Most people who teach childbirth education do so because they have a passion for helping mothers and families become informed and empowered through the pregnancy and birth process. We have worked with many different types of families with many different goals and desires for birth. We know that each family is unique and will make their own unique choices, but there are a few things we have learned from our experience that may benefit all families.
1. Any education about birth will help...
We have seen parents who became frightened during their birth because they had no idea what to expect and were caught off guard by the process. We know that a little education can go a long way and that the more prepared you are, the more confident you will be, and the greater the chance that you will have a smooth and healthy birth experience. If you don’t know where to start, check out books from your local library, read websites like babycenter.com or childbirthconnection.org and research local resources. Ask friends or your care provider for recommendations for childbirth classes and choose the one that is the best fit for you. Anything you do to prepare will be better than nothing at all.
2. ….but be conscious of the source of your information.
Having affirmed that any amount of education is better than none, it is also important to consider the source. With so much content at our fingertips online, it is easy to get lost in a sea of information. It is usually best to navigate towards websites which offer factual information written by knowledgeable professionals and be cautious when using online message boards or social networking sites which can be filled with personal accounts, opinions and sometimes, inaccuracies. A friend, family member, or television show may or may not provide helpful or accurate information and may instead be “venting” or sensationalizing birth. Remember that these one-sided stories can affect your confidence, increase your fears and are not likely to be similar to your story. This is not to say that you should dismiss what you read online or what your friends and family tell you (sometimes you can hear encouraging, inspiring and amazing stories), just be cautious. If the information is not helpful, incites fear or feels incomplete, move on to another source.
3. Childbirth Education is about more than pain management.
We have sometimes heard mothers say, “Why would I need to take a childbirth class? I’m planning to have an epidural.” We want you to know that classes are helpful for any plan, and do more than teach you about pain management. Classes often provide education on all kinds of topics, such as pregnancy wellness, the typical course of events for birth, your choices, what to expect after the birth and often newborn care and breastfeeding. This information can relieve fears and help you enjoy your pregnancy, birth or postpartum time more than if you go through it blindly. You also have a chance to connect with other expectant parents, learn you are not alone in this journey and maybe even meet couples who turn into lifelong friends.
4. This is a day you’ll remember forever, so put some thought into how you would like it to go.
It is extremely important to keep an open mind during pregnancy, labor and delivery, because things can happen that are outside of anyone’s control. Labor can be unpredictable and you may encounter surprises. However, it is important to realize that the day your child is born is a day you’ll remember forever, and it warrants some degree of planning. It is a good idea to give thoughtful consideration to your options ahead of time and establish your preferences, then be sure to communicate those preferences to your care provider and to the people who will be supporting and surrounding you during your birth. We believe this will help you have a happier and more empowered experience and be able to look back on your experience with fond memories.
5. Your care provider can’t do this for you.
While in some ways it might seem easier to turn over decision-making to another person and be free from responsibility, there is no one else as invested in your birth experience or its outcome as you are. No one else knows your goals and desires, your likes and dislikes, your history or your plans for the future. No one else will be taking your child home and raising him/her and no one else will feel the emotional impacts of the birth like you and your partner. Some decisions made for you by your care provider may not make a difference to you or may be beneficial, while others may leave you with doubt, regret or even trauma. You may look back at your experience and wonder if that intervention or medication was necessary or ask yourself “what if...” questions. You may make major future decisions based on your birth experience, such limiting how many children you have or resigning yourself to a similar birth with your next child. As childbirth educators, we know that your involvement in the decision-making, regardless of the birth experience or outcome, can have huge benefits to you for years to come. You have the right to make decisions for your care after receiving all of the important information about your choices, such as the advantages, drawbacks, and alternatives, and you always have the right to say no.
Every woman is different, every baby is different and every labor is different. Even in our own classes, we want to make sure parents know that there are no absolutes, no hard and fast rules that are one hundred percent sure to apply to every couple or mother. Education can’t guarantee a particular outcome or ensure that your birth is all that you desire, but it can help you feel respected and empowered - and all families benefit from that.
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