Recently my husband needed hand surgery, so one of the first things he did was ask the doctor about the different options for the procedure. Then he went and looked up the options online. He read articles and watched videos of the actual procedure. He wanted to know as much as he could about what they were going to do.
When we found out we were pregnant, we did the same thing. It was a little harder than it is today as there was no internet, but we found books to read and people to talk to. We asked lots of questions every time I had a doctor’s appointment.
And we took a childbirth class.
At the time, the most common were the ones offered by the hospital. It was a comprehensive, multi-week series that told us a lot about what was going to be happening with my body during pregnancy and birth, as well as comfort measures that we could use to manage pain. It also spelled out exactly what would happen to me once I arrived at the hospital. While it was very informative and I felt fairly prepared, it’s clear to me now that a portion of their job was to tell me what the hospital’s expectations were for me (i.e. I would wear the gown, I would have a saline lock, I would not eat or drink, etc.)
So did you take a childbirth education class when you were expecting your first baby? How about a refresher when you became pregnant again?
As a childbirth educator, I was disappointed to learn that only about 1 in 3 people take a childbirth class and that most take the class offered at the hospital. Most hospitals in my area do not do multi-week series anymore and focus on a 1-day intensive, but research shows that the main focus of this 1-day class is what to expect in the hospital. The medical model is presented and interventions are “for your safety” often with only benefits discussed. Students are conditioned to passively accept hospital routines.
We often put a ton of planning into some things, like a vacation or wedding, but when it comes to birth, some prefer to “wing it” and just “see what happens.” Or they think they will just rely on their doctors or nursing staff to help them, not realizing that the doctor often does not come to the hospital until it’s time to push and nurses only spend about 30% of the time in your room — and, research shows, only about 6-12% of that time giving support. The rest of the time is spent charting, adjusting technology and providing clinical care.
While birth is unpredictable, it’s still important to prepare yourself for what to expect and empower yourself to advocate for your desires.
Now, please don’t hear me slamming the hospital classes. They are taught by nurses who have a passion for helping babies enter this world, and they contain a lot of helpful facts and tips. But those same nurses are also part of a system, a business, that has many moving parts and plenty of people to answer to. They are required to present information in a certain way, and they are strongly encouraged to have their patients follow hospital policies. And they are not usually in a position of power and are unlikely to talk to you about this system.
As a doula, I work for my client, not the hospital. I have the ability to be an objective party in the birth setting, and can help you navigate the hospital system and create a team that is there to support you and your wishes, while at the same time keeping you and your baby safe.
As a childbirth educator, I mentor you through a childbirth class that will educate you about evidence based care, and help you create your birth team. You will learn about the physical process of birth so you can know what to expect from your body, but we’ll also talk about the hospital system in a frank way so that you know how they will help you meet your goals, or what to look for if you need to change providers or birth setting. We’ll practice comfort techniques like acupressure and position changes and you’ll gain valuable tools for speaking with doctors and nurses.
One of the reasons that hospitals don’t do multi-week series anymore is because they were having trouble getting people to commit to that many sessions. And while there are some things that happen best in-person, people prefer to learn things on their own schedule, at home and online.
The Evidence Based Birth® Childbirth Class is unique in its format, in that it combines the best of both! We start with an in-person session where one of the things we do is go over the basics of the labor process with a creative exercise involving string and photos. From there you’ll watch online videos and have practice exercises that you do at home, and we’ll have weekly video calls to go over what you’ve learned and answer any questions you have. Instead of having a “teacher” you’ll have a “mentor!” We end with another in-person session where you get to practice hands-on techniques and go through a birthing time rehearsal.
Your baby’s “birth day” is one of the most exciting and precious that anyone can have. It sets the tone for your postpartum period and is a memory that will last.
Take time to prepare and empower yourself — take an out-of-hospital childbirth class. The investment will go a long way toward creating a more positive birth experience!