Did you know...
that every hospital which receives state or federal money for labor and delivery services is required to offer a free childbirth preparation course? While some classes do try to cover comfort measures and what to expect from labor, they often end up focusing on how to be a good patient: who to call, when to arrive, what documents to bring, what to wear, etc.. While all of that information is helpful, it is far from being all that is needed to make informed, educated, CONFIDENT decisions regarding your care.
For most parents, an independent childbirth education class may seem like a bonus, not a necessity. If you’ve read the right books, downloaded the best pregnancy app, subscribed to some great blogs and watched all The Business of Being Born movies, why do you need to take a class as well? Maybe you’ve never even discussed an independent childbirth class because:
- You’ve hired a doula and part of her job description is educating
- You’re expecting your second baby and you had a cesarean with your first
- You would like the option of an epidural
- You’re taking the free class that the hospital offers
Do any of those things describe you? What we share might surprise you.
From the most well-researched mom to the mom who thinks she has no options in her birth, a childbirth education class can help to inform and fill in the gaps in knowledge regarding care options, to clear up misconceptions that float around some of those birth blogs, and explain options that you’ve never heard of (e.g., Family- Centered Cesareans, VBAC, Hydrotherapy in Labor).
For the mom working towards an unmedicated or low-intervention birth: You’ve already read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, are with a midwife and have hired a doula. What more do you need? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you know how to recognize the signs of labor?
- Do you know comfort measures and tools to labor at home and get you through without medications?
- Does your partner?
- What if your birth takes a different turn and your baby’s position is making it impossible for her to move down. Do you know your options if interventions become necessary?
For the mom laboring with an epidural: An epidural is truly the most efficient pain relief option for childbirth. ask yourself:
- Do you know the ways in which it can impact childbirth, recovery, and breastfeeding?
- Do you know the pushing positions that are most effective at opening your pelvis and that it’s entirely possible to use them even with an epidural?
- Do you know the best ways to ensure that your epidural does not send you into the OR for a cesarean?
- Do you know your options for a family-centered cesarean, or what that even means?
An independent childbirth class will teach you all of that and more.
For the mom with a previous cesarean: Once a cesarean always a cesarean, right? Nope! Although this adage used to be the norm, this is not necessarily the case anymore. A class that covers VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean) can inform you of your options for a vaginal birth and the best tools to work toward one, as well as ways to discuss this option with your care provider. For your cesarean birth, did you experience contractions and labor before meeting your baby? If no, a class covering labor can help prepare you for what may be in store.
For the second-time mom: Maybe your first birth was not what you expected and you’d like to do it differently this time. Or maybe you took a class but it was three years ago. Policies and guidelines change with current research and new discoveries. Find a class that is up-to-date with ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), and the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations for pregnancy, birth and newborn care. You can also find shorter “refresher” classes that are more focused and act as a review for pregnancy, labor and postpartum.
For the mom looking for specifics: Look for classes geared toward breastfeeding, VBACs, nutrition, postpartum or partner-specific. They are generally short, one day classes. These classes are just as important as a general CBE, and they are more focused and provide more information about one topic in a shorter amount of time. A general CBE can give you the overview but really won’t go into the depth you may want on one topic. If you are committed to breastfeeding and really looking for help with that, find a class that focuses on it. If a healthy pregnancy and postpartum is important, if you had gestational diabetes with your first pregnancy, or if you want to make sure you are eating right for making breastmilk, find a nutrition class. Focused classes should not take the place of a comprehensive CBE, but can provide much needed supplementary education.
Here are some helpful tips for choosing the right childbirth education class:
- Is it comprehensive, covering pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period?
- Do they thoroughly cover comfort measures and common interventions?
- Are they evidence-based? Do they work to stay up-to-date on the most recent innovations, policies, and guidelines regarding maternity care?
- Does the instructor have a deep knowledge of birth and experience supporting people in labor?
- Is the class designed to encourage conversation and the opportunity to ask all your questions?
Want to find a class near you?
- Do a google search of "childbirth education (insert name of city or town here)"
- Ask your friends and/or coworkers
- Ask your doula, midwife, or doctor
- Check your local hospitals; often independent childbirth educators are able to rent or reserve rooms to teach their classes
To sum it up: having a baby is an exciting, life changing experience and confident decisions during birth are founded in access to information regarding your options and choices. A comprehensive childbirth class will help to prepare you and your partner for all the possibilities of birth.