–Dr. Olivia Chubey, ND
Yes! Yes! A resounding YES!
You are setting yourself up for failure if you don’t take a prenatal class.
(I know that sounds harsh, but this is too important of a topic to tiptoe around.)
I know what you’re thinking: “Well of course you would say that, you teach prenatal classes!” True! But, why do I teach them?
Because I truly believe that a GOOD prenatal class is the #1, (yes, NUMBER 1) factor that leads to improved satisfaction surrounding birth. And I’d argue satisfaction with your birth experience is pretty important.
Here’s why this really matters:
About 1 in 4 people who have given birth in the UK, and 1 in 3 in the US, describe their birth as traumatic. (Unfortunately, we don’t have stats in Canada). Not just hard, not just tiring, long or painful, but TRAUMATIC. The birth of your baby should not be a traumatic experience! Even if there are unexpected circumstances, you should not come away from your birth feeling traumatized. It has always been my goal to reduce this statistic.
Knowing this, It honestly shocked me to learn that only 50% of pregnant families in the GTA take prenatal classes. But, I understand why this happens.
- You’ve been told childbirth is unpredictable and the doctor will “tell you what to do”.
Yes, birth is unpredictable. And yes, your doctor can tell you what to do, but is this how you want to experience birth? In an effective prenatal class you learn techniques that help you cope with the marathon that labour can be. Being prepared means you have the tools and skills to cope, even when unexpected things arise. Each birth is indeed a unique and individual experience, and yet, there is a benefit to knowing what to generally expect and what to do. Even explorers had a compass to navigate unknown lands.
Your OB is definitely an important resource but they don’t arrive until the baby is literally ready to be born. Unless there are complications. (I like to say a birth is going well when you barely see the OB). You will have some assistance from the nurse but their primary role is to perform regular medical checks of you and the baby. Your birth is likely to progress normally, which means you and your partner are largely on your own: first labouring at home, then making your way to the hospital, then waiting in triage to be assessed, and then continuing in the labour and delivery room.
It is very possible that some of the recommendations from your nurses and even your OB will not be evidence based. Many things are simply hospital policy or individual bias of the care provider. Did you know that on average it takes about 20 years (yup) for policy to catch up to current evidence. The unfortunate reality is that the onus is on you to come armed with knowledge, questions and the ability to advocate for yourself and your baby.
- “I’m going to get an epidural, so I don’t need to prepare or learn coping skills”
In the movies: Water breaks. Rush to hospital. Get an epidural. Aaah, relief.
In reality: Early labour may last days. You get to the hospital triage and wait for a long time before getting assessed. Hopefully you didn’t arrive too early (or you’ll be waiting some more). Eventually you get to your labouring room and you request an epidural. If it’s a busy time (labour and delivery is the busiest place in the hospital), you may be waiting up to a couple hours more. Very occasionally, the epidural doesn’t work. Or, your labour is progressing so quickly that there is no time to get an epidural.
No one seems to tell you that you may be in labour for a long time before you get an epidural. So if getting an epidural is your only “coping” mechanism, you’ll be in for a rough ride.
Learning comfort measures and relaxation exercises for labour and birth is not just for those wanting a natural birth. Learning these things gives you tools you can use in any birth situation which increases your chance for a positive birth experience.
Read more here → Quick Tips on Having a more Comfortable Labour
- “I’ve heard that hospital classes are not very useful.”
“I can’t find one that works with my schedule”.
“I’d rather have just the information that applies to me and my birthing situation and preferences”
I get it, you have access to all the information you could ever dream of on the internet. However, it takes time to filter through all of it and do you even know what to look for? If you’ve never given birth before, how will you know what “method” to learn? What if someone who has supported many families in a range of birth situations was able to teach you the inside tips and tricks to help you feel calm and confident during labour and birth. Yes, being calm and confident during childbirth is entirely possible! In fact I believe that every pregnant person DESERVES to be calm and confident during this very important life changing event!
If group classes and their schedules don’t work for you – consider a private prenatal program. I’ve noticed that clients seem to get more out of private classes because I’m able to individualize information. Clients also love that the classes are scheduled around their convenience.
- Birth has basically been a terrifying mystery your whole life.
I remember the initial joy I had when learning about birth in medical school. I finally understood what goes on, from implantation, pregnancy and birth. It resonated with me, my intuition, it was normal – I didn’t have to be afraid of it. My education empowered me. However, the joy was quickly followed by frustration. Why did it take a medical degree to learn this, why didn’t I know in my prime “child bearing age” anything about birth outside of the dramatized ER births on television.
Most people are very afraid of giving birth, and don’t really want to think about it. But knowledge truly is power. If you understand what you body is doing during labour, how the muscles work, how your baby is working with you then you can learn how to work with your body and not against it.
Read more here → How Can My Partner Prepare for My Birth?
Ok, so prenatal classes are essential for a positive birth experience. But how do you figure out which class to take? Not all classes are equal – do your research. For your convenience I’ve created the following checklist:
Will your prenatal class include ALL of the following?
- Ends when you are 37 weeks pregnant or earlier
- Teaches and practices in-class practical relaxation exercises that you can use
- during labour (helpful for after birth too!)
- Teaches your partner how to be a GREAT birthing partner
- Covers stages of labour and birth from a non-fear based approach
- Covers the birth plan in an evidence-based approach so you feel educated and empowered about what to
- expect and how to manage labour and childbirth
- Includes a workbook with exercises to help you prepare mentally and emotionally
- Includes additional resources such as audio recordings, videos and props
- Allows you to contact the instructor directly in case you have any questions or concerns
- Treats birth as a physical and emotional experience and not simply a textbook reading assignment.
- Celebrates the miracle and power of pregnancy and childbirth!
If you’re on a budget, the City of Toronto has a free online prenatal class here → “Welcome to Parenting”
Yes, that’s right, I’d rather you take ANY prenatal class, even if it’s not mine.
However, I and another birth-loving ND’s and doula colleagues, have created our Confident Birth Prenatal Program specifically from our experiences as mothers who have given birth, and as doulas who have supported birthing families. From our many years working in this area, we observed and listened. The result? A prenatal program that meets all the criteria above. And as the name implies, you WILL feel more confident and prepared for childbirth.
I want families to feel empowered, calm and confident. Getting educated and having resources helps. I teach and work with families because I LOVE sharing all the wonderful, interesting, mind-blowing things that your body does in labour and how you can help it do its job easier.
We’re so passionate about helping families get a positive start to parenthood through positive birth we offer not just one but two different prenatal programs!
Would you like to learn more about how a doula and naturopathic doctor can support you in pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum? Click here to book a free 15 min Meet and Greet today!
** Your prenatal class with a naturopathic doctor may be eligible for coverage by your work benefits/ health insurance plan. Inquire with us today!