the KP breastfeeding class (offered separately) more thorough.

Good luck! Kaiser Mom

Last year I birthed my daughter and she birthed me as a mother...and thanks to the birthing class offered by Loving Arms Doulas (I think that is the name) I had a fabulous NATURAL birth experience with at home labor and in hospital birth. Call Janaki Costello she is listed) for class info. Natural Birth Mama
You might want to consider taking Bradley classes. My husband and I took the 12- week course with Sabine Henry ( last summer before our daughter was born and we really liked them. Bradley classes are oriented toward natural birth with an emphasis on being informed about the birth process and your ability to and responsibility for making your own choices throughout the process. The tagline for the Bradley method is ''husband-coached childbirth,'' which, aside from the slightly old-fashioned tone, is a philosophy that worked for me and my husband. Sabine is very warm, empathetic and open-minded. She holds the classes in her home in Berkeley and the environment is very casual and welcoming. The classes are good for people who are planning both home births and hospital births. Though it's a pretty big time commitment, we found that having time set aside each week to concentrate on preparing for the birth and the baby was really positive. Contact me if you want any more information. Sierra
Hi Sara~ Please be aware that hospital birthing classes are going to perpetuate the idea that normal birth needs to be medicalized, so they are bound to be slanted in agreement with hospital policies. Some really wonderful resources for empowering birth classes are the Nurture Center in Lafayette and the Birth and Bonding Center on Solano Ave in Albany. Waddle and Swaddle, a baby store in North Berkeley on Shattuck Ave also has great workshops: http:// Also, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is a must-read for any couple desiring a natural birth in any setting. Good luck! anon
I gave birth about 5 months ago, and would highly recommend taking a Bradley class. The Bradley method is a natural childbirth method, and focuses on relaxation techniques and partner coaching. The classes are 10 weeks long, so it is a commitment for you and your partner. There is a focus on nutrition, and a lot of education about what is going on in the body during pregnancy and labor. I was able to get through my labor without drugs (granted I had a relatively short first labor at 10 hours) and deliver an eight & a half pound baby. I give a lot of credit to the Bradley method, to my midwife and my supportive husband. The Bradley classes we took were with Ellen Klima at her house in Oakland. Her telephone is 510-530-8751. Ellen is very easygoing and supportive. I believe she is also a doula. Another bonus...we still hang out with most of the other new parents who took the class as well. Good luck.
My husband and I are taking a great birth class (ICEA approved) taught by an experienced doula and doula trainer named Carol Shattuck-Rice. The class is an eight-week series which includes newborn care and breastfeeding instruction. The methods taught and explored are based on 'Birthing From Within' by Pam England. Class is held in Albany (near Solano/San Pablo). Contact Janaki Costello 510-525-1155 for info. silver
Dear Sara,

I would recommend Sabina Henri as a local Bradley Method Instructor. My husband and I took her class last fall and learned so much! The Bradley Method definitely emphasized a drug-free birth and it also helps you think about diet and exercise during your pregnancy. What I liked about Sabine's class was that there was no right idea of what parents should be - black, white, old, young, folks with diabilities etc. All different types of couples signed up for the class all in the interest of being the best prepared for this life changing event.

I would strongly recommend Sabine. She is knowledgeable, sincere, dedicated and warm.

Here is her email if you want to contact her.

All the best, Amma

I highly recommend Nancy Bardacke's Mindful Childbirth classes. She teaches the regular birthing stuff, as well as some yoga and lots of meditation techniques that were incredibly helpful for me during labor, and still are as a parent. The class is quite a commitment (around 10 3-hour classes, one full day class, and a commitment to meditate for 1/2 hour per day) but well worth it. birthed in the moment, trying to parent in the moment.
Hi - If it is possible I recommend doing the class at the hospital *and* at somewhere more alternative. I would suggest that you check Birthways ( Another recommendation I have is to read some books, such as Birthing From Within, Ina Mae Gaskin's new one, Henci Goer's The Thinking Woman's Guide as a Better Birth.

in peace Samantha birth and postpartum doula for over 8 years Birthways Board Member Signed: Samantha

I would like to let you know about the Bradley method for birth preparation, which I took myself for the birth of my first child. You asked about natural methods, and the Bradley method is one which can prepare you for a natural birth. Bradley Method classes emphasize exercise and nutrition, informed decision making, deep relaxation and (perhaps most of all) a strong and loving relationship between the laboring woman and her partner as the keys to having as healthy and gentle a birth as possible. The classes provide both partners with a strong understanding of the way normal labor unfolds as well as covering a host of related topics such as anatomy of pregnancy, the wise use of intervention, post partum wellness, breastfeeding, early parenting and newborn decision making.

My friend, Sabine Henri, offers Bradley birth preparation classes from her home. The classes are kept small (5 couples max) so there's lots of time for questions and class discussion. Her space is cozy and conducive to a relaxed atmosphere. Students are encouraged to make connections with each other so they become supports for one another outside of class.

I know Sabine as a colleague and parent, and admire her integrity, warmth and knowledge in all that goes with birth preparation. Feel free to call her for more information at: 843-2091. Yvonne Mansell

I had a great experience with the Bradley Method of childbirth. The Bradley Method, if you aren't familiar with it, is a partner-coached method that emphasizes natural childbirth. It is great if you're looking for a noninterventionist approach. My husband and I did a Bradley class with Sabine Henrie in Berkeley. She was wonderful, warm, knowledgeable, and supportive. We highly recommend her class. Find out more about the Bradley Method at: Contact Sabine Henrie at (510)843-2091 or betsey
I gave birth in December of 2004 at Alta Bates in Berkeley, and went through some great classes there. Their web site is:

Unfortunately, their web site only lists the classes but does not give additional information. To sign up for classes, or hear more information about them, call (510) 204-1334 and leave a message. The office there is very good about calling people back. Specifically, I can highly recommend a childbirth educator there named Jennifer Subasic-Ross (not sure of the spelling of her last name) who teaches Childbirth Preparation and other classes. As first-time parents, we needed to know all kinds of things about taking care of a baby, and Jennifer's classes were thorough and very informative. The classes cost different amounts depending on the amount of time for each, but I felt the costs were reasonable given the amount of information we were getting. Each couple got a spiral-bound book to take home with even more information about this whole birth process.

All of the couples in my classes were giving birth at Alta Bates, but I don't believe the classes are exclusively for parents who are delivering there. Couples in the classes came from varying backgrounds: there were mixed-race couples, lesbian couples, older couples, etc.

Also, the group of about 10 sets of parents keeps in touch and meets occasionally for various events.


I'd like to recommend Nancy Bardacke's Mindful Birthing class: I too was hoping for a non-medicated hospital birth with no or few interventions, and found Nancy's class very helpful. It's a bit more of a committment than some classes--it's 9 weeks long and includes an all day meditation retreat--and perhaps focuses more on emotional preparation for birth than physical or medical. But, while I did feel prepared physically, I found the practice of mindfulness even more important during labor and birth. And both my husband and I continue to find it useful in parenting our now almost two year old. As an added bonus, many of the couples in our class keep in touch and have become good friends. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. Best of luck with your birth! eowyn
One thing to consider re Birthing Classes and limited if any use of pain killers during the delivery..... I held out a long time before drugs during the birth of my child because of A Lot of material I read that advocated ''drug free'' birth for an optimum delivery. Dr. Pain, (I kid you not), asked me at a breaking point (more my husband's, than mine) if I was having a wisdom tooth pulled would I decline novocaine.... of course not! I got the epi and life was Excellent and my son was born no problemo and I was sooo much happier. My sister-in-law told me about the ''Princess Birth'' - epi the moment you arrive in the hospital. She has had three, so she is more an expert than me. There is a reason these pain killers were invented. The surprise for me is you are not ''knocked out'' and you still feel everything (believe me) just not so intense. Anyway you decide, go with your instinct. You'll be great. Best of luck. Susan

Weekend Intensive Childbirth Prep class

Oct 2004

I am looking for reccomendations for weekend childbirth prep classes (first time for us). Because of schedules, doing a weekend intensive works best. The Nurture Center in Lafayette has a class taught by Lynee Forrette. The class at Birthways will be taught by Constance Williams with Earth Lande possibly co-teaching. Birthways is closer to home for us but we are open to either option or if anyone has other teachers/locations they reccomend, please let me know. Thanks!

I want to recommend a great prenatal class my husband and I recently attended taught by Betsy Appell. This (2) Sats. Hypnobirthing class teaches deep relaxation techniques as well as how to make your partner your doula. Betsy guides you through Hyponobirthing strategies, helps you shape your birth plan, shares all her doula tricks and provides lots of take-home material. She provides a comfortable, safe environment is warm and answers all your questions. What a terrific class! Bestsy can be reached at

Natural childbirth with tools for medication

Sept 2004

I have read the previous recommendations about childbirth classes, but still wanted to more information. I wondered if anyone has taken classes at Birthways in Oakland and what the experience was like. I am considering natural childbirth, but would want a class that provides me with the tools for that or for birth with medication. I am afraid the hospital classes would be too impersonal and would not cover enough information. Any information on Birthways or other good experiences would be appreciated. Stephanie

We had heard that most childbirth classes can take a long time and be kind of slow, so we hired Carol Shattuck-Rice to do a private class for us over 2 Saturdays. It cost about the same as a public class, and it was great. She definitely tries to help you help you get through natural childbirth, but also prepares you for the eventuality you might opt for drugs (I did in the end.) Her number is available elsewhere on the site; just search for her. We did not take a childbirth class at Birthways, but we did take a first aid class there, and it was disorganized and poorly taught. It could have been just that instructor, but our experience was very negative. jen
I had a great experience with our Chilbirth Prep class at Birthways. The teacher, Treesa McLean, was (& still is) a doula and I felt she presented a balanced perspective on childbirth, understanding that there is no ''one way'' to give birth and that different circumstances warrant different approaches. She did a good job of explaining benefits & risks associated with various interventions during childbirth. I highly recommend the class. Christina
I was also disappointed by the first aid course, but would highly recommend the childbirth course my husband and I took (taught by Patty Lapinska--sp?). It definitely had the emphasis you're looking for--preparing for unmedicated childbirth, but pragmatically recognizing that sometimes intervention is necessary. There were one or two nights that Patty was attending births, so those classes were taught by some of the other birthways teachers. We liked those nights as well or better as the nights patty taught. Good luck!
We went to a class at birthways during my first pregnancy and really liked it. they gave a lot of information and our teacher, i think her name was peggy - can't remember, talked a lot. Hard to get a word in. In the end our only complaint was that we didn't really get to know our classmates since there wasn't much opportunity to socialize, but we ended up being friends with most of them afterward so it worked out. We all ended up with vaginal births and I think I was the only one that was non-medicated - more fluk that planning but there it is. ilona
We did a class by Nancy Bardacke (, or that was Mindfulness-Based Childbirth. It was amazing for us. It included meditation practice, as well as good information and tools for working through fears about the birth, for dealing with pain, and for experiencing the birth as something intense and meaningful, rather than something painful to get through. We ended up doing a (hospital-based) non-medicated childbirth, and though it was of course painful, I never felt panicked or afraid, or like I couldn't handle it. I was really grateful for the tools from the class.

There were people in our class doing homebirths, birth-home births and hospital births, as well as medicated and non-medicated births. There may have been a slight bias against medication in birth, but Nancy was always careful to say that whatever works for you is the right way to do it.

I was never a meditator pre-class, and I don't do it often now either, but the training in meditation was useful to me, and still is occasionally useful when I feel overwhelmed as a mother of a 2-year-old... and the idea of being present in the moment (and the tools I have now to help me do that) has made a huge difference to me in my life. Jen

With respect to the specific question about the Birthways childbirth classses: we really liked ours two years ago. We got good information, both in terms of what to expect from the hospital, and in terms of what we could do to hopefully get the labor we wanted. Each of the couples in our class was hoping for a low-intervention birth, and I think we were each using a doula, so it was a supportive environment for that planned style of birth.

The thing about the classes is that different people teach them, and I know that the woman who taught ours, Sandy Swing, no longer does so. If the feedback you get seems oddly split, like it must be coming from people who took different classes, that's because it is coming from people who took different classes. What Sandy had in teaching skills others may lack. Honestly, we chose the class because it worked best for our schedule -- no small consideration! -- but, as I said, we really were pleased with it.

I think someone already commented on this, but the room where the class was taught was really not very comfortable. Poor climate control and uncomfortable seating. I usually didn't notice, but it got to me sometimes.

Good luck with your decision, and best wishes for your pregnancy. 2nd time mama

I strongly recommend the birthing class taught by Janaki Costello (510-525-1155). She's smart, interesting, sensitive, generous, and a terrific teacher & facilitator. Her classes tend to draw people who are using midwives and trying for natural childbirth, but she is not dogmatic about those approaches. Janaki has two colleagues who teach courses for her, and I've heard that they don't have her talents--so when you call Janaki you should find out if she herself will be teaching the class. Still, her courses draw such nice groups of people that you might want to consider taking one even if she's not the teacher. My partner and I made lasting friendships in her course, and I learned many techniques that enabled me to deliver without drugs. Anonymous
I think the store you are thinking of was called Birth and Bonding and the woman who ran the store moved out of the area. Birth Ways is in Oakland off of Grand Ave. Check out the bulletin boards at Waddle and Swaddle on Shattuck in North Berkeley. They have postings for classes. Also, Birth Ways has a website that lists the classes they offer or other classes around the area. Kim
We loved our class with Janaki Costello (510-525-1155) in spring 2003. She's also a wonderful doula and lactation consultant (helpful for nursing advice after the fact--see more about her in the archives) and taught the class with another doula, Carol Shattuck-Rice. Our class was small and intimate (seven couples, I think), so if you're interested, get a space early! We hoped for a natural childbirth and felt very prepared for labor because we had lots of tools to draw on. I had a lovely birth experience without medication and felt that their birth class played a very big role in that. If she is still giving classes, I'd highly recommend them. Janaki fan
We HIGHLY recommend Deborah Saliby's Hypnobirthing class. We just had our second child eight weeks ago, and the difference between the births was amazing. The class brought us together as a couple, taught us all the things we needed to know about birth and anatomy. Learning skills for and practicing the ability to relax and let go BEFORE getting involved in the typical stresses of a birth situation is valuable beyond words. Deborah is also teaches pre-natal, post-natal, and hatha/iyengar yoga classes around the east bay. Contact Good Luck! David
Birthways recently moved to 570 14th St., Oakland,(btw Jefferson/Clay), (510) 869-2797, Also, I believe Waddle and Swaddle in north Berkeley has various birth classes. David
My partner and I took a class from doula Betsy Appell which was titled ''hynobirthing'' but was actually more of an all-around birthing class in which she teaches women and their birth partners strategies for relaxing and making the birth experience as comfortable as possible. She spends a lot of time on meditation techniques (and how the woman's partner can guide her through meditation) and labor positions, and a smaller amount of time on things like artificial pain reduction during birth (epidurals, etc.) She even gives a quick demonstration of infant massage! Finally, she gives you a binder of information that goes into more detail on things that she goes over in class, and has additional information on things like the health pros and cons of having a boy circumsized. Her website is Good luck! --new mom
You and your friend might want to look into Bradley classes as a way to prepare together for the birth. Deep relaxation, attention to exercise and nutrition, informed decision making and a loving working relationship between a laboring woman and those who support her are at the heart of the Bradley method. To find out more about Bradley classes in general, you or your friend can check out the Bradley website. I offer classes in Berkeley (and can put you in touch with other instructors based in Oakland and SF) with my next series beginning in January. Email me if you would like more info. sabine
1. birthways is a great resource. located on grand ave. right by 580. they have short hours - call for info - 510.869.2797. 2. I took birth class with Laura Todaro. it and she were great! call her at 510.533.2829. she is also a great resource for other questions. best of luck. alissa
We offer different types of childbirth classes, here at Waddle and Swaddle (1677 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley),540-7210. We have a Holistic class, one based on the ''Birthing from Within'' practice, and also a one day Intensive class. We also have referrals for other types of classes. Birthways has just moved to downtown Oakland on 14th Street, they were never on Solano - that was Birth and Bonding, and they are no longer in business. Linda
My husband and I loved Janaki Costello & Carol Shattuck-Rice's class. It was long and a little pricier than others, but we felt really prepared and empowered by the knowledge. It was especially helpful when I had to unexpectedly be induced a month early. We felt we know enough or how to ask for information, instead of being pushed around by the system. Here's Janaki's number: (510) 525-1155. The classes are on San Pablo, next to Bev Mo stephanie

Birth refresher & VBAC classes

January 2004

I am expecting my second child in June. My husband and I did take a childbirth preparation class before the birth of our first, but (a) it's been a while -- our son is now 3, (b) the class we took (at the now-closed Birth & Bonding) was, in retrospect, less helpful than I would have liked, and (c) I ended up having an unplanned C-section, something I want to be as prepared as possible to avoid this time around.

So this time around I'm thinking we should take a ''refresher'' class, a VBAC class, or both. Birthways offers a one-day combination of the two, which would be convenient, but unfortunately we have a conflict on the only date it's offered between now and my due date. So I think I'm left with Alta Bates. I'd like to hear from people who have taken either or both Alta Bates classes recently. Was it helpful? Was it worth having to hire a babysitter? :-)

I'd also be interested in hearing about any other appropriate short courses offered by other organizations, and/or books or other resources you'd recommend. Holly

Bridget Scadeng usually offers a Refresher Class. It used to be through Summit Hospital, but I notice on her site that it is now in her office. Her classes have always received rave reviews. She is an extremely experienced Childbirth Educator. She also is a wonderful massage therapist during pregnancy and beyond. 510-526-3493
Sherry Reinhardt
This doesn't address the VBAC part directly, but I think the Bradley Birth classes are great. Someone does them in Berkeley, I'm sure they'll have a web site. They're very positive about VBAC. My experience at Alta Bates is: extremely medically managed, and not too open to natural birth, going by the body's rhythm. Leia
We took the VBAC course at Alta Bates, after having taken our first course at B&B. We felt like the one evening course gave us so much more than the original course did, it was great. And I believe the teacher also taught for Birth Ways. I highly recommend it. Sally
I also had a C section the first time and was able to have a VBAC the 2nd time: I really recommend the VBAC class at Alta Bates because it provided me with good information and facts to support my decision of having a VBAC while my doctor was vague about it. I also took the refresher class at Alta Bates which was somewhat useful. However the best decision for me was to hire a doula with a lot of experience. She really helped me feel confident with my decision as well as helpful for the labor. Good luck to you Helene
I took the VBAC class in October and the Child Birth Refresher course in January, just a week and a half before having a successful VBAC (all at Alta Bates). I found both courses to be helpful.

The VBAC course covered the positive and potential negatives of a VBAC. This was helpful for my husband, especially, because he had fears surrounding the VBAC risks. He was able to be more supportive once he was armed with all the info. The course also covered what to expect as a VBAC patient at Alta Bates if you plan to deliver there.

The child birth refresher course was helpful to remind you of what you might expect during labor. We shared birth stories with other classmates and covered labor basics--physiology, stages of labor, pain management options. The teacher (Jennifer Marks) was excellent. She addressed each of our individual situations (including my VBAC issues) I happened to be the only VBAC person in the class. She also spent quite a bit of time discussing the older sibling and what we as parents might expect. This has proven to be very helpful and perhaps the most valuable info I took from the class. My baby is two weeks old today and sibling adjustment for my 3 1/2 year old has been more challenging than the healing process from the VBAC for me! She did take the sibling class which was helpful to her to some degree, but it didn't offer many ideas to parents for how to help the child deal with adjustment. Right about now, I'm wondering if there is boarding pre-school!! I sure this too will pass. Best wishes for the VBAC--YOU CAN DO IT! Feel free to email should you wish to ask me any further questions about the courses or my VBAC experience at Alta Bates. Tiffany

Chidbirth class -- Nancy Bardacke

July 2003

I am wondering if anyone has ever taken any classes by Nancy Bardacke, CNM. I am due in September and interested specifically in her Mindfulness-Based Childbirth workshop (1 day). I would like to try to have this baby without drugs, if possible! Any input you can give me on this instructor or other ideas would be much appreciated! Thanks -- trish

I took her 2-day workshop & thought it was more helpful than the 8-week course I took at Birth & Bonding Ctr. (I wanted to take her full course on the gushing recommendations of a few friends, but it was already full- sign up quick if you are interested!)

She has a great way of explaining the physiology of birth. She gives lots of great tools for dealing with pain. She does lots of exercises that get you moving & lots that just involve thinking/talking. I actually USED the thingsd I learned in class during my labor & birth!!!

The only thing I did not like was the mindfulness exercise where we had to be silent & not look at anyone for 4 hours. A fate worse than death for a Chatty Cathy like myself... But she probably won't do it for a 1-day workshop. Good luck! virginia

My husband and I took Nancy's class and really enjoyed it. It is a great class if you are looking for an alternative approach to childbirth education. I was not interested in the typical type of class (''here are the stages of labor,'' ''here are some comfort measures,'' etc.). Rather, I specifically wanted a meditation-based approach to laboring and giving birth because I wanted to be awake for each moment of the experience (come what may) and to let go of any particular outcome. What has been wonderful is that the practice of mindfulness has formed the foundation for our parenting as well. In my opinion (and I was a doula for years), Nancy focuses on what is truly important about labor and birth and about preparing for the experience. If you want a class that will explain the details of labor and birth to you and your partner (something I think you can get from a book such as The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin), this is not the class for you. But if you want instruction and support for practicing mindfulness during your pregnancy, birth, and beyond, then I think you will enjoy it. Because meditation practice requires, well, 'practice' to integrate it into your life, I recommend the eight week series over the one-day workshop. But even if you can only make the workshop, I would still recommend it. I had my baby at home without any drugs. Who's to say whether that had to do with the class or not? In fact, mindfulness helps you to understand that we don't know what type of birth experience we are going to have, we can't control it, but we can still be okay with whatever happens as long as we stay in the moment and make our decisions mindfully. Good luck to you. Emily
I haven't taken any classes with Nancy Bardacke, but I've known her since I was 12 (about 25 years!) and she is a wonderful person. She has a lot of experience as a midwife (and a mom) and I would trust that she knows what she is talking about. Frances
We took Nancy Bardacke's one-day workshop two years ago, and I and my husband liked it very much! Even though we thought our approach to childbirth was generally more rational and based on gathering information, Nancy Bardacke's class gave us many ideas about the mind and spiritual aspects of childbirth. It was basically simple ideas, such as practising focus in labor pain by using ice cubes. To me the - very simple, but then extremely helpful - message of the class was that labor can indeed be very painful, but you can do it. And that all is not so much about specific labor breathing skills which you have to learn and practise, but just about somehow minding your breath and staying focused in some way. (However, Nancy maybe would say it's about meditation which you do have to practise...)

Also, I found the materials which she recommended very useful, e.g. the book recommendation ''Birthing from within'', and her own pregnancy meditation and yoga tapes).

I ended up with a completely drug free birth at Alta Bates (I must admit that labor was only a few hours though).

We also had taken a class at Alta Bates (6 sessions?) which we did not like very much (since the RN who run the class did not seem to be very motivated, even though the contents and information of these Alta Bates classes seem to be very good, so it depends on the person). Also, I took prenatal yoga classes which I liked a lot (with Barbara Papini).

Basic line: I would highly recommend Nancy Bardacke's one-day workshop. By the way, now, far away from Berkeley and back in Europe, I still find the idea of mindfulness very helpful, and I even reused and reread some of the above mentioned materials before our second baby was born some weeks ago (again drug-free, and without any further preparation class - not time for that anyway). hopefully somehow mindful

Should We Supplement the Alta Bates Class?

January 2003

We're expecting our first baby in mid-April, and we've already signed up for Alta Bates childbirth classes in February. We were wondering if we should take supplemental classes, in either Lamaze or other relaxation techniques, but we don't want to get a lot of overlap with the Alta Bates class. Would anyone who has taken the Alta Bates course recommend doing other classes as well, or is the AB course good preparation for first- time parents? ali

Re: Should We Supplement the Alta Bates Class? (Jan 2003)
Reviews received:

  • Alta Bates was sufficient
  • Alta Bates Baby Care class
  • Birthways

    Other suggestions:

    As an independent childbirth educator who also works with Summit Hospital, I would like to share some insights. The classes at Alta Bates are generally excellent. They are very thorough and usually offer an integrated course so that you are not limited to one *method*. However, they can be quite large which limits the amount of personal attention received. After you have completed the class you might want to consider a private session to personalize everything you learned - to address your specific needs and desires that you may not have been aware of before the class! I offer sessions such as these but your instructor might also be available. Happy Birthing..... Bridget

    Alta Bates

    Re: Should We Supplement the Alta Bates Class? (Jan 2003)
    I highly recommend taking the Baby Care class at Alta Bates in addition to the Childbirth Preparation class. The Baby Care class covers basics like changing diapers, feeding, bathing, etc. Although nothing can possibly prepare anyone for the sleepless nights & overpowering feelings of love & awe & terror, we at least found ourselves able to handle the mechanics of new parenthood. The birthing class was enormously helpful too because it familiarized us with all sorts of scenarios & options & definitely helped us when things went crazy during labor & delivery. Elisabeth
    Re: Should We Supplement the Alta Bates Class? (Jan 2003)
    We (my partner and I) took the Alta Bates classes and felt it was good preparation for the birth of our son and was enough information to have a good birth experience. The person teaching the class was great, and once we checked in the hospital, the nurses were very supportive and helpful. Good luck.

    I took the long, dragged-out version of the Child Prep class at Alta Bates and HATED IT. I wish we had attended a shorter class. I have talked to other people who took the class from different instructors who had better experiences. I didn't get much more info than I had recv'd from books, and I think the info we did get could have been given in one class. I would highly recommend researching the class you choose, signing up early, and assessing your needs. I found my yoga class helped with the relaxation more than the childbirth class. Any class serves to get the husband/partners involved, but unless the class is organized well you don't necessarily connect with other parents. Good luck and congratulations. sharon


    I just went through the refresher course at Alta Bates with Jennifer Subasic-Marks. She was wonderful. This birthing experience is a first time for my partner, and this being a refresher course, she greeted him openly into the class without any apprehensions. She went through the stages of labor, gave an overview of what happens, discussed issues that we raised regarding a second delivery/birth vs. the first time, and then went through relaxation and breathing techniques. At the end of the class she provided her phone number and email address for those who might have further questions. I would highly recommend taking a class with her. She is open, and very upfront regarding her biases, yet supportive of your individual preferences.

    I took the one-day, intensive prep class at Alta Bates on Saturday (didn't have time for the weekly sessions in the evenings). I thought it was good and very balanced in terms of dealing with different approaches to pain management, for example. Although I'd read a lot, I still learned some things. The instructor I liked the most was named Jennifer Marks, I think. She was very down-to-earth, very intelligent yet warm and very approachable. (We talked to her during breaks about some individual concerns.) The class size was not large yet we had a fascinatingly diverse group of people. The other option that the person seeking advice didn't mention is a group called Birthways. I had a little difficulty getting signed up for the Alta Bates class (I waited until it was very close to my due date) and my gynecologist (in whom I have great trust) recommended Birthways as an alternative. I also took the Alta Bates class on breastfeeding and thought it was very good. (NB: I made my husband go to that too, which he resisted slightly, and admittedly there were not that many men there, but I found it really helpful for him to learn about it too - he was actually able to remeber things and "coach" me on things like getting the baby latched on properly. It also helped in terms of his understanding and support for remember breastfeeding.)
    My husband and I took the standard child birth class at Alta Bates this past May with a woman named Jennifer (can't remember her last name but it was hyphenated). We had a very good experience, despite our initial skepticism, although we thought it could have been 2 classes instead of 4. Jennifer incorporated a lot of breathing exercises, partner massages, etc. She also presented all the traditional medical options, but was also very open to alternative ideas (in fact I think she had at least 1 of her 3 kids at home) and strongly encouraged each woman to do whatever felt right for her. She also really knows Alta Bates which made us feel more comfortable when we actually got there to give birth. Amy

    Active Birth

    From: Fran (Jan 1999)

    When I had my son 5 years ago, I used a method called "Active Birth" (there is also a book by the same name) that sounds just like the method Monica wrote about. I cannot recommend the method highly enough. My husband and I learn better by reading than by lectures so we just read the book and that was fine. But I had taken yoga classes previously--I wouldn't recommend that someone rely on yoga postures without previously taking yoga.


    Nov 1999

    Saraswati's class at the yoga studio Yogalayam was extremely ambitious and very intense and long. Really interesting experience though ultimately not that relevant to my birth experience. Anyway, I guess I wish that I had realized back then that there really is a difference with different programs, and that shopping around more might have produced better results for me personally. Still, I have fond memories of both classes and know that they are powerful for a great many people. Good luck to you - I hope you find something perfect for you.

    We took Saraswate's childbirth prep class which is an opportunity to practice different breathing and laboring positions (no education re: different childbirth related issues). She is a pre-natal yoga teacher at the Yogalayam on Alcatraz just west of MLK. She is a guru and pretty new-age but it was a good chance to practice with my partner.
    Dec 1998
    From: Jennifer

    My husband Claes and I were very happy with a childbirth preparation class we took from a yoga teacher in Berkeley. Her name is Saraswati Devi and she can be reached at 655-3664. Her studio is on Alcatraz near Adeline. She regularly teaches pre- and post-natal yoga. Intermittently she teaches a class called the "Inner Approach to Childbirth," or something along those lines. It's three Satrudays, four-hours each time.

    I gave birth December 17 and both Claes and I felt that our experience with Saraswati helped immensely. Hers is far from a standard childbirth prep class - there are certainly no diagrams of the pelvis or biological explanations of the birth process and there are absolutely no breathing patterns to memorize. She does work with breathing a lot - but from a yoga perspective. She tries to teach people how powerful their own breath can be in relaxation and also encourages people to think about dozens and dozens of positions they might try during labor. If you're aiming for a natural childbirth (without painkillers), I think the class is particularly great, but it's not for everyone. She encourages people to make sounds, use accupressure and include several people in a birth. Saraswati herself does not consider her class a replacement for childbirth preparation classes, but I did. I found that books answered all I needed to know about the technical aspects of birth (I particularly recommend the "The New Well Pregnancy Book") and that I wanted a class to offer coping strategies, give me confidence and address the incredible emotional issues that are part of the experience. Saraswati's class did provide a lot of that for me. In fact, my husband and I even dropped out of our hospital-based prep class half-way through because we not only found it useless, but also depressing. In contrast, we always left Saraswati's class feeling confident and enthusiastic.

    We benefitted a great deal from the Yogalayam birth classes -- we took the special condensed 2-evening version, and although it was rushed , I think we got the heart of what Saraswathi has to share. I recommend this *in addition* to a more comprehensive class, so we would have found her full series too much. My husband, usually the greater skeptic, says this class helped him prepare & help me the most. One very nice thing is that mothers can bring as many helpers as she wants for the same price.

    Omni Ob/Gyn


    I know that OMNI OB/GYN has a wonderful series of classes offered by Hank Streitfeld's wife (I don't remember what her credentials are, but it's more than just being the wife of an OB!). I don't think you have to be a patient to sign up. Their number is 204-0965 and they're located on Regent Street across from Alta Bates.


    Dec 1998

    We had a good experience with Tori Kropp, through her organization called Pillowtalk. She's in Marin (the phone number is listed) and she does a wonderful one-day intensive course which we found to be very supportive and very informative. Also, she has a website ( which you can visit and subscribe to for free.

    Comparisons of Various Classes and General Advice


    You dont want someone whose first objective is to push her philosophy. You want someone who is going to help YOU make better decisions by informing you of just one more method of pain reduction (not pain relief). I was hell bent on no meds before going into labor and boy did I suffer. You can never tell how things are going to go. I was so stressed and miserable. Once I broke down and asked for an epi, the pain lifted, I had a smile on my face and was joking around, I sat up and pushed my baby out while watching the whole thing on a mirror. It was the happiest day of my life (thanks to the epi). I am sorry if I am offending anyone out there, but for me, at that time, it was the only reasonable thing to do. And for what harm? none whatsoever. Dont let people bully you. It is YOUR choice. Good luck!

    Short Classes

    July 2001

    Due to a series of snafus, we have not as yet taken any kind of birthing class, though we have read plenty. We have contacted Alta Bates, The Nurture Center, Birthways, as well as a host of independent people. Our due date is 9/14 and yet we seem to be able to find a class that would give us a verbal idea of what we might expect that fits in our time frame (we realise we are, at this point, late). Does anyone have any suggestions, know of any classes, or have any alternative solutions? I am beginning to panic, since this is the first time! Thank you! Shahana

    Don't worry, there's still time. I also started birthing class only 6 weeks before my due-date - and made it. My husband and I attended a great class with a wonderful instructor, Jennifer Marks, at Alta-Bates. It was just 4 meetings, and what I liked about it most was that we got tons of information, both about medical and alternative practices, and zero guilt about our birthing choices (unlike most of the pregnancy books I read and other instructors I was talking to trying to find a class). Jennifer's email is MARKSFAM AT aol DOT com. Send her an email and she might be able to help you. good luck! Effie
    Call John Muir Medical Center. Actually, call their new Women's Health Center located in downtown Walnut Creek. We took our birthing class through them at the beginning of the year and I would recommend it highly. Ours was a three- or four-session class, but I know they do offer one-day classes. Sarah
    Bridget Scadeng (526-3493) teaches a wonderful one day intensive childbirth class at Summit Hospital. Registration number is 510-869-6519. She is also a very special Prenatal Massage Therapist. Sherry
    Call Maia Midwifery in Oakland and ask if they would be willing to provide this service for you. They are wonderful and supportive and also flexible. Good luck. Vicki
    Shahana - I recommend that you try to get phone numbers of teachers doing the Alta Bates classes. Then perhaps you could leave a message for them, individually, or see if one of them would be willing to do a private class with you on the side. I have no idea if they do this, and if they do it may cost you more/hour than the other route. It's worth a try. Otherwise (in my opinion)
    - relax.
    - your reading research will likely serve you well.
    - make sure you go on a tour of the hospital (if that is where you plan to have the birth).
    - make sure if your labor and delivery nurse doesn't jive with your style that you ask the head nurse for a new one.
    - bring a cd or tape player and music to play
    - tell them that you want a private room for after the baby is born (if you can afford one)(if you can't afford it ask friends to chip in to pay for it as a gift!)
    - and know that every birth is its own individual miracle and few of us truly new what our labor would be like until we were done with it (and even then we forget some of it!) Good luck! Suzanne
    There's a lot of pressure out there to "prepare" by taking classes, because everyone else seems to be doing it. We too started to worry once it was too late to sign up, even though we'd made the conscious decision to avoid the group classes. But we stuck to our decision, and it really was fine--as long as you've read enough to know what to expect, which it sounds like you have, and you trust nature (why not?), then you've got all the tools you need for a hospital birth. But that said, I've heard that Saraswathi Devi at the Prana Yoga ashram on/near Alcatraz has a good one-day alternative course: she focuses on positions, breathing rather than explaining things like timing and sequence of events (which the books explain in great detail anyway). So good luck, and have fun. It's an incredible adventure! Aimee
    March 2001

    I have a listing of East Bay birth educators, based on my research for The Nurture Center. Haven't taken classes with any of them, but I have heard very good things about Linda Jenkins in Lafayette (she does one-day intensives, with one coming up in early January), and I have a friend who liked her series with Treesa McLean at UCSF. She will be teaching our series at The Nurture Center, which starts Jan. 4. I don't know which if any of these are Bradley

    Treesa McLean   915-283-1346
    Linda Almond-Nichols (925) 228-8712
    Linda Jenkins (925) 284-2220
    Adele Szilardi 510-548-3863
    Home   |   Post a Message  |   Subscribe  |   Help   |   Search  |   Contact Us    

    this page was last updated: Nov 8, 2010

    The opinions and statements expressed on this website are those of parents who subscribe to the Berkeley Parents Network.
    Please see Disclaimer & Usage for information about using content on this website.    Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network