It’s About Choices or Why Take a Childbirth Class?

I am preparing to begin teaching a class series on Tuesday.  I have the binders of information ready to go.  I plan to view the new birth video I received in the mail today to see which parts I would like to share with the class.  I’m planning for whole wheat blueberry muffins sweetened with maple syrup for our first snack.  Oh, and some assorted nuts for protein and minerals.  Water for hydration.

While I prepare to share information with my students/clients, I’m sure some who have visited the Birth True website, or those of you out there considering taking classes in your area are wondering if there is anything to learn from it really.  Can you really prepare for something as “unknown” as childbirth?  Does all that breathing and relaxation actually help when you’re in labor?  What if I am not planning to give birth naturally or already know because of health reasons that I need medical intervention to birth safely?  Isn’t it just best to depend on the expertise of my doctor or midwife, and in that case, would I need a class?  Why would I want to spend money to take a course?

Those are all legitimate and good questions.  Childbirth classes help you become aware of all of the options available when planning your birth.  You may find that you have choices you didn’t know you had. 🙂  They prepare you for what you will/can experience while in labor and giving birth, which in turn can alleviate any fears you might have.  Childbirth classes help prepare your support person to be of help to you while you labor.  They will learn techniques that helps them to be an active participant in the birth of your child and your comfort.  It is a time for you to bond with your support person and growing baby, to be focused on just that for a period of time in a day.

Can you really prepare for something as “unknown” as childbirth?

Absolutely!  For all the variations that come up in the way our babies are born, we can rest assured that birth is normal.  Because birth is normal, there are some things that are predictable about it, and can be prepared for.  Also, because there are only so many medical interventions used when there are difficulties, it is a great idea to learn about the benefits and risks of those procedures so that if you are confronted with needing one of them, you will be fully knowledgeable about what to expect.  This might help ease some of the fear that can come with facing an intervention.  Sometimes, simply knowing what to expect from childbirth can make it an experience that you can approach with your mind at ease.

Does all that breathing and relaxation actually help when you’re in labor?

While breathing and relaxation are very important for every woman about to give birth, those aren’t the only techniques to coping with the potential discomfort and pain you might experience in labor.  In a modern childbirth class, you will learn a variety of strategies for managing the discomfort/pain of labor and why they work.  Breathing alone or relaxation alone probably won’t be enough.  It takes multiple techniques (massage, affirmations, hydrotherapy, etc…) each useful at different times throughout labor, or a few that help the mother achieve a rhythm during labor.  It is a very individual thing.  However, if you would like a laugh at the expense of the “natural” childbirth classes of the seventies and eighties, you must watch Bill Cosby’s comments.  Know that we’ve come a long way since then, and that childbirth classes aren’t only for intellectuals or those planning a natural childbirth.

What if I am not planning to give birth naturally or already know because of health reasons that I need medical intervention to birth safely?

By all means still plan to attend classes.  There is something for you in childbirth classes.  The stresses and pain that can come with interventions can be lessened through the same techniques used in med-free childbirth.  Epidurals are not painless to place.  Many mothers will be surprised by the sensations of pressure or pulling that they will continue to feel after the epidural is in place.  Being prepped for surgery can also be a very nerve invoking experience.  It would benefit you greatly to have some techniques in place to help you relax during these times.  It is a great idea to come to learn about the benefits and risks of the procedures you are considering or are necessary for your birth.  Early parenting and breastfeeding are also covered in childbirth classes, and with what you learn about the effects medical procedures you can make plans for your baby and a successful start at breastfeeding if you plan to do so.

Isn’t it just best to depend on the expertise of my doctor or midwife, and in that case, would I need a class?

We all know that doctors and midwives are very busy people.  If you have chosen a doctor or midwife that practices from a hospital or birthing center, it is reasonable to expect their time with you to be limited.  The average prenatal visit (with the doctor or midwife) is 10 to 15 minutes duration.  (If you have chosen homebirth, you might have a different experience as homebirth midwives typically have fewer clients and spend more time covering a more holistic approach to prenatal care.)  No matter what type of provider you have chosen or the environment for your birth, it would be hard to expect your provider to be able to cover with you all the major aspects of pregnancy, labor, and delivery.  They simply don’t have the time.  While it is a provider’s responsibility to fully inform you about any procedures needed for your care, it is not likely that they will spend time talking to you about the stages of labor, or how to progress through labor as comfortably as possible.  It is also a good idea to be fully involved in planning your childbirth.  The choices are yours to make.  No one knows what is best for you or your baby better than you do.

Why would I want to spend money to take a course?

Many of the free classes (though there are definitely exceptions) offered through a provider’s office or the hospital are not as extensive as those offered independently.  Usually the focus of those classes are informing of office or hospital policies you will encounter during your experience with them.  They will often describe the basics of labor and delivery, and some will cover basic breastfeeding.  Few will cover alternative techniques for coping with pain, early parenting, pregnancy exercise or nutrition.  If you have chosen a practice that offers a free class, it is a good idea to take that class along with one offered independent of the provider you have chosen to get the entire picture of the choices you have and not be restricted to learning only about the choices offered by a particular provider.  For example, a class series like the ones offered by Birth True, which are Lamaze based, will meet for at least 12 hours over a period of time.  I choose to do that over 6 class sessions.  Childbirth educators work hard to insure that they have up to date, accurate information to offer their students/clients.  Their certification or training boards (like Lamaze, Bradley, or CAPPA for example) also put measures in place to help educators stay up to date.

In a typical class series, you will encounter a variety of activities to help you learn about the journey you are about to take.  Dynamic childbirth classes aren’t only lecture and reading.  There are also hands on activities, learning stations, videos, visual aides, and guest speakers.  Educators will do the best they can to make sure you aren’t bored. 🙂  You will also have the opportunity to evaluate the education you are receiving and give feedback.  We work hard to create a comfortable environment where you are at ease.  A variety of ways to ask questions are also offered, so you don’t have to feel embarrassed.

Along with the valuable information on pregnancy, labor, birth, early parenting, and breastfeeding, in Birth True classes, you will receive a binder of information, snacks/drinks for every class, and a take home project to help you during your labor and delivery.  I hope to meet some of you soon.  It would be an honor to be a part of your journey.

Many happy days to you and yours,



About Kelli

I am Kelli B. Haywood, LCCE, a childbirth educator certified through Lamaze, a birth doula, and prenatal yoga instructor. My two little girls light my life. I am the wife of artist, musician, and teacher - John Haywood.
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