Prenatal classes can be extremely helpful for new parents, whether they are pregnant with their first or fifth child. Some classes are very general in scope, while other focus on one aspect or another, such as breastfeeding or natural birth. While a teacher can stand up in front of a class and simply talk, providing activities or offering a hands-on approach is more fun for the participants and helps them to retain the information better.
Ice breaker activities help make the class participants more comfortable with each other. Certain aspects of childbirth can be uncomfortable to talk about, so getting people on a relaxed footing is important. Put couples together until every couple is paired up. Instruct them to find out about the other couple so they can introduce them to the rest of the class. This should only take about five minutes; information gathered should be along the lines of due date, gender and what number child they are expecting. Be sure to introduce both members of the couple, not just the pregnant woman. She could be attending with her husband, boyfriend, best friend, mother, partner or any other person. You can still do this activity if a woman is attending on her own, or if the class is for the pregnant woman only. Simply pair up attendees.
Knowing When Labor is Starting
A lot of women wonder how they will know when labor is starting; it isn't always clear! On a whiteboard or chalkboard, write "True Labor" and "False Labor," with space under each heading. Pass out cards that have one fact -- either true or false -- about labor written on them. Have each person tape their card under the correct heading. Discuss each symptom or fact as they are put on the wall.
Don't forget the partners in this activity. Brainstorm things the partner can do to help the pregnant woman when labor starts. Offer a few examples of contraction apps to time contractions, or teach them how to do it with a watch or timer. There are many ways partners can help distract the pregnant woman during the very early stages of labor, before she needs to head in to the hospital, such as playing board games, watching a favorite movie, or even providing a bubble bath to relax if her water hasn't broken yet.
Pain management during labor is something that most women are concerned about, especially if they have never had children before. Explain the difference between a person's pain threshold and pain tolerance by asking for a volunteer. Lightly pinch the volunteer on the arm while you explain the difference. When the person says that it hurts, that is the pain threshold. When you keep pinching and the person finally asks them to stop, that is their pain tolerance. Each person has a different threshold and tolerance, and this is where pain management comes in. Explain and show pictures or videos of the different types of pain management. Breathing, massage and finding a focal object are all things each pregnant woman can practice in class with her birth partner.
Going Home with the Baby
Don't overlook the postpartum period. Bring a lifelike baby doll to the class and have participants change a diaper. Play the Bed-in-a-Bag game -- pack a large bag with crib sheets, diapers, pajamas, swaddling blankets and other necessities to class. Instruct the couples to make a crib bed, get the baby dressed and into the bed. You could even include a few things in the bag that are no-nos in baby's crib, such as stuffed animals and fluffy blankets. To make it a little more competitive, time each couple to see who can do it the fastest. Other hands-on learning can focus on how to breastfeed or mix a bottle of formula.