Taking a Birth and Parenting class used to be a right of passage. Every one took one. That was where you learned to pant and breathe right? Often the butt of jokes in comedy sitcoms as the perception is that whatever you learn in class goes out the window as soon as the real labour pains hits, from then on there is just a lot of screaming.
It can be confusing and upsetting if what you learn in class is not reflected in your later experience. So if you intend going to a class the investment of your time and money needs to be carefully considered. It is well worth spending a little time researching what is on offer and looking into the type of prenatal education that will best suit your needs.
I personally believe that any endeavour that is worth doing is worth the time it takes to gain more knowledge in order to do a better job. In fact current research suggests that a good quality Birth and Parenting class not only help parents in meaningful ways, but it can also assist babies enjoy greater health and lifelong wellbeing.
I worry about the couples who are just going to “Go with the flow” and just do what their obstetrician or midwife tells them to do. Rhea Dempsey talks about this in her book ‘Birth with Confidence’ where she says that,
“The dynamic at play in these situations is what can be described as the ‘trance of acquiescence’. In medical settings many of us have low levels of health literacy and may not realise that we even have a choice.” (2013. p.29)
When the brutal reality of what is, is that most midwives and obstetricians do not have time to give in depth birth and parenting advise. Their purpose is risk management and early identification of suboptimal outcomes, not education. There will be gaps of knowledge that need to be filled in so the situation can be understood more clearly and wiser choices made. A birth and parenting class can be a great place to fill in some of those gaps and learn about the options that are available to you.
When you are seeking out a good quality Birth and Parenting Class it is worth -while keeping a few things in mind;
- Check out the credentials of the facilitator via the web, most of them will have a midwifery, physiotherapy or doula (Birth Attendant) background. Make sure that they are accredited with CAPEA (Childbirth and Parenting Educators of Australia). By doing this you are ensuring that your facilitator has been educated using adult learning principles, are bound by a set of competency standards, are current with the latest research and resources available.
- Check out the class size. For optimal adult learning, group sizes should be manageable so the optimal being 6 couples in an adult learning environment.
3.Check out what topics will be covered in your program. There are some programs that mainly focus on labour and birth such as Calmbirth® while other classes there is a parenting and newborn care component to them. Also a tour of the birth facility and a breastfeeding class may need to be arranged separately with some courses.
There are many great reasons for attending a Childbirth class:
- It’s great to learn from other parents in the same position as you. Often someone else will ask a question that you had not thought of that will deepen your understandings in ways you had not expected.
- By attending a quality childbirth class, you can expect to walk away with a range of tools in your toolbox. So that can make the whole birthing experience easier, more enjoyable and prevent problems in the future.
- The childbirth class is based upon current evidence based knowledge and practices. Although it is nice to get well-meaning information from friends and relatives, unfortunately the information is often based on hearsay, beliefs and opinions and values, which may have little scientific basis. The information from the class should be based on the most recent information available. Current studies show that parenting skills and knowledge can greatly affect children’s outcomes. There is much more evidence to show that children can feel, long before birth and this knowledge can profoundly impact how they will think and feel and behave in their life after birth as well.
- You will be supported as the expert of your own situation, your child, classes are interactive, respectful of the different learning styles, you will come away with ideas that you may not have thought of and have a chance to share your gems with others.
- Classes are fun! They provide a great opportunity to make new friends and support networks that will make the transition to parenthood easier and more enjoyable.
- Generally by choosing a private prenatal education program the facilitator is working for the couple and not a birthing institution so education can be tailor made to fit the individual couples needs.
In short, Prenatal Education is invaluable when it comes to assisting expecting parents navigate what is coming before them. Pregnancy and birth are pivotal life events. A time of great change. The woman’s body shifts, of course, but what is less obvious is the shifts that cannot be weighted and measured. There are emotional, mental and spiritual shifts that accompany pregnancy, and continuing into early parenthood and the accumulation of experiences that will impact on the mother, her partner and their baby for a lifetime.
Contemplating parenthood has a way of making us consider your own childhood. In order to move forward we first look backward. It makes us redefine our priorities and beliefs. Sometimes we feel nostalgic, and sometimes we identify changes that we would like to make, but time keeps marching on no matter what.
Pregnant women feel the pull of time in a very real sense. Each change pulls you closer to the woman you will become and the family that you are creating. There can be enormous pressure not just for yourself but for the choices that your are making for this new little person in your life. Many women will want to know how her birth story will unfold and the kind of parents that they will become.
There is a sense of great excitement. Parenting classes can give you an opportunity to peek into the future and get a sense of what might happen. What could happen, what you can do for yourself and your baby now to improve the lived experience and outcomes.
So much more goes on in a Birth and Pregnancy class. It is so not like school! You will be respected, included and involved as much or as little as you want to. When fear melts away and the laws of nature are understood in its simplest form, the fear and anxiety that you may have felt is replaced with awe and respect.
If you are open to it, pregnancy and birth, and becoming a parent can be a time of tremendous growth for parents where you can become wiser, warmer and more resilient. Parenting education can help bring mothers and their partners closer together and on the “same page” so that they can work together, each doing work that must be done to become stronger more loving and more at home in their hearts. So please come along I suspect you will be glad you did, because with knowledge comes confidence. Master the basics and the rest will come, since confidence tend to raise confident children.
Dempsey, R.( 2013 ) Birth with Confidence: Savvy choices for normal birth. Boat House Press, Fairfield.
Childbirth and Parenting Educators of Australia. www.capea.org.au