I have updated this article that I wrote for the October 16th Newsletter 2013 for www.whatson4.com.au
Are Prenatal Classes a waste of your precious time?
Pregnant couples make so many choices once they find out they are going to have a baby, like which pram should they buy, where should their baby sleep, etc etc.
But they don’t realise one of the most important choices is what prenatal classes to attend, and in some cases whether to attend classes or not.
Today a lot of couples feel they are too busy to attend childbirth classes and see little value in them anyway. Some private obstetricians even tell their patients not to bother with classes as they will tell them all they need to know. Unfortunately they usually only tell them what he or she thinks they need to know.
How can parents-to-be make truly informed decisions about their birth if they do not have all the information?
“If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.” – Diana Korte
Prenatal classes actually started in the late 50’s, because expectant parents wanted to take a more active role in their childbirth. These classes where often run by parents and always independent. The heyday of childbirth education was in the 60’s and early 80’s with professional childbirth educators taking over.
However since the mid 80’s hospitals decided to take control of childbirth education with the result that the emphasis shifted from empowering parents to take control of their births by being fully informed, to giving information that supported the hospital and it’s practises.
Why else would so many women still be giving birth on their backs? This position does nothing to help labour and birth, it is used for the convenience of the care giver.
Classes were no longer run by passionate childbirth educators but staff midwives who were expected to toe the hospital line. I know this because I was one of these midwives.
In response to busy lives, hospital provide shortened prenatal education courses that give parents-to-be the bare minimum of education but helps them to be very compliant patients.
Hospital classes also tend to scare parents by showing them equipment their care givers might use. Like the hook for breaking your waters, the epidural needle and where it is inserted, even forceps.
Why do they think couples have to see these? If this equipment is really needed, then someone way more qualified than the birthing mum and her partner will be using them. Expectant parents do not need to know how to break the amniotic sac, insert an epidural or preform a caesarean section. What they need to know is their role in labour and how they can work with the birthing process and enhance it.
A fear of childbirth has been shown to increase the length of labour and also to triple your risk of postnatal depression.
For this reason alone, it is vital that you seek out independent childbirth education that will increase your confidence about your innate ability to birth.
Here is a recent comment form one of my clients who decided to also do the hospital classes.
“We’ve been attending 2 weeks of the hospital pre-natal classes and they are really scaring everyone with talks of pain and its management and the cascading effects that may follow. I suppose they “think they have to inform us of everything that can happen. Thankfully we’ve got your notes to rely on and remind us of how much more positive birthing can be. ” ~Yuni
No wonder many couples are choosing not to bother with classes at all. But with the rise in caesarean sections and inductions it is vital expectant parents do educate themselves.
Hospital obstetricians and midwives now have a skewed impression of what is a normal birth, therefore women and their partners need to become the experts in normal birth in order to get the birthing experience they deserve. There are many “routine” hospital procedures that can really impact on your labour. It is so important to understand the system you are birthing in so that you can make the right choices for you and your baby. However hospital classes continue to present these procedures as harmless and also non negotiable.
Expectant couples also have a warped idea of what normal birth looks like due to television dramas, and “reality shows”.
The messages in these are overwhelmingly ones of fear and pain, and of suffering. they don’t show women having calm, positive and managable births. Or talk about the fact you understand the process of labour and the interplay of your hormones, you can shorten your labour, reduce the pain and eliminate suffering. I think there is a big difference between pain and suffering an hospital staff don’t understand the difference.
There really is no substitute for good quality independent childbirth education that can teach couples to become experts in normal birth (it’s really not brain surgery), give them the confidence to build a good relationship with their care givers and so that they can question obstetrician and hospital “routine” procedures. This is so important because a positive birthing experience really sets couples up to succeed at parenting.
To find out more about Birth Savvy Classes click Here
By Pip Wynn Owen
Childbirth educator and owner of Birth Savvy