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Childbirth Classes - What's the Scoop?

You are pregnant, and you are busy... You barely have time to (fill in the blank), for crying out loud! So, of course you are asking yourself, "do I really need a childbirth education class? There's so much on my ever-growing to-do list." Subscribe to Ask the Midwife Newsletter:

If you have found your way to this blog, then you are clearly interested in learning about childbirth education. And there is a lot to learn about the learning, so to speak! Please allow me to break down a few burning questions you may have, like why taking a class is so, so, so important, as well as which ones are worth your while.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a midwife, labor support doula and childbirth educator. But I’m writing this blog because I was once a pregnant mom, faced with an overwhelming number of choices regarding how to prepare. It’s tough out there in Pregnancy-Land! How are you supposed to know what you are supposed to know?

I have seen the difference on countless occasions a childbirth education class makes for women and their partners during labor and birth. Knowledge is power, my friends. Women and their partners who prepare in advance (especially in these modern times) tend to have much easier labors, give birth vaginally and cope better with the challenges they may face along the way. And they feel more positive about their experience.

Image by Niki Torres

Image by Niki Torres

The Basics: Why Should I Take a Childbirth Education Class?                                                           

The anatomy and physiology of childbirth remain unchanged. It’s not as though labor in the 21st century means we turn purple and grow a second pair of feet, and it’s not like babies now come into the world through our ear canals (there’s a visual!). So if none of the actual process has evolved, don’t we just know enough about birth by now? Well, we would, if this were the 1900s. See, although we have made major technological advances that allow us to achieve truly magnificent and amazing things beyond our wildest dreams (can we just talk about Amazon drones dropping their wares from the sky??!!!), our culture no longer provides us the opportunity to witness birth as a normal, everyday event.

Art by Catie Atkinson @spiritysol.

Art by Catie Atkinson @spiritysol.

In many places around the world, people still approach birth in the same ways that their ancestors have for generations. A woman is surrounded by her mother, sisters, cousins, aunts, grandmothers and friends, creating a rock-solid foundation that cradles her through pregnancy, labor, birth and the postpartum period.  Which means that these lucky people are around birth all the time.

It was like this in developed countries as well, until a few key events took place:

  1. People began to move away from their communities, putting distance between mothers and close relations.

  2. When childbirth moved out of the home and into the hospital in the early 1900s, it came to be viewed as a medical condition. As a result, clinical staff and hospital protocol created an even greater chasm between a woman and the support she would have received in the past from her circle of family and friends.

Therefore, a childbirth education class helps moms and their partners learn about and believe in the process, about how their bodies and babies really instinctually know what to do, about normalcy in labor and birth, about the importance of relaxation, about how to gain confidence and find their inner strength.

Image by Mary Elliot O'Haire

Image by Mary Elliot O'Haire

So if my body and my baby know what to do, why do I need a class?

Great question! Well, it all goes back to our not being around birth. For most women in our country today, birth is something foreign that takes place in a medical institution. It’s also viewed as something really, really scary. Why? Because most women in our society don’t witness what birth really looks like until they have their own babies. Instead, they hear lots of negative stories that frighten the heck out of them. Or, they watch birth scenes of hysteria and horror in movies and on tv (oh, those “reality” shows, where they cue the dramatic music at exactly the same time in every episode even if nothing dramatic is happening. Trust me, this is how I spend my laundry-folding time so I’ve gotten this down to a science)! So although you may understand that a woman’s body is designed to give birth as much as she is designed to breathe, taking a class to describe how it all goes down is really critical these days.

Okay, okay, I get it. I should take a class. Can’t I just do my own reading or catch a webinar online or talk to my best friend’s cousin’s sister-in-law’s co-worker?

Yeah, sure, there are books (some of  which – by the way – you should absolutely read). And there are a bajillion websites to peruse. And of course, there are online childbirth classes - such as mine! But there simply is no substitute for attending a class which has a real, live instructor and real, live classmates in addition.

Why are these things so important? Well, for starters, you will undoubtedly bring lots of questions to class with you. And you deserve answers to those questions. Not just standard, general, statistically-average, run-of-the-mill answers. But answers that answer YOU specifically. And in real time.

Photo by Mark Roberts Photography @legacimedia

Photo by Mark Roberts Photography @legacimedia

In addition, you’ll learn comfort techniques for pregnancy and labor – things you can rely on yourself – and those that actively involve your partner. Trying to get a sense for these positions, etc. is a lot easier when an instructor is right there with you, offering guidance along the way.

Photo by @alwaysmatilda_katie

Photo by @alwaysmatilda_katie

Next, you will be creating community with your classmates. There is great value in going through such a profound, life-changing experience with others:

  • You will understand each other on a level no one else really can.

  • It’s priceless when someone asks a question that you hadn’t thought of (and it becomes one that you must have the answer to, immediately!)

  • You can learn a lot from one another.

  • You might just meet your new best friend (oh yes, this happens more frequently than you think)!

Art by Catie Atkinson @spiritysol

Art by Catie Atkinson @spiritysol

How do I find a class that suits my needs and preferences?

My first piece of advice is to do your research. Don’t just check out an instructor’s website – get her on the phone and actually interview her. Read testimonials, online reviews and contact former students. Get a sense for her philosophy and approach.

Secondly, ask to see a syllabus. Make sure a class offers the specific topics in which you are interested. NOT ALL CHILDBIRTH CLASSES ARE CREATED EQUALLY. Some spend a lot of time addressing anxiety and exploring relaxation techniques. Some focus on medical intervention without going into much detail about non-invasive coping techniques. Some include newborn care and breast feeding, some do not.

My advice is to look for a comprehensive, non-judgmental class where discussion is encouraged and a safe forum is created so that you feel free to ask questions and share honestly. (I’ve listed a variety of classes below).

I’m so busy – I don’t have a traditional work schedule – I can’t possible dedicate all those precious hours – I just want to sleep in…those one-day intensives sound tempting…

I hear you. I really, really do. And a one-day intensive sounds like a perfect solution to this battle cry. However, I don’t recommend them, unless you find a truly extraordinary instructor. First of all, there is far too much information to cover in one day, so you won’t be receiving all that you need. Also, these types of classes are exhausting for all involved. I taught them early on in my career and trust me, instructors can’t give their all when they are on Hour Six. Nor can a pregnant woman fatigued from hormones and a full work-week possibly process all there is to learn. And when you are in a group, there is simply no way the instructor will have time to answer all of your queries.

What if I really, truly can’t get to a class? 

If you are on bedrest; if there aren’t any classes conveniently located near you; if transportation is a problem; if your schedule simply doesn’t permit, seek out an instructor who offers in-home, private sessions...or take an excellent on-line course, ideally with a Skype or phone consultation for your personal questions (which is what I created and offer!). You won’t have the benefit of being with others, but: you won’t have to travel, you can schedule it according to your calendar, and the class can be customized completely just for you and your partner. These tailored classes can address adoption, surrogacy, gay parenting, sibling preparation, VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), etc.

If cost is an issue, many instructors are willing to arrange payment plans or barter deals. Scholarships are available in some locations. Ask for a discount or if they are running any promotions.

My motto is: “Take a class. It doesn’t have to be my class. Just take a class”. So if you need to register for one online go for it. If you can only take a one-day intensive, at least do that, as it is indeed better than not taking anything at all. Just know that you will likely have to fill in some holes with other resources (perhaps ones recommended by your care provider or my favorite books and movies).

Doing your research, taking a class, asking your questions – these are all tremendously worthwhile activities. They will serve you quite well as you continue this incredible journey. Don’t shortchange yourself – really dig deep so that you feel as confident as possible. Remember, there are no stupid questions. This is unchartered territory for most of you – let information be like hands that hold you up so that you can be and feel your best!

Thanks for spending some time with me – see you next month!

If you are interested in my LOVE YOUR BIRTH online course, keep reading. You will be so glad you did.

Image by Megan Hancock Photography

Image by Megan Hancock Photography

Let Me Help You Create The Happiest Birth Experience Of Your Life...

Whether you're a first time or experienced momma,

Or a midwife, doula, or birth professional guiding mommas..

Regardless if you are planning a birth at home, a hospital, a birth center or need a cesarean section, or if you are taking another childbirth education class…

You Really Can Create The Delivery Of Your Dreams.

And have a blissful birth wherever you are.

More Precious Than A Wedding...A Birth Should Be A Celebration!

Let me show you how to…

  • Understand the sensations of your body and connect your intuition with how your body is communicating and leading you towards what to do during labor
  • Tap into your inner calm to deeply relax yourself, letting go of busy, stressful and fearful thoughts on demand for the health of baby
  • Speak your truth from your heart in a way that deepens your relationships, sets clear boundaries, and has people listen to you and support you before, during and after pregnancy
  • Trust yourself, connect with your body wisdom and communicate with baby in belly
  • Connect with natural time and sync your body and mind up with your unique biological clock for ease from pregnancy to postpartum
  • Reprogram negative patterns, stories, and beliefs that undermine your confidence, strength and self trust so you can rock your birth

Physicians and midwives around the world recommend my teachings to their pregnant clients and many Doulas across the country learn the secrets of blissful birthing from me to supplement their Doula Training & Certification process!

To learn more, visit:  LOVE YOUR BIRTH Online Childbirth Course!

It is based on my years of experience, as a midwife and yoga teacher, helping thousands of women tap into their calm and live and birth from a place of grounded relaxation and joy. 


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