Childbirth Education. What was the first thing that came to mind when you read that? When I tell people I am a Certified Childbirth Educator, I get a variety of responses, but the most common is something like, “Oh, you teach the breathing?”
People have had this image of women semi-reclined in front of their partners making, “HE-HE-Hoo,” a hold over from the “old Lamaze” that became popular back around the time I was born in the 1970's. The reality is that even Lamaze doesn't emphasize “the breathing” anymore, it is one tool that can sometimes be helpful for some women. Today, there are many skills that can be taught that are effective in promoting a positive birth experience. So what is Childbirth Education like now?
Well, that all depends. If we work to classify Childbirth Education in the US, we're likely to come up with something like this: Hospital-Based Classes and Independent Classes (taught by “private” Childbirth Educators who teach out of other locations such as homes, nonprofits, baby stores, etc.) There are several “techniques-” or “method-centered” classes within the “Independent” category. Often, hospital-based classes focus on the “what to expect,” while Independent classes focus on more of “what do you want.”
When I took my Doula Training over three very full days in 2005, our trainer, Therese Hak-Kuhn, gave us this very memorable quote, “Not every woman wants a 'birth experience,' but in birth, every woman will get an experience.” This speaks to the fact that many, many women today are not fully prepared for birth, and many are surprised when things “don't turn out” as expected.
Some examples of women who weren't looking for experiences and how Childbirth Education helped them:
A young mother expects that her doctor will “be with me and tell me what to do.” Fact is that in hospital births, many OB's, and even some hospital-based Certified Nurse-Midwives have many patients to attend to, have office appointments to keep and end up checking in once or twice during their shift and don't spend much time with a mother until she is well into the pushing stage. She is surprised to discover this is the case, and decides to take Childbirth Education classes to help her and her partner learn “what to do.”
A mother who has previously had a surgical birth (cesarean) is told throughout her pregnancy that her practice supports VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), but as the estimated due date approaches, she begins to feel pressured to schedule another surgical birth. She is less than thrilled. She decides to find out what the medical indications are for a repeat cesarean, and find out what the risks and benefits would be by taking a VBAC class.
While each Independent class has its own twist, if you're shopping around, look for a “series” or Program of classes that will teach you evidence-based information, is up-to-date with the latest in “best practices” in Maternity Care, that will teach you a wide variety of techniques to use during your birthing process, and, perhaps most importantly, will teach you skills of self-advocacy, decision-making, communication with your care provider and how to locate resources. It is helpful for many pregnant mothers and their partners just to set aside some time to reflect, relax and connect with this child that is growing within, but of course, there is a lot of helpful information to be gained from a comprehensive, evidence-based Program.
Over the next couple of weeks I will write additional posts exploring Childbirth Education in more detail. In the meantime, if you know someone who is expecting, I have been able to partner with the YMCA in Meriden to offer an affordable, evidence-based, comprehensive Childbirth Education Program beginning at the end of April. More information on that can be found here:
By Maura Jo Lynch, MA, CD, CCCE, CCPFE (pending)
ChildbirthCT.com: Empowering Expectant Families
(203) 9 DOULAS