Learning about childbirth classes
Most expectant mothers eagerly await their baby’s birth but at the same time dread the labor and delivery. Why? The fear of pain is a big reason.
To learn how to maximize the birthing experience—and minimize the dread—enroll yourself and your spouse in childbirth classes. These classes will help you understand what’s happening to your body. If you understand the process, labor won’t frighten you.
Birthing classes help with the pain
Take a childbirth class and you’ll learn how to:
- Work through pain in a positive way. There will be pain with labor. But if you understand why—and how normal it is—you’ll be more accepting of the pain. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons women who’ve participated in prepared-childbirth classes ask for less pain medication. Consequently they and their babies have fewer unwanted side effects from anesthesia.
- Reduce labor pain. Certain techniques you learn in class may block pain sensations from reaching the brain. One such technique is massage. Its success stems from the "gate theory," which says that an injury sends its pain message to the brain along three kinds of nerve fibers. The theory says that if you can send a different message—a touch message, for example—on the fastest nerve fiber, it will reach the brain before the pain message and will close the "gate" behind it.
- Build your confidence. One of the aims of prepared childbirth is to teach you that you can give birth successfully even though you’ve never done it before.
- Breathe and relax. These techniques can help break the cycle of fear, tension, and pain.
- Involve your partner. Certified Childbirth Educators can show your partner important ways to provide you with physical and emotional support.
Here are some methods for natural childbirth.
- The Bradley Method. Relies on an abdominal breathing technique to relax you to reduce your need for pain medication. You’re taught specific exercises for muscle development and are shown how to synchronize your breathing with your uterine contractions. Your partner plays a major role in the delivery by acting as the labor coach.
- The Lamaze Method. Based on the theory that if you understand the nature of labor pains you’ll be less afraid. Instead of anguishing over each contraction you’re taught to think of it as a necessary step in dilating the cervix and the eventual birth of the baby. Lamaze says that if the negative aspects of labor pains can be neutralized, you can be taught to respond to them as a signal for a special type of breathing. The breathing acts both as a distraction from labor pains and as a way of easing the pain itself.
- The Leboyer Method. Focuses on the baby during labor as well as on the mother. It first attempts to reproduce a womblike environment as the baby is being born. The delivery room is warm and dimly lit so the baby won’t be shocked when she leaves the mother’s body. The infant is placed immediately on the mother’s abdomen, so she feels warmth and comfort. The umbilical cord isn’t cut until it stops pulsating, allowing the maximum amount of oxygen to pass into the body. Finally, the baby’s back is massaged, and she’s placed into a body-temperature bath.
- The Reed Method. Teaches you about your anatomy, your physiology, and what’s involved in labor and delivery. You’ll learn relaxation techniques and breathing exercises to help you reduce your fear of labor and thus alleviate pain. You’re also put on a program of general physical fitness. Finally this method asks Dad to become involved in labor and delivery and to help meet Mom’s psychological needs.
Finding a class
You’ll find childbirth classes conducted at hospitals (check with the hospital where you’re planning to deliver), in church basements, and at other community centers. Your health care practitioner also can direct you to local classes. You’ll want to check the credentials of the person presenting the class; your best bet is to find a Certified Childbirth Educator. These certified professionals have achieved a certain level of knowledge and competence in areas tested by the International Certified Childbirth Association. Find a Certified Childbirth Educator.