A good childbirth class is an essential tool for birth preparation. Not only do you receive information on the birth process, coping techniques, intervention pros/cons, you also learn from other expectant parents who take the class with you.
Hospital Prepared Childbirth Classes: funny story–it was the hospital class that convinced me not to give birth in the hospital! So, in all honesty, it was a really helpful class (though not in the way the hospital hoped!). The information I received from the hospital class was an understanding of hospital policy/procedure. The class did cover some Lamaze natural birth information but it was fairly superficial (in light of the statistic my instructor gave–98% of our patients receive epidurals–I can see why). Mostly, I felt the purpose of the class was to teach me ”how it would go” in the hospital. If you are planning an unmedicated hospital birth, the class might help in giving you strategies and understanding your options. If you are planning a medicated hospital birth, the class is helpful for knowing what to expect. The classes usually include a tour of the OB floor. If you do not take the hospital class, you can still arrange an OB tour during which you can ask loads of questions.
Independent Classes–these classes are not affiliated with a hospital. There are many available. I recommend taking an independent class. These classes are typically much longer than hospital classes, provide smaller student/instructor ratios, and teach specific methods. Often these classes include information on breastfeeding and postpartum care.
Upstate Birth Network maintains a list of independent classes. Find the one that matches your birth desires!