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Childbirth Prep Classes at Kaiser

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2010 - 2014 Reviews


April 2012

I am currently registered for a Childbirth Preparation class at Kaiser in Oakland, for two consecutive Saturdays, and I just realized from reading the class registration form that it is not a Lamaze or Bradley method of childbirth preparation. Has anyone taken this Kaiser class? If so, how was your experience? Would you recommend it to others? Or would you rather have taken a Lamaze or Bradley class - either instead or concurrently? I now realize that I should have researched this Kaiser class more in depth before signing up because I am interested in, and accordingly seeking a program, that focuses on non-medicated, ''natural'' childbirth preparation. If necessary, I am willing to take either a Lamaze or Bradley class in conjunction with, or additional to, the Kaiser class. Any advice on this? Thanks! anon


I took the Kaiser Oakland childbirth prep class late last year and thought it was really helpful. Our instructor was also a doula and on the crunchy end of things. She walked us through a lot of breathing exercises and positions, on top of covering the various pain management options. But one thing I found really helpful was reading The Big Book of Birth by Erica Lyon. There are so many different ways in which your birth experience can unfold, I think it's really important to be informed about and open to the various options...so you don't stress or judge yourself during or after the fact if it goes differently than your fantasy scenario. (That book really drives that point home and has many, many first person accounts of different labor scenarios.) I envisioned a natural birth, but ended up being induced when we were two weeks past due. The labor was such a long process (almost 48 hours) that it's hard to imagine getting through it without some morphine early on and an epidural towards the end. Being in considerable pain for that long was exhausting and literally nauseating, and I feel good about relying on some meds to get me through it. Btw, we were at Kaiser Oakland for the delivery and had a wonderful experience there both during the birth and postpartum. Every nurse and doctor we encountered was FABULOUS. We didn't want to leave! Best of luck to you and congrats! Jen B
I recommend taking the Kaiser class in order to answer any questions you might have about how things work at Kaiser. I was really nervous about things like episiotimies and being forced to labor on my back, based on books I was reading, and it turned out that they almost NEVER do episiotimies and unless you are getting an epidural they allow you to labor in any position, as long as you're on a bed for the delivery (at least that was true in April 2011). So if you have those kinds of questions, go to the class and get them answered. My teacher at Kaiser Oakland was a doula, and she did go over some pain management techniques, but not much. So I'd recommend taking a separate class - we did Zen Birthing as a group class with Betsy Appell and I HIGHLY recommend it: http://www.sfdoula.com/Zen_Birthing_Classes.html Her techniques were incredibly useful during labor. I would also highly recommend doing the tour of the labor and delivery floor that Kaiser offers - it was really great to know where we were going when the time came. Happy Kaiser Mom
I assume that you signed up for this class because you will be delivering at kaiser, so I would stick with the class as it will help orient you to practices at the facility. My experience with this course was at kaiser walnut creek in the evenings, so over five nights, and each time we met we discussed natural pain management, practiced relaxation techniques, etc. I went into the course and my birth with the desire to do it naturally and, despite being one of two women in my particular class who felt that way I felt very supported by the instructor and my midwife. Everything else was very informative and despite that I had done a lot of reading ahead of time I learned a lot too. If after you take the class you feel you want more practice in a specific technique then go for it. I ended up taking a prenatal yoga class at a local studio and found that the centering practices really helped me to continue to prepare. Good luck! Liz
I took the Kaiser class, and I'd say that it totally depends on who your teacher is. My friend was happy with her class, but ours was A.W.F.U.L. Unfortunately, I don't remember the teacher's name (I think I blocked it). Luckily, we were being overachievers and were taking another class too (Zen Childbirth with Betsy Appell, which I *highly* recommend -- http://www.sfdoula.com/Zen_Birthing_Classes.html), so we could actually follow what was going on in the class, but otherwise, it was totally scattered and confusing. Each week, there were fewer people, and we only lasted a couple weeks. We were actually having to explain to others what was going on because we knew from our other class. Seriously. The only reason we were glad that we did it is because the video they showed on the first night was really helpful. Granted, my partner and I both do teaching/facilitation and are picky about teachers, but we usually take that into consideration and try to be forgiving, but this was just plain horrible. Glad we went with Zen
The Kaiser child prep classes are surprisingly very pro natural. My labor and delivery class at Oakland was taught by a former doula. The videos they showed depict natural birth not medicated ones. She has a copy of Ina Mays Guide to Childbirth right on the table when you walk in. I wouldn't be too attached to Bradey or Lamaze methods. If you read natural childbirth books such as Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent ( famous midwife in Bay Area) she actually talks about how bullshit those techniques are. I wouldn't demonize Kaiser. The classes are very affordable. The Late Pregnancy class at Richmond was taught by this awesome former labor and delivery nurse who is also very pro natural. If you go to the Meet the Delivery Team meeting they also emphasize honoring whatever you want. Best of Luck. Expecting parent
You should definitely take the standard Kaiser class in addition to whatever specialized method you want to try. My husband and I took it in 2008 prior to our first child's birth; I was set on a natural delivery(which in fact transpired, but that's another story) but still found the Kaiser class useful. It is not biased one way or another; in fact, it was led by a local doula (not a RN or MD) who clearly was into natural childbirth. Anyway, it's useful to learn about the Kaiser approach and what you can expect. Definitely try to take it at the hospital you plan to deliver at. It's worth your time. Amalia
I took the Oakland Kaiser birth preparation class as well as a Zen Birthing Class with Betsy Appell in Berkeley. The Kaiser class did actually teach some birth techniques that were more natural. And actually since I had already taken the Zen class the Kaiser class really was mostly a duplication of things that I had already learned. I think the Kaiser class can be helpful, though I really did not think that the instructor was all that knowledgeable and she just seemed to be pushing her doula services. If I was chosing classes all over again I would skip the Kaiser class and just take the Zen Birthing Class. The Kaiser class that I did find useful was the newborn care (I think that was the title). It taught basic things like bathing your baby, it was simple stuff, but not everything I had thought of before. Plus the instructor for that class was wonderful! Fun high energy, mother of 3, I enjoyed her class! Here is a link to Betsy Appell's site, http://www.sfdoula.com/public_html/Welcome.html I really enjoyed her Zen Birthing class I feel that it fully prepared me for a natural child birth. I gave birth at Kaiser Oakland and I did NOT have an epidural even though my active labor was 25 hours. Good Luck! No Epidural Mama
I went to one of the two sessions at Kaiser Oakland. My husband and I felt that the information covered did not necessitate going for the second 4 hours. The childbirth educator we had did one guided imagery exercise and some breathing/relaxation exercises. I found that there was a lot of overlap with one (can't remember the title now) of their other classes. If you are looking for a more focused, methods-oriented class I would say skip this one. I would add that the nurses who coached me during my daughter's birth were amazing, and I worked with them on breathing more than I relied on what I had learned in any classes. Kiren
I took the Kaiser Childbirth Classes at Richmond and thought they were very educational. It was a 4-week evening class, so I'm not sure if it's the same content. But the teacher definitely promoted natural birth as the healthiest way to go for you and your child. Breathing techniques were a topic, but not the main focus, placing more emphasis on the birthing ball and different positions or stances to ease pain. Personally I think the breathing techniques are over-rated. I recommend taking the Kaiser class. And it's free! Jen

2005 - 2009 Reviews


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 (http://www.teachstreet.com/teacher/sabine-henrie). 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


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


2004 & Earlier


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 www.bradleybirth.com); 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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