A recent report from the World Health Organization set off alarm bells for many expectant parents. The report showed that newborns in 40 countries, including Cuba, South Korea and Poland, have a lower risk of death than newborns in the United States.
For expectant moms, one of the best, and often overlooked, ways of improving the odds of a safe and healthy birth is to take a good childbirth education class. But how do moms know whether they are choosing a class that will make a difference?
“A good childbirth education class can make the difference between feeling out of control and overwhelmed, and being able to handle the expected and unexpected on the day of your baby’s birth,” said Marilyn Curl, President of Lamaze International. “A really good class will also help moms-to-be avoid routine interventions like inductions and being confined to bed, which can actually increase the risks around birth.”
Here are some factors mothers-to-be should consider when selecting a childbirth education class:
1. Research the Class Curriculum
Ask to see the content covered in childbirth courses carefully before selecting one. There are a variety of curriculums, and different approaches may work better for different people. Some courses do little more than orient women to the procedures of the hospital, regardless of whether those protocols are backed by research findings.
Curl cautions that women should be wary of ‘patient obedience classes.’ “Any class that simply focuses on what women are or are not allowed to do according to the procedures of the institution is not going to equip them properly for labor and birth.” Curl said.
Expectant parents should consider what they want to gain from taking the class and make sure those points are part of the curriculum. Lamaze classes focus on educating parents about six safe and healthy birth practices that are based on extensive clinical research. “Women rarely receive all of the best care practices, so it is critical for parents to educate themselves about their options,” Curl said.
Typical topics covered in Lamaze childbirth education classes include:
- Normal labor, birth and early postpartum
- Positioning for labor and birth
- Pain management techniques
- Labor support
- Communication skills
- Comfort measures, including breathing strategies, relaxation and massage techniques
- Risks and benefits of medical procedures
- Healthy lifestyles
If the instructor teaches the class in a hospital setting or in a doctor’s office, parents should ask whether the instructor feels she has the freedom to discuss controversial topics related to childbirth and whether the class will discuss strategies for broaching these subjects with their care providers. This information can help parents evaluate whether the class will focus on teaching the safest birthing practices, rather than explaining hospital policies.
2. Consider the Instructor’s Training
Check what kind of experience and background the prospective teacher has and ask about the instructor’s certification. Lamaze offers the only internationally recognized childbirth educator certification program that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators must pass a rigorous examination to show they meet the highest professional standards and have the necessary knowledge and skills to teach courses. To find a local Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE), visit www.lamaze.org.
3. Invest Some Time
Between work schedules, family obligations and setting up the nursery, expectant parents may feel pressed for time. But parents-to-be need to make certain they devote plenty of time and attention to preparing for labor and birth. A one-day crash course might sound like the quickest way to get up to speed, but parents may not retain as much information from a course taught in this format. Online forums and TV shows focusing on birth do not offer personalized or in-depth information that’s found in a class.
Lamaze classes typically provide 12 hours of instruction and discussion. The classes are spread across six weeks to ensure parents have time to absorb the lessons and consider priorities as the big day draws closer. “It may seem like a big time commitment, but nothing is more important than preparing for a safe and healthy birth and a good start for the baby,” Curl said.
4. Plan Ahead
Classes fill up quickly, so start researching courses early. Try to sign up for a Lamaze class six to eight weeks ahead of time – around the first week of the second trimester.
5. Check Class Size
For first-time parents, in particular, having personalized attention from the instructor is an important part of a childbirth education class. Ask about the size of the class. Ideally, there should be a maximum of 12 couples enrolled to ensure each has a chance to interact with the instructor and ask questions.
Choosing a class with an informative curriculum, a knowledgeable instructor and personalized attention are crucial for ensuring expectant parents have their questions and concerns addressed before the baby’s birth. More information on childbirth education courses is available at www.lamaze.org.