Recent history has shown an overall rise in induction and Cesarean rates, while, at the same time, attendance in childbirth classes has declined. Could there be some relation between these two trends? We don’t have a definite answer but one could surmise that patients who are inclined to choose elective induction or Cesarean might think twice after taking a childbirth class and discussing the risks and benefits of these options.
The value of on-site prenatal classes has been questioned ever since high quality, web-based and digital information came on the scene. You might ask, “Why waste the time on on-site classes when I can get similar content online and have the freedom to review it at my own pace?” While it’s true there are plenty of websites and apps that can answer your questions and help you gain knowledge about birthing and parenting, there’s still a lot to be gained from an on-site class. Benefits include the opportunity to bond with your birth partner, a chance to meet other couples going through the same life-altering experience, and the ability to interact face-to-face with the instructor and ask questions.
Here are 4 more major reasons you should sign up for prenatal education:
1. Reduce Fear & Increase Confidence
In prenatal class evaluations and postpartum surveys, birthing mothers and their partners routinely comment on how classes reduced their fear of labor; made them feel more confident about birth, breastfeeding and parenting; and helped the partners become more involved in the pregnancy. In a childbirth class, for example, you will learn about the connection between fear, tension and pain in labor and ways to maintain a relaxed and confident state to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and tension.
2. Gain Knowledge of Evidence-Based Guidelines
Prenatal education classes of the highest quality are routinely updated with current research and relevant resources for class participants. Recommendations are constantly changing and organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the American College of Nurse-Midwives and the American Academy of Pediatrics regularly revise their guidelines and policy statements. For this reason, even second- and third-time moms will benefit from re-taking prenatal education classes. As an example, in just the last couple of years, new CDC guidelines have been instituted which recommend that every pregnant woman receives a pertussis booster during each pregnancy to protect the baby from whooping cough. Chances are several new recommendations are in place since the delivery of your last baby.
3. Develop Awareness of Your Options
In childbirth education classes, participants learn about pharmacologic pain relief for labor, natural comfort measures and risks and benefits of different types of medical interventions. These classes also cover effective ways to relay your birth preferences and communicate with your provider when you have questions or concerns. Breastfeeding classes teach a variety of breastfeeding holds and, for special situations, alternate ways to feed breast milk to your baby. Newborn care classes offer an assortment of comfort techniques to soothe your baby.
4. Practice Hands-On Techniques
In birthing, breastfeeding and newborn care classes, participants practice breathing, labor positions, relaxation exercises, effective breastfeeding holds, infant massage, dressing the baby, diapering and many other techniques. You will also learn some of these skills at your birth site after you have the baby; however, the first couple of postpartum days are not the best time for retaining information due to lack of sleep, visitor interruptions and being overwhelmed by your new beginning. Taking a prenatal education class gives you time to absorb the information you need to know so postpartum practice at your birth site can reinforce what you learned before.
The best prenatal education is research-based, objective and presents various options in care. Birthing and parenting information can be delivered in an on-site class, online or as part of group prenatal care such as Centering Pregnancy. Make sure your class is completed by one-month before your due date (earlier for twins) just in case you go into labor on the early side. Becoming a parent is an amazing life-changing event that should involve the preparation and attention it deserves. Get off to the right start and take time to learn, practice and ask questions while you can.
All South Shore Hospital prenatal classes are taught by experienced nurses and lactation consultants. To register for childbirth, newborn care or breastfeeding classes at South Shore Hospital click here.