Using Video in Childbirth Education

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to childbirth education, a video can be even more impactful. Part of what makes childbirth and postpartum so scary for many expectant parents is all of the unknown that surrounds it. Videos can serve as a powerful way of demystifying and normalizing pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, as it helps to provide an intimate, detailed idea of what to expect.

These days, there is an abundance of videos available online, often for free. Still, there are several factors to consider before you hit play.

Advantages of Using Video

What makes video helpful when it comes to educating students about birthing and breastfeeding? Unlike the written word or even a vivid photograph, videos can give students audio cues, show the depth of certain facial expressions, and can give students a more realistic sense of what it might be like to experience the intense, life-altering moments that take place during childbirth and postpartum.

For example, videos can depict:

  • The sounds and movements that women make during the various stages of labor.
  • What it looks like to implement various comfort measures during labor.
  • How facial expressions and skin tones change during contractions and pushing.
  • What a baby looks like when they’ve just been born, including movements and different cries.
  • What it looks like when a baby is rooting and trying to latch onto the breast.

Disadvantages of Using Video

Video viewing should enhance and integrate with your instruction and not become a substitute for teaching. If you rely too heavily on videos, you will be doing less interacting directly with your students. Allowing students to have personal interactions with instructors—and with each other—is one of the most impactful aspects of childbirth education classes, and you shouldn’t let that go by the wayside. That being said, there is certainly a place for using videos in your class, and most students will benefit from video viewing as one element of a childbirth education class. 

Purpose of the Video

Before selecting a video to share with your student, it can be helpful to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What is this video going to teach my students?
  • How is this video adding extra value to my classes?
  • Are there any trade-offs to using this video?
  • Will this video increase student confidence?
  • Is there anything in this video that may cause fear or be triggering for anyone?

Video Length

According to research, the average adult attention span limit is about 15–20 minutes—that’s how long an adult will typically focus on an activity before their mind wanders off. If you add video to your instruction, consider using shorter clips within your instruction. If you use longer video, it is helpful to take breaks to debrief or engage in class discussion, journaling, or other activities. Fortunately, many of Plumtree Baby's PowerPoint presentations include integrated, easy-to-digest video clips that highlight key information in just a few minutes.

Is the Video Appropriate?

Students come from different backgrounds and have different psychological make-ups. A video that is appropriate for one person may not feel appropriate for someone else. For example, in some cultures, it may not feel appropriate to view a woman who is unclothed, even in the context of a childbirth or breastfeeding video. Other students may find graphic childbirth videos triggering because of their personalities or personal histories.

You can’t always please everyone, but try to select videos that are sensitive to individual differences. If you use video that could be received negatively, you might consider a disclaimer before showing the material, preferably in the class before the video will be aired so sensitive students can prepare and if desired, excuse themselves for the video portion.

Could the Video Be Viewed at Home?

Sometimes a video is important and informative, but it isn’t necessarily essential that class time be used to show it. Additionally, videos with graphic content might be something you can make optional so that students can decide whether or not to view the video outside of class. Try to only include videos in class that seem essential, appropriate, and that will be used to generate in-class discussions.

Is the Video High Quality?

Before sharing the video in class, preview the entire video at home. Make sure the quality of the video remains sound throughout. Also make sure that any equipment you will be using to share the video, such as computers, tablets, and smart screens are fully charged and in good working condition.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Using video in your classes can be a wonderful and empowering way to support your students. Here are some ways to maximize the success of incorporating video into your classes:

  • Keep a curated list of videos to have on hand to illustrate certain concepts, so that you can call on them as needed.
  • Online videos (such as on YouTube) can get out of date, so continue to review the videos on your list and update as needed.
  • Make sure the videos you use are evidence-based and made by reputable childbirth educators or other professionals.
  • Ask other childbirth educators for their recommendations, and share your own recommendations as well.
  • Be flexible; if a video didn’t work in class or did not accomplish your objectives, try a different one or substitute with a different activity.

Wendy Wisner, Freelance Writer and Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)

Source: Hotelling BA. Considerations when using videos in lamaze classes. J Perinat Educ. 2012 Summer;21(3):189-92. doi: 10.1891/1058-1243.21.3.189. PMID: 23730131; PMCID: PMC3392602

Disclaimer: All content provided is for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease and no alterations in exercise should be taken solely on the contents of this website. Consult your physician on any topics regarding your health and fitness. Plumtree Baby, LLC does not assume any liability for the information contained herein, be it direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages.

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