According to a 2006 survey by Childbirth Connection, childbirth class attendance for first-time moms is down from 70 percent in 2000 to 56 percent in 2005.
"I worry about where they’re getting their (birthing) information," says Allison Walsh, president of Lamaze International. Birthing classes typically include a range of information on pain management, intervention methods and other facets of birth.
Neither Walsh nor Chicago nurse Abby Hornbogen have noted drops in attendance, but both say more people are drawn to classes that require less time.
"The weekend classes sell like hotcakes," says Walsh. "Ethically, I don’t teach them. When you’re cramming five or six weeks of content into one day, it’s not going to be absorbed well. And eight-hour sessions are uncomfortable, especially for pregnant women."
Walsh also says that people miss out on bonding with other new parents when they skip the serial classes. "A generation ago, parents went to class to get the info they wanted but also to meet people and find support," Walsh says.
At Northwestern Memorial Hospital where Hornbogen manages two nursing units, both serial and one-time classes are offered for $120. "Being armed with information calms them (parents)," Hornbogen says. "Labor’s very hard to predict. It may not always be exactly as you envision. Our ultimate goal is that no matter how the delivery happens, it’s a wonderful experience."