Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Which birthing class to choose?

In the movies it seems like a woman goes into labor, runs to the hospital, lays on her back and then has her baby. In reality, most women have an early labor that lasts for hours (and often days) in which it is in their best interest to stay home and work through their labor before going to the hospital. So what do you do at home?  Well a good birthing class will teach you what to do during each stage of labor and delivery. Most importantly, birthing classes give moms and partners the self confidence that they need and the tools to empower themselves. I am sure that most of you reading this are looking for a natural un-medicated birth and a good class will teach you how to be in control of your body and not experience "pain." There are several options that you should investigate to see what is the best option for you.

image: www.123rf.com

For my first birth, I had a doula who came to our home and gave my husband and I private birth preparation classes.  She prepared us psychologically and physically for the birthing process using various methods that cross over with the other birthing methods. She wanted us to be ready to use whatever method would feel good to me during each moment of labor. Before the doula came, my husband was adamant that he would not cut the cord and he was not in favor of seeing the baby crown or the idea of a slimy baby coming out of me. When we had to watch a home birth video as our homework, we compromised and watched it on double speed.  At the end of the video he not only thought that birth was a beautiful family process but that he would consider a home birth for our future kids! Yay! The added bonus of going the doula route is that the doula is present during your labor, delivery and postpartum so she was able to support my husband to feel empowered in the process (did I mention that she gave my husband and my mom massages while I was in early labor!). There are different types of doulas and you can hire one for just a portion of the process but I encourage first time moms to get the whole package (well worth it)! The birth was not painful, we had someone to help us deal with stuffy hospital staff, and my husband remained calm, helpful and with beautiful memories.

From www.hypnobirthing.com: "HypnoBirthing is a childbirth method that focuses on preparing parents for gentle birth.  In HypnoBirthing classes, you will learn proven techniques in a well-thought-out program of deep relaxation, visualization, and self-hypnosis. All of these are designed to help you achieve a more comfortable birth. HypnoBirthing encourages a calm, peaceful, and natural pregnancy, birth, and bonding experience for families. Unlike other childbirth methods that teach you how to cope with and manage pain, HypnoBirthing is based on the premise that childbirth does not necessarily need to be painful if the mother is properly prepared and relaxed. When women understand that pain is caused by constrictor hormones, created by fear, they learn, instead, to release fear thus creating endorphins—the feel good hormones. They are then able to change their expectations of long, painful labor and are able to replace them with expectations of a more comfortable birthing.  Rather than exhausting, shallow breathing and the distraction techniques of typical “prepared childbirth” programs, HypnoBirthing parents learn deep abdominal breathing and total relaxation, enabling the laboring mother to work in harmony with her body and her baby. This allows her to achieve a shorter and more comfortable labor for herself and baby."

The Bradley Method®
From www.bradleybirth.com: "Natural childbirth is an important goal since most people want to give their babies every possible advantage. Without the side effects of drugs given during labor and birth. The Bradley Method® classes teach families how to have natural births. The techniques are simple and effective. They are based on information about how the human body works during labor. Couples are taught how they can work with their bodies to reduce pain and make their labors more efficient. Of over 1,000,000 couples trained in The Bradley Method® nationwide, over 86% of them have had spontaneous, unmedicated vaginal births. This is a method that works!" The classes are 12 weeks long so plan ahead and be prepared to do some homework because you will have a 130 page workbook.

Www.lamaze.org is a practice that my mother learned in her birthing classes in the 1970's. It teaches women six practices: let labor begin on its own; walk, move around, and change positions throughout labor; bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support; avoid interventions that are not medically necessary; avoid giving birth on your back, and follow your body's urge to push; keep your baby with you -- it's best for you, your baby, and breastfeeding. Personally I get the impression that these are the basics for a natural birth and that all of the other methods go into deeper insight and support in the areas.

Prenatal yoga
Most studios that offer prenatal yoga offer a yoga based birthing class usually as an afternoon session. I found that the special breathing that I learned in my yoga classes in NYC with Melissa Feldman to indeed make the contractions painless by me mentally embracing the contractions (she had the greatest "pain" position). My current NJ yoga classes are less preparatory in embracing pain and laboring breathes so it all depends on your instructor. Generally the instructors do save most of their tricks for the preparatory classes. If you feel that you just need a little class to get you rolling, then this is it.

Hospital Birthing Class
Hospitals offer these classes and it is a coin toss as to what you get. I would think that they are general Lamazee sort of information. Since the hospitals in my area have a 37% C-section rate, I am not so keen to follow their natural birth advice!

Birthing Refresher Classes
During my second pregnancy, my husband and I took an afternoon natural birthing refresher class because my husband was nervous that we were not having a doula. Our previous doula, Karen Kelly, was taking her midwifery finals during my due date and my midwife swore that my labor would be so fast that I would not have time for a doula because she would be with me the entire time (and she was right). We found the refresher class useful to mentally prepare us. This third time around, we feel that we remember what to do and are excited for labor and delivery!

What methods did I not list? I would be interested to hear about more.

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