When you are pregnant, the number of choices you need to make may seem overwhelming at times. From ultrasounds to vaccinations to where you will have your baby, it seems like every day there is another decision to weigh, another choice to make.
Fast forward a few weeks, and you will be presented with yet another choice: whether or not you'll want to take a childbirth education class.
You'll receive hands-on training.
In class, your instructor will show you, and then give you and your partner, time to practice positions that will help you get as comfortable as you can while in labor. You'll learn which positions to use in early labor, active labor, transition, and the pushing phase. Having these tools in your mind before labor starts will keep you from panicking on the big day. Your class will teach you how to interpret what your body is telling you, and how to use each technique when it might work the best.
You'll also receive training on how to communicate with your providers, especially when it comes to all of your options and possible interventions. Learning how to ask for information and how to say yes or no to the options presented is much easier when you aren't trying to focus on getting your baby out.
Finally, even if you plan on having an epidural, I strongly suggest taking a class. Most providers prefer that you hold off on getting an epidural until you are in established active labor. This means you will still spend some time laboring at home or in the hospital, and you'll need the coping techniques that you will learn. Plus, your partner will learn how they can continue to support you and your preferences while you are resting.
Knowing how your body works is vital to the birth process.
While you may have a basic understanding of how your baby goes from the inside to the outside, seeing how your uterus, cervix, and mind all work together will help you visualize the process when you are actually laboring. Knowing that you can trust your body and your baby to do the work because you've seen the work, releases a lot of fears you may be holding on to, which in turn allows labor to run on auto-pilot without your mind getting in the way. When your partner understands this, they can remind you of your power while you are in labor, and they too will be able to trust the process.
And speaking of fears, many people don't know that if you are nervous about your birth, your labor may be slower and more difficult. Removing all of the mysteries in class can make that a non-factor. Depending on the type of class you take, you might also leave with resources to keep working on releasing your fears, such as meditations, creative work, or other professionals that you can continue to talk with.
Watching the videos in class will re-frame what the media tells you about birth.
I could talk for hours about how the media (not to mention friends and family) have told us over and over that birth is scary, dramatic, loud, and fast (or really slow), but in short, none of that has to be true. Most classes will show you pictures and videos of real people during their real birth. Seeing images of real birth will help re-train your brain to think of birth as a calmer, quieter, and quite frankly, more boring event than you might think it is. This is also invaluable for partners, who tend to have even less experience with seeing real babies come out of real bodies than you do.
The media also teaches us that birthing people are often angry and sometimes downright mean to their partners. Taking a class will teach you how to stay connected, and how to go through labor and birth as partners, not enemies. Your partner will be able to support you, encourage you, and love you throughout, and you will learn how to be open to that support.
When it comes down to it, childbirth education classes are not mandatory, but in my opinion, is one of the most important investments that you can make in this journey. At the end of your class, you should feel empowered to be involved in the decision making surrounding your labor and birth options, you will have a solid tool kit of techniques, positions, and other comfort measures to use, and hopefully, you and your partner will be more connected thanks to all of the time you got to spend focused on each other.
Doula Heather Taylor is a certified GentleBirth instructor. To learn more or sign up for classes, click here.