by Justine Deputy, RN, MSN
Photo Credit: Skye Hall Photography
Childbirth classes… are they worth it? The research shows they are, and we agree.
In our experience at The Birth Center, families that take pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum classes during pregnancy are better prepared for labor, birth, and the postpartum period. This is why we require and recommend certain classes for families planning a Birth Center birth, especially for first-time parents.
Imagine you have a big presentation and you didn’t prepare at all. You are standing up in front of a big crowd. How do you feel? You likely feel stressed, anxious, or scared. If you go into labor and you don’t know what to expect and you don’t know if what you are experiencing is normal or not normal, you can have similar feelings. When you know what is normal, when to call your provider, and ways to navigate labor it can take those feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear away. A research article published in Nursing and Midwifery Studies (2016) found childbirth preparation had a significant impact on pregnancy-specific anxiety as well as labor and birth outcomes. Education can reduce the fear and anxiety a pregnant mother may experience resulting in better outcomes.
Let’s get into the science a little bit…
Why is addressing fear or anxiety important? In Marie Mongan’s book, Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method (2015), she describes the law of psychophysical response stating “for every suggestion, thought, or emotion one entertains, there is a corresponding physiological and chemical response in the body”. This can work for or against a mama in labor. Our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is our fight, flight, or freeze system. Stress and anxiety can activate the SNS. When the SNS is activated the body focuses on supporting vital organs like the heart, lungs, and brain. When we are relaxed, our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is activated. Our PNS is the rest, digest, and give birth system. When this system is activated blood flows freely throughout the body including providing an ample blood supply to your uterus.
In another study, published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (2013), two groups of women were studied. One group of the mothers took a childbirth preparation class and the second group did not. The women in the group that took the childbirth education classes were more likely to feel that they had self-control during labor and more likely to be satisfied with their labor and birth experience. Childbirth classes help mothers prepare both mentally and physically for their upcoming birth experience.
Childbirth education potentially has an effect on pain management as well. Evidenced Based Birth (2018) reviewed the research on the effect of childbirth education classes have on pain management during labor. Although most current research on the subject is inconclusive, there are studies that suggest education that includes non-drug comfort measures leads to less medical interventions and improved outcomes for newborns. When looking for a childbirth education class, you want to not only learn about labor and what to expect but also comfort measures and coping techniques for labor and birth.
So what childbirth preparation classes do we recommend? We require our Healthy Birth Series for all first-time parents planning a Birth Center birth. Planning a hospital birth? Our Planned Hospital Birth Series is just for you! For parents that have had a baby, especially parents that have never taken a childbirth series or parents that plan to have their first out of hospital birth, we strongly recommend the Refresher Series. The Refresher Series isn’t just about reviewing information and practicing positions, it is also about reflecting and processing past birth experiences. Another beneficial class in addition to any series is Optimal Birth Experience. If you plan to breastfeed, we also strongly recommend Breastfeeding Basics. And don’t forget about Mother-Infant Assessment. This classes reviews everything you need to know for early discharge at The Birth Center and is required for all women planning a Birth Center birth. Questions? Send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or give us a call (302-658-2229).