In France, the state-run insurance covers 8 birthing classes of 45 minutes each. You have the choice to do these at 1) the hospital where you're going to deliver, 2) at the "protection maternelle et infantile" (PMI) department of the social services or 3) with an independent midwife. There are also three different methods to choose from: 1) Classic (Lamaze); 2) Haptonomy; 3) Sophrology.
I asked a few friends and two of them went to the same independent midwife, the first one did a more sophrology-based class with her and liked it, the second one did haptonomy and although she liked the method, she was not impressed with the midwife. It was her second pregnancy and she had done a classic birthing class with her first one, so it didn't matter too much that her second class was not such a success. At the information meeting in the hospital that I went to a month ago, the midwife there said that she wasn't convinced that haptonomy only would be enough to sufficiently prepare you for labor.
I went to the hospital on Tuesday to check out their information book about the various options. Their recommendations in choosing a birthing class were as follows:
- Keep in mind the distance between your home and the location of the class.
In my case, hospital, PMI and independent midwife are all at walking/biking distance from my home (where the hospital is about a 30 minute walk and the midwife 10 minutes).
- If you've already done a birthing class once for a previous pregnancy, it might be nice to try a different method/location.
- If your husband wants to participate, it's better to go to an independent midwife (at the hospital husbands are only invited for one session).
Hmm, we haven't really talked about this yet. He might want to, but he travels so much for work, that I doubt this is feasible.
- If you cannot come to all the sessions of a series, better go to an independent midwife.
Well, I think that if it's just me and I don't have to depend on hubby's travel schedule, that I should be fine.
- If the planning for the series you wanted to take part in is fully booked, go to independent midwife or PMI.
OK, so this depends on my own organization of when I go there to register, which should not be a problem.
- Choice of method.
The PMI offers group classes on Tuesday afternoons. My neighbor went there for her birthing class and she was happy with it (and apparently it's free).
I've also called a midwife (not the one my two friends went to, because of the negative reaction of one of them) in my neighborhood. She's doing sessions with 2-3 people, you can choose if you go every week, or every two weeks. Also lots of flexibility in times (morning, afternoon, evening). I asked her what method she did but she talked so fast that I didn't understand (and I was too shy to ask again), but I think it's Lamaze.
The advantage of doing the one at the hospital is that I'll really get to know that place and its people, which might be comforting the moment we go there for the delivery. However, the part where they have their info sessions (and I assume also the birthing classes) is pretty old, so not a very nice place to be (the maternity ward itself was completely renovated, so that's much better).
The advantage of going to the independent midwife is that hubby might be able to join for a few sessions if he wants, it's more intimate (but also less chance to exchange experiences with other pregnant women...), and I will get to know that midwife which might be handy in case we decide to opt for the short hospital stay after delivery. Normally in France you stay in the hospital for three to four days after delivery, but if you feel up to it (and you have some extra help at home) there is an option to leave after 48 hours. In that case a midwife will come visit you for an hour at home for two more days. To qualify for this, you have to get a form at the hospital, fill it out together with the midwife and put it in the bag that you're going to take to the hospital for the delivery. If you and the baby get the medical OK to leave after 48 hours, you can then make your final decision at the last moment (so if you rather stay in the hospital, even though you've filled out the form etc, that's fine too).
And the PMI... well, I really hadn't considered it until I asked my neighbor and she told me she went there. Apparently you also go there after the baby is born for the first check-ups, so it might not hurt to get to know its services beforehand either...
Sorry this has become such a long post. I hope most of you stuck around until the end and have some advice for me on what to choose... Thanks!