Childbirth Education on the Seacoast


There’s a lot to learn when you’re pregnant. It can seem overwhelming. There are lots of pregnancy books you can read, but sometimes a class with a knowledgeable instructor is the best way to go. Luckily for pregnant people around here, there are many choices for childbirth education on the Seacoast.

Image of pregnant people in a circle, holding papers. Options for childbirth education on the Seacoast

In general, childbirth education (CBE) provides information regarding pregnancy, the stages of labor, and labor management techniques. Birthing people learn about going into labor, the stages of labor, labor and delivery scenarios, medical interventions (including surgical/ cesarean delivery) and options for pain relief. Most classes also cover comfort measures and breathing and relaxation. Some may provide information on postpartum recovery, newborn procedures and taking care of your baby.

Although the topics are often similar, CBE classes vary widely in length, format, scope and feel. Here’s a breakdown of the options for childbirth education on the Seacoast.

Hospital Childbirth Education on the Seacoast

Expecting families choosing birth education in a hospital usually take a class at the hospital where they will be having their baby (we’ve got a list of all the Seacoast Hospitals and Birth Centers). Most hospitals, however, open their classes to pregnant people regardless of where they will give birth.

The benefits of hospital-based childbirth education are that they are often the most affordable type of CBE. In these classes, you can learn about the policies and common practices of the hospital ahead of time. They often include a tour of the hospital’s birth facilities.

Wentworth Douglass in Dover offers a number of options. They have in-person and virtual classes; a 5 week class; a weekend class; a hybrid Kriya Birth Mind-Body Birth Education, an online VBAC specific class.  Those planning a surgical birth at the hospital can also take a Cesarean delivery class.

Portsmouth Hospital also offers a number of classes, including an in-person 5 week class; a virtual 3 week class, and Mindful Birth and Comforts in-person class

If you’re looking for classes at Exeter Hospital, you’ll find a 4 week childbirth class, a “Saturday Express” class, and a two hour “Refresher” class for parents who have given birth before.

All of York Hospital’s classes are currently happening virtually.  In addition to traditional classes, York offers the Centering Pregnancy model of prenatal care, which involves creating small groups of pregnant people who meet regularly to receive care and education.  Some education on labor, delivery and other common childbirth ed topics takes place during these group discussions.

While Maine Medical Center is technically outside the Seacoast region, local families who experience high risk pregnancies often travel to Portland for their care.  All MMC classes are currently virtual.  The hospital offers a 3 week series, a 1 day “express” class, a class for those with scheduled surgical (caesarean) births, and an option for giving birth after a caesarean (VBAC).  They also offer supplemental classes for families expecting multiples and NICU 101 for those who anticipate their baby or babies may spend time in neonatal intensive care.

Independent Childbirth Education on the Seacoast

While hospital affiliated CBE is affordable and generally informative, pregnant people on the Seacoast have other options available when preparing for birth. Several educators in our area work independently from the hospitals to offer birth classes. Hospital based educators are sometimes limited by hospital policy in what they can teach or suggest. And it is hospital policy or even just standard practice, rather than evidence-based information, that sometimes guides the curriculum. Independent educators are not limited by the policies or practices of a single hospital. Families that desire this type of freedom may find independent CBE classes are a better fit.

Birth Education at Relief Parenting

One option available in Hampton for independent childbirth education is offered by Alyssa Sylvster @ Relief Parenting. As an educator and a birth doula, Alyssa offers a 12 hour comprehensive childbirth education class.  This class has a wide scope.  Topics include body changes in pregnancy, prepping for labor, signs of labor, reasons for induction, comfort measures, interventions and unexpected outcomes and surgical births. This class also covers how to talk with your provider in a way that supports shared decision making.  Alyssa also shares lots of tips for birthing people, including her 10 tips for effective pushing. 

Another class taught by Alyssa at Relief is the Spinning Babies® Parent Class. Spinning Babies focuses on helping your baby find the optimal position for labor. When a baby is in a good position, labor may be shorter and less painful.

Birth Education with WOOM 

Local registered nurse and IBCLC Christine McKenney teaches a CBE class through WOOM in Portsmouth.  This spring these 5 week classes are live on Zoom, with plans for future in-person classes.  Influenced by Spinning Babies and Birthing from Within, Christine’s classes aim to be comprehensive and holistic.  They cover CBE topics like the physiology of birth, comfort measures and advocating for yourself and partner through videos, discussions, hands-on exercises and question and answer time.

Hypnobirthing & Homebirth Ed

A bit further north on the Seacoast, HIllary Camire of Gentle Harmonies Birth Education LLC offers HypnoBirthing® in Rochester. This is a 5 week series of classes.  Hypnobirthing classes focus on reframing birth to reduce fear and anxiety. Classes include education on birthing history, physiology, hormones, self-hypnosis, comfort measures, and postpartum.

If you are planning a homebirth or birth at a birthing center or are aiming for a less medicalized hospital birth, Flourish Midwifery’s The Childbearing Year Series might be a good fit. In addition to traditional CBE topics, this class covers some less common birth topics. These topics include the last days of pregnancy, preparing for labor, understanding hospital transfer for home birthers and addressing anxiety.

Private Childbirth Education Options

Virtual classes may be convenient and group classes can help families meet new parent friends.  However, some families may need or want a more personalized CBE experience.  For more individualized education, private classes are worth exploring. The Seacoast independent birth educators Alyssa Sylvester at Relief, Hillary Camire at Gentle Harmonies, Christine McKenney at WOOM and Flourish Midwifery offer private childbirth education. Many local birth doulas also integrate individualized education into their prenatal visits.

Cost of Childbirth Education 

The cost of childbirth classes varies from free (at Maine Medical Center) to $350 for a private class. Hospital classes tend to be less expensive. Some CBE providers offer scholarships or other financial assistance if the class is outside of your budget. You should also check with your insurance company. Some plans include a childbirth education benefit. You may be able to have some or all of your cost reimbursed for a hospital or an independent birth class.

Making the Right Choice for You

With so many different options for childbirth education on the Seacoast, how can you make the right choice for your family?  Lots of factors may come into play including cost, scheduling and where you plan to have your baby. Ideally, you’ll be able to find a CBE option that will help prepare you for the birth you hope to have. You also want preparation that will help you cope when things don’t go as planned. Knowledge of the physiology of birth and stages of labor will only get you so far. Birth is unpredictable, intense and transformative. The right childbirth ed class can help you feel prepared and give you tools that will guide you through the experience of birthing your baby.

For more help finding the right providers and options when you’re pregnant, check out our Pregnancy and postpartum guide.