Some of the most asked questions on the internet about pregnancy and birth involve childbirth education. “Should I take childbirth classes?” “Will childbirth education classes teach me how to handle the pain of childbirth?” “What childbirth class should I take?”
The answers are :
Yes! You should definitely take a childbirth education class!
Yes! Childbirth education classes will teach you lots of tools and skills and help you manage the physical and emotional challenges of labor!
And, there are many types of childbirth education classes available, both in-person and online, so you can find one that will suit your philosophy of care and your schedule.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll offer information about childbirth education in a series of posts. You’ll learn why it’s important to take childbirth education classes, the differences between hospital-based classes and those taught by independent instructors, and what a good educational program should cover. You’ll learn about the different organizations that train childbirth educators, and what makes each different type of program unique. With all this information you’ll be able to choose the right class to give you the confidence and skills to have a healthy, safer, empowering birth!
This first post will start with an overview of childbirth education and why it’s important to take classes. Check back regularly for additional posts in the series!
Childbirth education classes are the best way to get comprehensive information about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting in the short time available when you are pregnant. Since prenatal appointments usually last only a few minutes now, there’s not enough time for your doctor or midwife to teach you everything you’ll need to know to be well-informed. Taking classes is a great way to learn what you need to know, meet others going through pregnancy too, and connect with your supportive community.
Childbirth education classes have fallen out of favor in the past decade or so, with only about half of all expectant parents taking classes. The reasons why women and their partners are not signing up include being too busy, too tired, not wanting to incur the expense, and the belief that they can learn all they need to know from the books “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Childbirth,” and from watching videos on youTube. Meanwhile, the cesarean rate has been steadily climbing (until very recently when it leveled off just above 32%), and rates of birth trauma and PTSD are rising too. These statistics indicate that women and not as well prepared as they need to be to navigate the challenges of giving birth in our complex medical system.
In addition to providing more meaningful information and support than you can get from youTube videos and books, childbirth education classes provide human connection and community. They bring together people who have questions which you might not think of on your own, and help you feel like you are not alone on this journey to parenthood. They simply should not be missed.
There are many different types of childbirth classes, including Lamaze, Bradley, Hypnobirthing, Birthing From Within, Hypnobabies, and more. Each teaches the physical process of birth, and its own approach to managing labor, birth, breastfeeding, and typical interventions. Usually hospitals offer childbirth classes too, which may use a curriculum developed by the hospital, or may follow a curriculum from one of the major childbirth education training organizations.
Each type of class attracts people who are drawn to certain aspects of childbirth, based on their personal needs and thoughts about birth, so finding the right class for you can put you into a group of like-minded people. Hospital-based classes are often held free of charge, and they attract a wide range of people. One concern about hospital-based classes is that they may lean towards teaching you more about being a compliant patient. They can focus their teaching on going along with the hospital protocols rather than on evidence-based care and healthy birth. They tend to attract a mix of people who are as interested in “just getting the class done” as they are in learning about childbirth.
By stepping outside the hospital setting and into independently taught childbirth classes, you will increase your chances of finding a supportive community to help support you on your journey. The classes are usually much smaller. The teachers are passionate about helping women and their partners learn about physiologic birth and how to navigate the maternity care system more effectively. They focus on patient-centered care and helping you experience all the facets of birth from a more holistic perspective. Each type of class follows it’s own philosophy towards birth, so investigate several to see which resonates most with you. That way you’ll be more likely to connect with people who have similar thoughts, feelings, and approaches to you.
In my next post you’ll learn what topics should be covered in a quality childbirth education course.
Michal Klau-Stevens is The Birth Lady. She is the creator of the Mastering Maternity™ system, a program that helps expectant parents confidently approach pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, early parenting, and navigating the maternity healthcare system. She is a maternity consultant, pregnancy coach, consumer expert on maternity care issues, Past President of BirthNetwork National, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and mother. Her website is TheBirthLady.INFO. Find her on Facebook at The Birth Lady page!
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