The Informed Choice
Choosing your childbirth educator is as important as choosing your baby’s birth place and the midwife or doctor you select to be in attendance when your baby is born. Yet, many couples register for a course without prior knowledge of what to look for in an instructor or class, and that shopping-around can greatly affect the quality of their birth experience for them and baby. Couples, unaware of the vast differences in the quality of childbirth education available, have found these guidelines helpful.
TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION
Seek a currently certified childbirth educator who is actively involved in the local chapter or networks of the organization that granted her certification to teach prepared childbirth and other birth related topics. These landmarks indicate the teacher is abreast of local, national, and international consumer issues and normal birth and medicalized childbirth trends.
INSTRUCTOR COURSE GOALS
Consider who is responsible for the course content. A self-employed, private instructor’s students often deliver at various community locations; thus, a broad spectrum of birth practices will be included. Instructors teaching for a hospital give the couple the opportunity to learn the procedures and philosophies of that particular facility. However, hospital instructors are often restricted to what they can and cannot say so students may not be exposed to all of their options, rights and responsibilities regarding hospital policies and evidence-based alternatives. Couples seeking quality childbirth education should choose the instructor whose course goals match their own. Distance and fees may be a small price to pay for the truth in evidence-based birthing.
SIZE AND LOCATION
Small, half-dozen couple classes are often taught in instructors’ homes. Some couples enjoy the personal attention of this atmosphere. Medium classes with up to a dozen couples are often held in churches, Y’s, school rooms, yoga/dance studios, and gyms. Learning other couples’ birthing ideas is usually possible here. Long-standing studies have shown that large clinical classes held in auditoriums with instructors addressing big crowds correlate negatively with the achievement of relaxation, breathing patterns, and birth partner skills.
CLASS AND COURSE LENGTH
Quality classes run three to four hours a week over a five to eight-week period to teach information and skills that are not quickly forgotten. Repetition of skills and concepts reinforces the component of the Pavlov’s Conditioned Response, upon which the entire Lamaze Method and Philosophy are founded, setting authentic Lamaze apart from other childbirth methods.
SPECIFIC COURSE CONTENT
Basic prepared childbirth course content should emphasize all aspects of uncomplicated pregnancy, labor, birth, and the immediate post-partum period. Strong emphasis on the Lamaze (Psychoprophylactic Method/Mind-Blocking/Gate Control Theory) techniques of relaxation, varied patterns of breathing, spontaneity of labor, and reduction or elimination of unnecessary medical interventions is essential. Variations from uncomplicated labor with special Cesarean Birth training should be covered. Helping students create Loop-Hole-Free Cultural Birth Values Lists (Birth Plans) is essential so couples do not fall into the trap of printing something “crazy” off the internet or just putting check marks on a hospital generated birth plan. All classes should present the risks as well as the benefits of hospital/medical procedures and interventions along with the concepts of Informed Refusal and Informed Consent. Courses which rely primarily on PowerPoint slides lack the hands-on education of private instruction. The Birth is Normal philosophy and the Lamaze/ACOG “Six Care Practices for Birth” create a springboard to understanding that pregnancy, labor, birth, and breastfeeding are experience of health not illness. Above all, seek an instructor who presents these subjects with the belief that childbirth has the potential to be primarily a normal, natural, physiologic, mental, emotional, hormonal, and spiritual natural process.
A course that sets aside time each week for teacher assisted practice of relaxation, breathing and birth partnering techniques can foster enthusiasm and reinforce the need for couples’ at-home practice. Teacher-couple interaction, time for questions and answers also enhance the learning environment. Freedom of movement in class is a PLUS!
A good instructor comes highly recommended by her former students by word-of-mouth and social media. Choosing a specific instructor at a hospital is often not possible. Check the internet to find individual websites of instructors to compare the plusses and minuses in choosing.
Course fees will vary and do not necessarily reflect course quality. Fee variations are influenced by instructor costs (room rentals, materials provided, etc.) the length of the course taught, as well as community practices. The depth and breadth of the instructor’s certification level as well as the instructor’s experience and longevity in the field can also be considerations.
A WORD ABOUT THE WORD LAMAZE
The authentic Lamaze Method and Philosophy® are named after Ferdinand Lamaze, MD a French obstetrician who developed this approach to childbirth in the 1950’s. The term has been diluted and has become a generic term for any childbirth class, which it is not. Only a class taught by fully-certified instructor can call itself a Lamaze course.
©Janis Bell Ryan-Bush, 2018/Revised from a document developed by South Coast ASPO, Orange County, CA