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Childbirth Prep Classes at Kaiser

The Parents Network > Reviews > Health & Medical > Kaiser Doctors > Childbirth Prep Classes at Kaiser

2009 Recommendations

May 2009

Re: Birthways vs. Kaiser for childbirth prep class

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 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

2005 Recommendations

May 2005

Re: Birthing class for natural labor at Kaiser
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

1998 - 1999 Recommendations

Nov 1999

I am expecting 12/29 and have been taking lots of classes from Kaiser Hayward. They have a free, 6-week, rotating series of drop-in classes with a variety of instructors (Labor & Delivery, Breast Feeding Basics, Breast Feeding & The Working Mom, Cesarean Delivery & Pain Medication, Adjusting to Parenthood, New Baby Care). Also offered is a $40, 6-week Childbirth Preparation (formerly known as Lamaze) class taught by Sylvia Boyd and finally a free, Now the Cord Is Cut class that they schedule for you like an appointment. The Heath Education Center phone is 510/784-4531.

My advice is the more knowledge/classes the better. I had heard negative things about the Childbirth Preparation instructor and we almost didn't take the class, but I am glad we did. I learn something new and valuable every time. I am also glad I am taking classes with my husband because then we have the same knowledge base as opposed to me reading books and passing on things to him. Good luck!

I have heard good things about Kate Livson who teaches (or did a couple of years ago) childbirth ed classes at Kaiser. We took the babycare class (don't remember the teacher) and found it to be useful. It is very basic -- swaddling, changing diapers, holding baby -- so if you already know that stuff you may not need it. They use dolls. It was great for us practice before the baby came. Good luck. The best advice is to trust your body. Learn what you can and then try to relax and be open to however the labor and delivery unfolds.
My husband & I took Roseanne Piccini's (sp?) childbirth prep class at Kaiser. We both liked Roseanne a lot -- she is very warm, very down to earth, & very knowledgeable. She is the mother of 5 kids, the youngest of whom was 5 mos. old when we took the class. She brought her daughter to class &, as first timers, it was great to see a child, & to see how Roseann fed her, burped her, etc. The class itself was helpful -- pretty basic info re: the process, what to expect, & so on. It felt like we could have used one more session -- things were a bit rushed at the end. The relaxation exercises were good, & it was nice to get to know other couples.

The best part of the class was that Roseann had her graduates from her last class come & tell us their birth stories on our last night -- very interesting & helpful. Then, we got to come back for her next class & have a reunion with our classmates, hear their birth stories, & tell ours. That was great. Overall, I thought it was helpful. Roseanne did miss one class, & someone else whose name I can't remember was a substitute & she was awful. Good luck!

I took the classes offered at Kaiser and they were okay as far as they went, but when I went to give birth, I was extremely glad my husband and I had also taken a course in the Bradley Method of natural childbirth. We knew much more than our Kaiser classmates (some of whom were at the hospital on the same day we were) and, because of the training, were ableto manage the pain without drugs. We ended up with substantially the birth experience we wanted. There are several Bradley instructors in the area (you can get a contact list by contacting the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth, 1-800-4-A-Birth, or; we liked Ellen Klima, who teaches in Oakland.
Dec 1998

We just finished our childbirth prep classes at Kaiser in Oakland and had a good experience. The instructor we had was Karin Hannula. I was pleased because she tailored the class to meet the needs of the couples. She spent time talking with us to find out what kind of birth we wanted and then gave us the information to achieve that, but also all the information about other options that may come up. She seems very experienced... I suspect she assists with births on the side because she has lots of stories. She is also very familiar with the Kaiser system and the dr's who do the deliveries. She also gives lots of good advice... like "ask the dr to leave the room and then ask the nurses their opinions before you make any decisions." One of the best things was that she had a class from early in the fall come in and give "testimonials" one night. It was good to hear how things ended up with other couples, and to hear about the Alta Bates experience. I do recommend the class... you can't beat the $40 fee. Also, just to let you know, when we went to the Baby Care class at Kaiser, one of the hand outs was a list of about a dozen places that offer Childbirth Classes. Rose

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