You’re pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant- Congrats! I’m sure at some point, perhaps after a visit with your provider or a chat with a friend, some level of panic, excitement or curiosity swooped in, and you found yourself thinking, “now what?”
Lucky (and unlucky) for you, we live in a digital age when #alltheinformation is right at our fingertips. This means that you can easily hop onto Google or Bing (does anyone actually use Bing?) and search all of your questions, get instant feedback from a million strangers about your concerns and very quickly find yourself a victim of information overload. Unfortunately, and importantly, a LOT of the information we can find in books, blogs and websites is false or misleading, or at best, very biased. This can leave you with a laundry list of shoulds, shouldn’ts, musts and mustn’ts that can make your pregnancy experience difficult, and that might also impact your safety or the safety of your baby. So what’s a pregnant person (or their partner) to do?
There are a lot of great resources that have been vetted by some of the greatest advocates and supporters of pregnant people. Check out these sources first to get evidenced based, high quality information:
Check out this awesome Expecting Mom’s timeline from Choices in Childbirth, an organization dedicated to helping parents make informed choices regarding their birth.
Browse through the resources on Childbirth Connection, a program of the National Partnership for Women and Families that seeks to improve maternity care and maternal and child health outcomes.
Check out these articles from the March of Dimes about how to have a healthy pregnancy. This resource is particularly helpful if your pregnancy is high risk for preterm birth.
Do you have a nerdy side? Want to check out the latest research to understand what the big deal is about Cesarean Birth rates and other hot topics? Birth By the Numbers is the resource for you.
While internet research can be a helpful and accessible way to get information, I also strongly encourage you to take a childbirth education class that is evidence based, comprehensive and empowers you in your pregnancy and birth process. Let’s break down what each of those elements is, and why it is so important.
Evidence Based: An evidence based course is one that incorporates information obtained through research. This means that the recommendations made and information presented are not just from anecdotal stories, or hospital policy, or other biased sources. You want to find a class taught by an instructor who has read and understands current research about pregnancy, labor and childbirth. This instructor will be able to explain to you the WHY behind certain recommendations, explain the risks and benefits of procedures and guide you through how you might use that information to make your own best choices for your body, your baby and your birth.
Comprehensive: Many childbirth classes have a specific method of coping with labor that they promote and teach. If the method you pick works for you, this can be an awesome way to get through pregnancy and labor. If, however, the method you chose to learn doesn’t work for you- your teacher very likely didn’t provide you with any other tools to cope, or any additional information about what might be happening during the labor and birth process. Some classes assume that if you follow all the steps, and get the method right, you’ll have an ideal birth and won’t ever have to face the possibility of cesarean birth, pain medication or other interventions. This can be really scary and frustrating for parents who get into the intense part of labor and find they don’t have the tools or information they need.
A comprehensive class will not focus on any one particular coping method, but will instead provide you with information about what could happen in labor and what options you have to meet each challenge that comes up. This class will also discuss many different coping mechanisms and provide resources for you to explore the ones that you’d like to add to your “birth toolkit.”
Empowering: Last, and perhaps most important, you childbirth class should leave you and your support team feeling empowered to be active players in your health care. You should feel like you know which questions to ask, like you can exercise choice where possible and appropriate. You should feel like you have an idea of what alternatives might exist, and what YOU have the power to impact through your own actions and preparation. A good childbirth class will give you the information and tools you need to feel like you had power as you labored. My hope for all of my students is that through this feeling of power, agency and active participation, my clients walk away from their birth experience feeling confident, cared for and ready for the challenges of parenthood.
Birth matters, and not just in a fluffy, feel-good sense. Birth matters in a very tangible way. I challenge you to ask any mother of any age to tell you about the births of her children. She will recount every detail, every sensation, every emotion she experienced, whether it was yesterday or 80 years ago. Her birth experience will set the tone for her relationship with her child, her partner and herself as a new mother. Birth is how we bring forth new life and how we participate in a process that spans the entire history of our species. Birth matters, and I wish you the best birth you can have!