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Childbirth Instructors

A childbirth class led by a certified childbirth instructor is a great way for moms-to-be and their partners to prepare themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally for labor and delivery.

Most hospitals offer classes, or you can take a course through a childbirth education association or independent instructor. Most childbirth educators are nurses who have experience working with women in labor or with postpartum women, while others are simply women who enjoyed their birth experience so much they want to help others have the best possible birth.

Regardless of which setting or organization you choose, the instructor should hold a childbirth educator certificate from a nationally-recognized organization and should be able to show evidence that they have completed continuing education courses, either at childbirth education conferences or related workshops.

The most well-known certifying organizations are the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA), Lamaze International, the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA), and the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth (AAHCC-Bradley Method). The classes offered at hospitals may be slanted towards the procedures followed in that particular institution, so you'll get the most relevant and useful information if you take a class associated with the hospital where you plan to deliver. An independent educator (one who isn't associated with any particular hospital) may be able to speak more broadly about the options available to laboring women, and may encourage you to discuss your wishes with your physician or midwife so that you can work together to plan your birth.

Traditionally, classes are held weekly for 2 to 3 hours for 5 to 7 weeks, so that there's time to review breathing and relaxation techniques, ask questions, and get to know the other expecting parents. But due to their busy schedules, many women and their partners are now taking marathon classes, in which they meet for 4 to 6 hours on a single Saturday. Many doctors and midwives find that women are not well prepared by these classes, as it's difficult to concentrate on so much new information while sitting for such a long period of time. Still, in a pinch, a "marathon" is probably preferable to not attending a class at all.

It is important to find an instructor who shares your personal birthing philosophy and will focus on topics that most interest you. Each instructor has their own unique teaching style and curriculum: some may lecture and show videos, while others will do role-playing and more hands-on practice. To find a childbirth instructor with whom you feel comfortable, do a telephone interview with a prospective instructor and talk to couples who have taken their class. Be sure to find out how large the class will be, as many couples prefer to attend a class that is limited to eight or ten couples to ensure individual attention and time for lots of questions and discussion.

Your childbirth instructor should spend time discussing topics such as:

  • Hospital procedures and medications
  • Breathing/relaxation/visualization techniques
  • The stages of labor
  • Comforting and support techniques for the partner
  • Cesarean section
  • Induction of labor
  • What to expect with a newborn
  • Infant feeding
  • How to work with your doctor or midwife to have the best possible birth for you and your baby

To find a childbirth instructor in your area, go to the ICEA Website, or the CAPPA Website.


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