The Importance of Childbirth Education

thanksgiving-is-not-a-complication-of-pregnancyThe Educated Parent: The Importance of Childbirth Education

By Amy V. Haas, BCCE

 Congratulations! You and your partner are expecting a baby! What next? Well, if you have already chosen your care-provider, your next step will be to find a Childbirth Education class that fits your family’s needs.

The best childbirth classes are going to ones that are the most thorough & comprehensive. Short hospital classes are offered in most communities, but remember, hospitals are in the business of making money. Hospital classes sell hospital services to the attendees of those classes. Add to that the fact that hospitals around the US do not practice evidence based medicine, and you certainly don’t have comprehensive, evidence based classes. All too often women end up with medically unnecessary interventions that cause additional problems, because they don’t know what their options are, or how they can impact labor.

I actually recommend that if people can afford to they should take both an independent childbirth class series and the hospital class. Then compare how much you learned in each class. People are amazed at how little they learn in the hospital classes, and how much they learn in independent childbirth classes.   It takes 10 – 12 weeks for a human being to truly assimilate a new thought process, nutrition, or exercise plan

“If birth is so natural, then why do I have to take classes?”

Many women go into childbirth very fearful and assuming that they will want or need lots of drugs. However, studies show that for low risk moms the need for truly medically necessary interventions is less than 20%. Human beings are cerebral creatures who think way too much. And we come with baggage. Add to that the fact that we have been socialized by the media into believing that birth is a horrible, painful thing that needs lots of medical intervention, and you have a major challenge. Tough stuff to overcome in a few weeks or months. But when women have proper support, and learn about labor and birth, and natural ways to deal with it, then they don’t find medication as necessary as they assumed they would.

Most women desire to have a loved one/husband/partner/friend trained as their primary labor assistant, or at least thoroughly educated so they know what to expect, what is normal, what is not, how to help, and when to ask for help. Or, they at least want them prepared enough to attend and participate without running screaming from the room, or passing out. The fact is that Men/partners can bring their own fear into the birthing room. This can make things more difficult for the mother. So if you do want your partner/husband there, make sure they are well prepared. Find a Childbirth class that very specifically trains a woman’s partner of choice in how to act as a primary labor assistant, and educate them enough to understand how the process works, and why it works that way. They learn the benefits of normal, natural labor for both the mother and the baby, and how they can best facilitate that.

Occasionally a woman’s partner cannot, or chooses not to, act as the primary labor assistant, in spite of the education they receive, and that’s ok. Better they realize that early, and help the woman hire a Doula to take on that role. But the education is not wasted in either way, as they can still be present and helpful. But it is most important that they have an understanding of what is normal during labor, and why it is that way. They can also assist with decision making, if necessary, as a woman’s legal partner is the one who may be asked to make serious choices if the woman is unable to do so for herself.

The primary focus of any childbirth class should be a healthy baby and mom, which are best achieved through a healthy, natural birth.  Any course you take should teach specific techniques to achieve this goal, and give your family the information they need to make important decisions that are right for them, and their individual circumstances. Since there are many types of childbirth classes it is important that you do your homework thoroughly when choosing one. Different classes will appeal to different families.

Contact your local Birth Network and ask if they have a list of independent childbirth educators. In western NY we have Rochester Area Birth Network www.rabn.org . This non-profit organization that supplies the Community with free information and referrals to many independent Birth related professionals in our area.

Overall, what effect does education for the family have on maternal and infant outcomes? Basically we see much lower intervention rates, half the cesarean rate, and healthier Mom’s and babies, when compared to the general population. But remember, regardless of the type of childbirth class you choose the most important factor is a healthy positive birth experience. It’s not about perfect birth, it’s about healthy birth!

 

Amy Haas has been a childbirth educator, writer, consultant & lecturer in the field of pregnancy and birth for almost 20 years. She often writes for Midwifery Today, and is the Education Chair for Rochester Area Birth Network. Visit her at www.healthybirth.net

 [As seen in the May 2015 issue of Natural Awakenings Rochester]

 Amy V. Haas©2015

 References

Redshaw, et al.; “Fathers’ Engagement in Pregnancy & Childbirth: Evidence from a National Survey” ; BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2013;13(70) © 2013 BioMed Central, Ltd. www.medscape.com

Haas, A V; “The Educated Parent: Are Bradley Method® Childbirth classes right for you?”; New Health Digest; Rochester NY, April 2006, p. 10 & 22.

Goer & Romano, Optimal Care in Childbirth: The Case for a Physiologic Approach.

Declercq E, Sakala C, Corry M, Applebaum S. 2006. Listening to mothers II: Report of the second national U.S. survey of women’s childbearing experiences. New York: Childbirth Connection.

Declercq E, Sakala C, Corry M, Applebaum S, Risher P. 2002. Listening to mothers: Report of the first national U.S. survey of women’s childbearing experiences. New York: Maternity Center Association.