Three Ways Childbirth Education Empowers Your Birth Experience
Many couples want to know what childbirth education is, why it’s important, and how it will help them during the labor process. Simply put, childbirth education helps you gain an understanding of the process of birth; what happens with your body, and your baby, just before, during and immediately after labor. You are likely to learn about various medical procedures that may, or may not be necessary on the day of your labor. There are also the basics, like: signs of labor, stages of labor, and when to go to the hospital.
But (some) childbirth education classes also highlight and encourage at least three substantial benefits that help to improve and empower your birth experience. These benefits hold true whether your birth includes medications, surgery or is completely natural. So what are these benefits? Let’s take a look.
1.Normalizing birth and renewing trust of the body. Women instinctively know how to give birth! Yes, it is true! But, let’s face it, our society does not generally support this fact. Generations of women have lost sight of this innate capacity and as a result, many harbor doubts and even distrust of their own bodies. We could talk for ages about how this came to be, but the bottom line is these feelings create unnecessary fear and effectively mute a woman’s instinctive body wisdom. This can result in a more challenging, and yes, painful birth experience.
Childbirth education classes (depending on the one you attend) are specifically designed to help women reconnect with the power and ability of their bodies by normalizing and reframing the birth process. Some childbirth education classes go a step further and also guide couples in ways to remain active participants in the birth via informed decision making. This can increase a woman’s overall satisfaction in her birth experience, and consequently how she views herself in the months and years beyond birth (regardless of delivery mode). Even if medical intervention is necessary or wanted, a woman who enters birth and motherhood informed, calm and believing in herself will generally have a much easier time than one who is fearful, unsure or doubtful of her body.
2. Ways to reduce pain and facilitate labor (And... ways your partner can actively support you). In many childbirth education classes, couples gain solid information and may additionally practice techniques that help reduce pain and build confidence in the body and birth process. This helps women learn, but more precisely; trust that there are indeed many simple things they can do to effectively, and more easefully facilitate birth. This is also very useful for women who need or want an epidural. In this situation, there will likely be a bit of time in early labor, prior to the procedure, and again during the pushing phase of labor, when it really helps to have an idea of how work with, and not against the body. For partners, this practice fosters confidence in their role of birth support. They learn what to expect and exactly how to provide practical, effective hands-on support and advocacy.
3. A forum to connect with others. That’s right! Meeting and talking with other couples is a huge benefit of childbirth education. Talking as a group, asking questions and learning from each other creates bonds with other new parents in the community. This is an invaluable, far reaching benefit that is not gained by reading books, online classes or surfing the Internet. Meeting other couples in your community is a fantastic way to build an ongoing social network of parents. Numerous friendships, parent support groups and play dates have their roots in the connections made during childbirth education class.
How to find the right class for you
Childbirth Education classes are not one-size fits all, and are not only offered in hospital settings. There is a wide range of childbirth education choices that vary widely in focus and depth of material covered. So it is worth doing a little research before signing up. Find out the scope and topics of the class beforehand to determine if it truly fits your expectations. Additionally, consider the background and “birth philosophy” of the facilitator. If you know you are looking for a particular experience (such as hands-on practice, a body/mind approach, and/or learning about various options) make sure that the class you choose will actually offer that. Knowing all of this before you sign up will help inform you about the nature of the class and ensure it’s the approach that resonates with you. If you’re still unsure, reach out to the instructor and ask questions.