When it comes to birthing classes, there are a variety of options. From hospital based classes, naturally focused birthing classes, and those that are combinations of both. Some specific types or methods taught in birthing classes include the Lamaze Method, Bradley Method, Hypnobirthing, Birthing From Within, BirthWorks and The Alexander Technique. We were really interested in taking the 12-week Bradley Method class, which teaches natural childbirth and partner-coached childbirth, but unfortunately there is no one who offers these classes in our area (or even the state). What we did have for options was pretty limited and many of the classes that were available focused more on hospital births (ones with medical intervention) or were really focused around the procedures/what to expect at the local hospital (Fletcher Allen, which we won’t be going to).
Left feeling frustrated and not wanting to drive the 75 minutes to the hospital we will be giving birth at for childbirth classes (each way for six weeks), I finally reached out on twitter for some ideas on what to do. To my delight, a few people came back and suggested that I look into local doulas, as many offer childbirth classes in addition to their doula services. The next day I was at Healthy Living Market perusing the local services board and ended up taking home four doulas’ business cards to contact about classes. One doula contacted me back to let me know she was available to teach birthing classes and we signed up for two four hour sessions. We also signed up for her natural baby care class (and also eventually hired her as our doula). In addition to taking private birth classes I also read Birthing From Within, and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and Neil read The Birthing Partner which we will discuss further in future posts.
So what did we learn? Since we spent eight hours discussing a variety of topics I’ve decided to condense what we learned into the top 10 things we learned, here they are:
- Sign that labor may begin soon: Examples of this are backache, cramps, PMS symptoms, nesting urge, upset stomach, and baby “drops.” However, as a reminder these don’t mean that you are going to go into labor right away these are just signs that your body is preparing for birth.
- The Labor Process: We discussed how labor begins (always good to know), what to expect in early labor, active labor and transition. One of the most important thins from this part that we learned were the preliminary that labor may be about to begin which include bloody show, water breaks and Braxton-Hicks Contractions and positive signs that labor has begun which include a gush of amniotic fluid, progressing contractions and dilation of cervix.
- What to take note of if your water breaks before you arrive at the hospital:
H.E.L.P.S. aka the responsibilities of the birth partner:
- Time your water broke
- Amount (was it a gush? it is leaking?)
- Color (you want it to be clear if it isn’t call 911)
- Odor (there should be no smell if there is a foul odor immediately contact your care provider)
The Second and Third Stages of Labor: in this section we discussed the process of pushing and birth, possible positions to birth and labor in and delivery of the placenta.
Packing The Hospital Bag: What should we bring? Our doula provided us with the ultimate list of items to pack, separating them into three categories: Labor & Delivery, For Recovery, and For Baby. I have come across a number of lists but this one is by far my favorite. We plan to look at a few other lists and create a customized list for our needs.
What to Expect with a Cesarean Section: although we are planning a natural birth, complications can occur and it is important to know all of the possible scenarios including a c-section. Our doula/birth class instructor went over the risks, the procedure, your recovery (in the hospital) and your recovery (at home). I found it really beneficially to be aware of the procedure although I hope that we don’t have to go that route. Luckily, our birth center has a super low rate of c-sections and did you know having a doula can reduce the chances of having an unnecessary c-section? If a c-section worries you, be sure to ask your care provider about their approach to c-sections and the rate of c-sections at their facility.
Induction: We learned the Medical Reasons for Induction (i.e. preeclampsia, fetus who is no longer thriving in the uterus, maternal illness such as pregnancy induced hypertension or diabetes), Non-Medical Reasons for Induction (i.e. convenience, uncomfortable, fear of baby being to large), “Natural” Ways of Stimulating Labor (i.e. walking, herbal teas, nipple stimulation, intercourse) and Medical Ways of Inducing Labor (i.e. stripping the membranes, misoprostol, pitocin), as well as, how they are done, the benefits and the risks of doing them.
Pain Medications During Labor: Again we are planning a natural childbirth but it is important to research all your options. Common types of pain medications used during labor including Regional & Local Anesthesia epidural, spinal, CSE, Pudendal Block, Perineal Block and Systemic Medications Demerol, Numbian, Morphine, Fentanyl, and Stadol. What is different for us however is the medication options offered at birthing center. There is no epidural, spinal (except for c-section), CSE, Pudendal Block, Perineal Block, rather our birthing center would give an intrathecal which is similar to an epidural but it doesn’t last as long and allows you to still be mobile. For systemic medications many of the ones above are available it just depends on the stage of labor.
The First Couple of Hours Postpartum: This includes the initial breastfeeding, skin to skin/bonding, newborn procedures (checking them, shots, bath, etc.) and newborn appearances (what to expect).
- Hydration: making sure that the woman is hydrating throughout labor.
- Encouragement: encouraging the woman throughout labor.
- Lights: making sure that the lights are dim.
- Protect: being the protector of the room and making sure to keep a safe space for the woman.
- Sounds: being aware of the sounds and trying to keep the outside/unnecessary noise to a minimum.
What others are saying:
- “We took Bradley Method with our first. Ended up having a c-section after 36 hours. Took no classes with our second and had a natural birth after just 12 hours.” -CK
- “Hypnobirthing worked well for me. I’m terrified of medical situations in general and the hypnobirthing techniques were really useful and allowed me to have a drug-free birth.” -AD
- CaitlinHTP: Pre-Birth Review of Bradley Method
- KathEats: Thoughts on Childbirth Class
We took our birthing class from Doula Sarah Campbell of Mother Rising Childbirth Services.