It is critical that an expecting family has a strong, supportive team that works together to ensure the family’s desired birth outcome. In this piece, childbirth educator Sarah Clark illuminates how that team goes beyond the midwife, doula, doctor and/or family. She shows us how a childbirth education class informs and prepares the family for their ideal birth, in addition to supporting the entire team by reinforcing the critical role each member plays.
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As a childbirth educator, it is natural that I believe in the power of education in improving the birth experience for couples. One thing that might come as a surprise however is that childbirth education on the part of the couple doesn’t just improve their birth experience, but also the experience of their midwife.
As time has gone on, the company I work with, Birth Boot Camp, has increasingly become required education for couples in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area. Who is requiring this? The answer: the midwives who serve women.
Why do they require a comprehensive childbirth education course for their couples? Midwives understand that despite all of the amazing things they can do, they cannot compensate for lack of knowledge of birth basics or intense fear on the part of the couple.
To understand how education for parents helps the midwife, we must first recognize how it can help the couple.
- An educated couple is less fearful. They are both aware of some of the things that may happen in the body during labor and birth (it is imperative that education not just be for mom but for dad!). They have seen birth videos of all types, so they are familiar with the noises and positions common to a birthing woman. When totally unaware of these things, a mom and dad can be caught completely off guard and this is likely to increase any existing fear.
- An educated couple works better together. The partner knows when and how to touch mom and help be a comfort to her (or leave her alone) and he is comfortable in the process. He has practiced with her doing relaxation and hands on comfort techniques so he isn’t just trying to learn this “on the fly” in labor. Even people with wonderful, close relationships can find themselves feeling totally helpless in labor without any preparation.
- An educated couple knows when to pay attention to labor. How many first time moms birthing at the hospital arrive too early and either get sent home or get started on augmentation drugs? Far too many! But a couple who has even basic understanding of the birth process will find that they know what to do in early labor and can enjoy it together or with their doula and may be less prone to call their midwife at 3:00 am when that very first contraction starts.
How does all of this help the midwife?
Melody Marrow, a CPM in Fort Worth TX says that when her couples had good education, “Women were less fearful and more determined. They participated in their care and were making informed choices.”
This makes a difference for the couple working together too. “Dads were providing excellent, confident support throughout pregnancy and, noticeably, in labor. Moms who would have otherwise had epidurals or C-sections, were having unmedicated births.”
Did you catch that? Couples that were well prepared together were having better outcomes and births closer to what they wanted than their uneducated counterparts!
This improved her practice outcomes too. “If they don’t receive that education, I will likely be spending many, many more hours with them in pre-labor, labor and possibly a traumatic transport to the hospital.”
Not only does education help improve outcomes, it helps encourage the good things you are already telling your clients. The truth is, people remember things better the more they hear it. Says, Melody, “Good nutrition, exercise, positioning, and much more are all things they are learning about OUTSIDE of your visits, not just during them. My clients are more likely to be intentional in caring for themselves when they are given directed information, statistics, etc. and discussing these things with their partner and other birth workers.” A birth class acts as positive reinforcement for your couple’s emotional and physical well being during pregnancy and birth.
Good childbirth education does not compete with midwifery but compliments and supports it. In the current birthing climate I feel strongly that the more people a couple has on their side cheering them on for their amazing birth, the better off they are. Childbirth is a life changing event, and we should all be supporting and nurturing it!
Melody Marrow, CPM’s quotes were taken from her May, 2013 article on how childbirth education has improved her practice. Since stepping back from midwifery after the births of her two young children, Melody has begun teaching Birth Boot Camp childbirth classes herself.
Sarah Clark is a natural childbirth educator with Birth Boot Camp, a 10 week childbirth class focusing on natural birth and available in both live and online formats. Birth Boot Camp is based on the Mother Friendly Childbirth Initiative. She also trains instructors for Birth Boot Camp. She is the mother of four naturally born babies, all helped into the world by loving midwives and the birth education she received before her first was born. You can find her writing at www.birthbootcamp.com, www.mamabirth.blogspot.com, regularly for www.mothering.com and her recently published print article on the importance of Chiropractic care during pregnancy in the spring, 2012 issue of Pathways Magazine.