Rethinking Childbirth Education

Why is change so hard? It is a question I often ask myself, but I guess if I were to answer my own question I would have to say it is because we like the familiar. The things we are used to, things that we have become comfortable with. To make a change requires use to enter into the uncomfortable ZONE. It requires us to step out and do something different then what we have done before.
I entered the birth arena as a Certified Childbirth Assistant, the year before DONA became an entity. After a year or two of working with laboring patients I decided to become a Certified Childbirth Educator. I embarked on teaching basic female anatomy, stages and phases of labor, showing the “birth” video that made some partners cringe, and much more over a 12 week period. I was the pregnant couple’s lighthouse into understanding and learning about birth. The internet didn’t even exist.
Most educators that have been teaching 10 or more years can say they have seen a decline in attendance to childbirth classes. Today’s pregnant mamas are years ahead in technology then where I was when I was pregnant (1989) and a good number spend a lot of time educating themselves during their ten month growing period .
Some professionals feel that the decline in traditional class attendance is due to the vast amount of information that can be found by other modes. I taught for 14 years at a major hospital and I can still hear my manager’s voice. “What can we teach them that they can’t read in a book or get off the internet?” My answer always was “We may not be able to teach anything new, but as the experts we can make sure they have accurate information and that their personal questions are answered.”
I believe we always will have some form of classes but feel we are moving into a time that demands a more personalized form of childbirth education. Ponder the thought of merging the profession of childbirth educator with the doula. Many of us have been doing this for some time. It really goes hand in hand. I call this “merge” the Childbirth Consultant. Our world is always changing, but the process of giving birth never changes. How we educated and impart information may change, but what they need to know never changes.

Kathy Bradley has been involved with perinatal education and health care since 1989. Her focus over the years has been providing education and support to women of all income levels. As the founder and executive director of the former Childbirth Enhancement Foundation, she developed partnerships and training programs for community based doula programs with 14 hospitals. She managed a $350,000 grant to provide low-income women childbirth education, doula and lactation support services in Santa Fe, NM. She is owner of Childbirth Concierge and holds a degree in Communication and Public Relations.

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