The day you give birth is important. If you’re like most parents, you’ll remember this day in minute detail for the rest of your life. So it’s worth doing everything you can to ensure the best possible birth experience for your family. Part of preparing for the big day is taking prenatal classes.
Leslie Chandler is a childbirth educator and coordinator of the Childbirth Education Certification Program at Humber College.
The first step in finding a prenatal class, says Chandler, is to clarify what you want to get out of the class. Do you want information about interventions, techniques for coping with labour pain, information about breastfeeding? What kind of birth do you want to have?
Once you know what you want, it’s important to talk to the teacher offering the class. “Ask what will be covered, what skill set she has to offer, and what her philosophy of birth is. Then decide whether the class fits in with your expectations about your birth.”
It used to be that classes tended to follow a specific method, explains Chandler. For instance, the Bradley method prepared expectant couples for husband-coached labour and birth. Lamaze classes taught a set of specific breathing techniques for each stage of labour. “Nowadays, teachers tend to incorporate the best of the research and techniques for supporting a woman through labour and delivery, with an emphasis on coping and communication skills, and the early postpartum period – what it’s like to be at home with a baby,” says Chandler.
Classes are offered by hospitals, local midwifery associations, doula registries or public health units. Most teachers are certified by the International Childbirth Education Association. Chandler recommends taking childbirth classes early in your pregnancy so you’ll have more time to practise the techniques and develop more realistic expectations about new parenthood.
If you don’t have access to a prenatal class, Chandler recommends you do it yourself: “Get a good book on breastfeeding, one on baby care, and read The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin, Harvard Common Press, revised and updated, 2001.Try to watch some videos that document actual births so you have some idea what to expect. Your library or public health unit is a good place to start.