Birth is an instinctual process, but there are still many benefits to childbirth education. It is not uncommon for many women to never witness childbirth until it is time for their own labor and the unknown can create fear and anxiety for some. For others the unknown can create unrealistic expectations which can lead to disappointment about their birth experience. Here are ten advantages to childbirth education:
1. A comprehensive childbirth class can build a woman’s confidence in her ability to give birth. Learning about the birth process, how the body works and is designed for labor, and watching positive birth stories can help a woman to begin to trust her body’s ability to give birth.
2. Knowledge is power and the knowledge gained in a class can help parents to make informed decisions about mom and baby’s care. As labor unfolds parents can be confident in their ability to talk with care providers about the benefits and risks of procedures and medications. If an emergency occurs they also have the knowledge to debrief and heal following an unexpected experience.
3. A class can help reduce fear and anxiety surrounding the birth process. A natural consequence to fear is tension. During childbirth being able to relax and cope is essential for labor to progress. Fear that leads to tension can cause more painful contractions as the body tightens up and may slow labor. When a woman understands the pain during labor, rather than fears it, she can utilize comfort measures to cope and work with her body as labor progresses.
4. Classes can help partners understand their role in the birth process. There are many things a partner can do to help their partner prepare for and cope during labor. A supportive partner can help create a positive birthing experience. Ina May Gaskin, in her Guide to Natural Childbirth, said, ” What can be more liberating to an expectant father than to know that his loving words to his partner may give her strength and energy to make her birth crossing easier – even to the point where it sometimes ventures into ecstasy? “
5. A comprehensive childbirth class can help parents understand all of their options. From choosing a care provider and birthing location, to understanding common
procedures there are lots of choices parents can make. When parents know all of their options they can make fully informed decisions.
6. Parents can learn about all comfort measure options. Many are aware of pharmacological comfort measures and may want to avoid or limit use of them but they may not realize that there are many natural comfort measures available as well. It does not have to be a choice between medicinal pain relief or no relief from contractions. During classes parents will learn about the benefit vs risk of pharmacological pain relief as well as natural comfort measures like massage, heat, hydrotherapy, counter pressure and more so they can fill their “toolbox” with many tools to pull out during labor.
7. Positions! Many are not aware that the position a woman labors and even delivers in can greatly impact her delivery experience. A comprehensive childbirth class will teach different positions and how they can help labor and delivery to progress.
8. A class can help facilitate emotional preparedness for labor. Unresolved grief, fear, anxiety and previous birth experiences can have an impact on labor. Having a safe place to explore these feelings and discuss ways and resources to handle them can help couples be emotionally prepared for their upcoming delivery.
9. Learn what to expect during the postpartum period. The initial postpartum period, often referred to as the “fourth trimester”, is a time of transition filled with excitement, sleep deprivation, and physical changes. Knowing what to expect and planning ways to cope can help parents have a more positive postpartum experience.
10. A class provides an opportunity to build relationships with other parents going through the same life phase. Having people to reach out to and talk with about what one is experiencing can help couples as they make the transition into parenthood.
Maria Silver Pyanov, CPD, CCE provides six week Birth Works childbirth classes through the Maternal Wellness Group. For more information visit www.maternalwellness.org or www.flexibledoula.com To register for an upcoming class Maria can be reached at 267-266-5194 or Mspyanov@gmail.com
Gaskin, Ina M. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. New York: Bantam Books, 2003. Print.
“Listening to Mothers: Take Two.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.
“Mind over matter: minimising pain in labour – Royal College of Midwives.” RCM home – Royal College of Midwives. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.
“Positioning Matters.” Flexible Doula Care and Childbirth Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.