Things I Wish I Had Learned in Birth Class
By Angie Traska
I’ve been a practicing birth doula for the past three years, supporting births of all kinds- mostly in hospital, a few home births, medicated, unmedicated, hypno-births, cesarean, vacuum assisted, some short, some really long. I’ve also gone through the pregnancy and birth experience twice myself- once before and once after training as a doula. I took a hospital based birth class before my older daughter was born, and while I felt it gave me a basic overview of what to expect… I now know it also left a lot out.
One of my favorite parts of working with expectant parents as a doula and birth educator is walking them through some of the things I wish I had learned when I was in their shoes as a first time mom-to-be. Here are 5:
1) Routine care practices during pregnancy and birth are not always in line with evidence based care. Often you can opt for the choices backed by research- IF you know your options. Just a couple examples of things that would fall into this category are: continuous fetal monitoring vs. intermittent, artificial rupture of membranes vs. spontaneous, and coached pushing vs. self-directed. Learning about ALL your choices as well as how to facilitate a shared decision making discussion with a health care provider is vital. Also, there are many providers that routinely practice evidence based care. Learning what questions to ask can help you not only feel more confident in the choices you make throughout your pregnancy, labor, birth and early parenting- but also that those choices will be respected.
2) What your mind is doing during labor matters just as much as what your body and baby are doing! It is scientific fact that the thoughts we have can and do create physical and chemical changes in our bodies. In labor, fear can impact the body’s natural cascade of hormones, causing unnecessary tension. Stress hormones can crowd out pain relieving endorphins during labor and tension can impede normal progress. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system through simple mindfulness techniques is something that should be covered in every birth class!
3) Birth classes are a great opportunity to connect with your support person(s), and get hands-on practice using support techniques in a way that will help you both on the actual day you go into labor. I recall getting down on the floor with my husband for about 2 minutes of the day-long class we took, and him looking around the room for the majority of that time trying to figure out what he was supposed to be doing- with no detailed instruction and no feedback. Walking out of there he was about as prepared to perform a double hip squeeze as I was to tackle the breastfeeding challenges headed my way! Gaining confidence in hands-on support during a birth class is one way you can prepare together to meet the challenges ahead.
4) Information about what happens after baby arrives, tips for getting off to a good start with breastfeeding, when to seek help for common postpartum concerns, ways to ease this major transition for both parents and child… is all really helpful info to have ahead of time.
5) Even though birth doesn’t always go as hoped, and a healthy baby is at the top of everyone’s list- with a solid foundation of knowledge, respectful care, and good support, you can and deserve to have an empowering and fulfilling experience no matter how your birth unfolds!
Check out the Haumea Empowerment Series Childbirth Education Classes here!
Written by Angie Traska, Co- Director Childbirth Education. You can also find her at www.aligndoula.com