Often times I hear pregnant moms say “I don’t need to go to childbirth class I am going to use an epidural” and it is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about childbirth class that exist. Before the electronic era and wide spread use of pain medication for pain control, the common way expectant parents could learn about what was going to happen to them during birth was to attend a childbirth class. Over the years the childbirth education classes have seen a decline in attendance, yet a lot of people spend more time and resources researching how to remodel a bathroom or kitchen than learning about bringing a baby into the world.
Today offers a lot more options. With YouTube and the internet, one doesn’t even need to leave their home or put down their hand held device to get advice and information on giving birth. And it is true that babies will come into this world without their parents taking a class on “childbirth”, after all childbirth classes didn’t exist 100 plus years ago as we know them and babies still arrived. Fast forward to a very busy society where 80% to 90% of laboring patients use epidural and c-section rates are the highest they have ever been across the United States.
Learning from a childbirth expert what you can do to increase your chances of a positive birth experience is worth your time and money. Most hospitals offer some type of class, but it is also very popular to see other classes offered in the community. For those with busy schedules, private classes are the perfect option and are not as expensive as you might think. Most classes whether group or private should cover basic items like when to go to the hospital or birth center, stages and phases of labor, basic terminology, comfort measures, partner tips, interventions. Some classes include newborn care and breastfeeding. The hot topics usually are pain medications. In my 24 years of experience there are generally three types of thinking when approaching pain control;
1. I definitely want an epidural.
2. I will wait and see if I need one.
3. No thank you, I do not want one.
There is no right or wrong answer, only you can decide, but I also encourage you to stay open about options. For example if you are planning on an epidural learning about when the ideal time is to get an epidural can help you to decrease your chances of a C-section. Most moms don’t realize that the number one way to decrease their chances of a C-section is to wait until active labor to come to the hospital. We call this the 511 rule – contractions at least 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute long, for at least 1 hour. Also using a peanut ball decreases chances of surgery as well.
If you are planning on not having an epidural, have you thought about what it takes? Do you have good labor support? Have you thought about hiring a doula? Key to laboring without an epidural is movement, use of hydro therapy, access to many comfort measures, and understanding all the ins and outs of labor. Do you understand when an epidural can be beneficial? Yes, even for those “natural” mamas, sometimes interventions can be helpful in unique situations. Being prepared and not afraid makes a world of difference.
Birth planning and birth itself is not 100% black and white. The more you are educated and understand the value in good communication with your nurses, midwives and doctors the more satisfied you will be even if the need arises for a C-section.
Your childbirth educator is the expert that you can ask all kinds of questions to and bounce things off that you have read or heard.
It’s is your birth, and education is key!
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Kathy Bradley, CD, ICCE, IBCLC has been in the Maternal Health field for 29 years and has taught countess families. She taught for 14 years as the 2nd largest volume hospital in the US, located in Orlando.