4 Reasons Why Childbirth Education is Not a Thing of the Past
Childbirth education and brands like Lamaze used to be household names. Now they're coming back after a dry spell. Here's why.
Lamaze breathing became a parody for a reason. The signature "hee-hee-hoo" we have seen on sitcoms and movies caught on with a fervor but eventually bordered on hilarity and a bit of stereotyping, much like the idea that every laboring woman screams at the top of her lungs in pain, constantly.
Doulas like myself know both of these parodies miss the mark, but it is kind of fascinating how the Lamaze breathing or simply the name, Lamaze, still has clung to its hold and even, in recent years, seen a resurgence.
In our mom's generation (my mom is in her 70s at the time of my writing), it was a very typical thing to take a childbirth education course, read a book (my yellowed copy of the Lamaze bedside version is my favorite vintage book), or at least tour the hospital. However, aside from some women who were fostering an embrace of "natural" childbirth, other women were trying to avoid pain entirely and had relatively medicalized labor and deliveries. In one generation of women, we could have had mothers who labored at home by choice all the way to some who were given sedation or "twilight sleep."
Here are four reasons why childbirth education should still be a major player in the pregnancy prep scene:
1. People still find it valuable
For some time, there was a legitimate question as to whether childbirth education would still be sought out in our busy lives where we have very little time for a weekly course and have access to more than enough information on demand. The most recent Listening to Mothers survey from 2013 shows 59% of first-time mothers chose a childbirth education course along with 17% of experienced mothers. Seventy percent of both groups rated childbirth education classes as a "very valuable" source of information, second only to their maternity care provider.
2. It's needed now more than ever
Perhaps the reason why it's still seen as valuable is that there are a plethora of decisions to make in maternity care, and the source and integrity of information to weigh those options is crucial. Some topics like inductions, pain management, and preferences for newborn care are hotly debated, as parents are wanting to enter into their labor and delivery experience more intentionally and knowledgeable. However, the information is often overload, conflicting, and sometimes unwelcomed, as some folks feel they can chime in their opinion on pregnancy and birth with very little filter. Childbirth education classes, in contract, offer the information in a well-sequenced and vetted way that allows for real-time questions and discussion to naturally occur.
3. Birth philosophy can clash with maternity care culture
When I talk about philosophy around birth, I mostly mean the outlook and values that families hold or have carefully discerned going into their pregnancy/birth experience. Some families agree pain management and privacy are important. Others determine home birth with a midwife is important, and so on. The choices can look highly variable, but they come from a deep place of discernment in one's values and desires for care. If birth is something you've not thought much about, or if you've had medical experiences in the past that have definitely not gone the way you hoped they had, grounding one's values and forming a philosophy are key.
The challenging part may come in, however, when the philosophy you have for your birth comes in conflict with the culture of care at the hospital or practice that you've chosen. This challenge is not insurmountable. Discussing ways to self advocate and learning as much as you can about the options available to you are great places to start and go a long way. One of the best places to learn about that? Childbirth education classes.
4. Birth is like a marathon you want to train for
I always say to my doula clients, you would never (in your right mind) wake up one day and decide to run a marathon. Even if you could do it, it would be very hard on your body and psyche, to say the least! Birth can be about endurance, unless you are someone who labors very quickly and comfortably (we all envy you!). As with any major change in our body and its incredible capabilities, preparing for birth - including yes, preparing your body - happens long before the actual event. Bodily changes happen all along, and you can easily "bank" some self care and strengthening that will help you months or weeks later in delivery. And of course, childbirth education classes do just that.
While the time commitment may be significant and even price may come into play, I still recommend investing in yourself and your pregnancy and birth, as much as you would a highly desirable registry gift item or the time you'll spend "nesting" your space to welcome your baby. Childbirth education is about "nesting" your body, your mind, your relationship, and most of all, your desires and values.