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Decoding Childbirth Education Classes

photo : flickr.com/nateOne

There are so many different kinds of childbirth classes out there… most new mothers have no idea where to even start. You’ve got the hospital classes, Bradley classes, Lamaze classes — heck when I decided to become a childbirth educator, I had to research much more in depth to decide which my own teaching style and beliefs on childbirth really jived with.

Before getting into what kinds of classes there are, I want to talk about why women truly need childbirth education at some point during their pregnancies. Last winter I wrote a post about a study that came out regarding the level of education women have regarding pregnancy. I was shocked to know that over 24% of women thought a full-term pregnancy lasted 34-36 weeks. An infant born in that time frame would not only be considered premature, but also spend some time in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).

That study included the following:

“Researchers asked the mothers, “At what gestational age do you believe the baby is considered full term?” Nearly one in four (24%) chose 34—36 weeks, half chose 37—38 weeks, and the remaining quarter chose 39—40. Researchers also asked, “What is the earliest point in the pregnancy that it is safe to deliver the baby, should there be no other medical complications requiring early delivery?” More than half (52%) of the new mothers chose 34 to 36 weeks, while fewer than 10% chose 39—40 weeks. For neither question did women’s responses vary significantly by age, ethnicity, marital status, education, region of the country, or income.”

Showing that there is a true need directly across the board.

So… what kind of classes are there?  Well, there are the typical hospital-based classes, Lamaze classes, The Bradley Method, Hypnobirthing, Hypnobabies, ICEA classes, Birthing from Within, and many forms of independent teachers who do not identify with a certain kind of method or background, which often poses teaching restrictions, or a pre-fixed type of curriculum.

Hospital Classes — I must say I am slightly biased when it comes to hospital-based childbirth classes. Not just because I feel that one day is not enough to learn what mothers really need to know, but because they are often taught by labor and delivery nurses from the unit, so in many cases there will be bias on the way they would like to see things done or encourage their students in a certain direction.

Although not all of these classes are like that; there are some great and informative childbirth classes offered in one 4-8 hour class through the hospital. If sitting and learning for that period of time is something you think you would be interested in doing, these classes may be right for you.

Lamaze — I decided to become a Lamaze teacher myself after learning about it more. Contrary to what people believe, it is not all about breathing. Lamaze focuses on teaching about the six healthy birth practices :

  • Let labor begin on its own.
  • Walk, move, and change positions during labor.
  • Have continuous support during labor (doula, support person, etc.)
  • Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary.
  • Avoid giving birth on your back, and follow your body’s urge to push.
  • Keep mother and baby together after birth (skin-to-skin contact) and breastfeed.

All are really great practices that help promote healthy birth but are also founded and supported by evidence based on medicine, unlike many common practices in the hospital today, which are done because of practice patterns or provider preference. Another amazing part of Lamaze is the philosophy that women should have confidence in their abilities to give birth to their babies, which seems to be an issue with our society today.

The Bradley Method — The Bradley Method is a 12-week course focused on husband- or partner-coached childbirth, with the core belief and teachings that women can embrace the natural process of birth. One of the main focuses of Bradley is that “with the right preparation, most women can avoid pain medication and routine interventions during labor and birth.” The curriculum focuses heavily around nutrition, diet, and exercise during pregnancy and also teaches techniques for coping with pain during childbirth such as deep breathing.

Hypnobirthing — Hypnobirthing, or The Morgan Method, describes itself as a rebirth of the teachings of Grantly Dick-Read who was one of the obstetric pioneers in natural childbirth. Their website states, “The method teaches you that, in the absence of fear and tension, or special medical circumstances, severe pain does not have to be an accompaniment of labor.”

Hypnobabies — Hypnobabies is described as hypnosis for childbirth. Many people have found this to be controversial because of the religious aspects that can impact or surround hypnosis. Hypnobabies describes itself as different from other hypnobirthing programs:

“Hypnobabies is very comprehensive and successful, uses medical hypnotic anesthesia techniques from Gerald Kein’s amazing painless childbirth program, as opposed to simple visualization and imagery, and contains the same kinds of hypnotic scripts used by people who undergo surgery with hypnosis as their only anesthetic.”

I interviewed a mother who gave birth using hypnobabies on my website earlier in the year, and her story was truly amazing: Talking Hypnobabies with Michael

ICEA Classes — The ICEA does not promote a certain curriculum but instead offers certification and training to those interested in becoming a childbirth educator. They have the benefit of being a certified childbirth education instructor without having to stick to a certain curriculum. What I have noticed since starting my training is many instructors certified through the ICEA are also certified through Lamaze.

Overall these are basic classes with no set-in-stone type of format or background like many of the others listed above.

Birthing from Within — Birthing from within is a program that focuses on spiritual-based preparation for childbirth and parenting. The classes are not as widely offered nationwide as most of the others listed above, and many people have to opt for the self-study program if they are interested in Birthing from Within.

It sounds like a lot to take in — I know… it is scary! But becoming educated on the process of childbirth with the maternity care system the way it is in our country currently is very important to mothers, not only for their own peace of mind, but for their safety!

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