Childbirth Preparation Classes are one of the most beneficial activities an expectant mother can do during her time of pregnancy. Please see the current edition of The Wet Set Gazette for an extensive list of childbirth classes in your area.

Preparing for a New Life:
What childbirth classes can offer you.

by Jan Wernor

Jana Wernor, AAHCC, ACHI, is a certified childbirth educator and labor support educator with training in obstetrics and alternative birthing.  Classes are held in West L.A. (310) 445-5060.

What is a good childbirth class?  How does it influence the woman, man, labor, birth, even parenting?  A rich and satisfying childbirth class combines physical and psychological preparation for birth.  A good series should contain the following elements:

1. Thorough, objective information utilizing teaching tools such as films, charts, models on nutrition, exercise, labor & delivery (physiology emotional signposts); coaching; medical interventions; emergency complications; newborn characteristics and procedures; breastfeeding; postpartum; and parenting.

2. Interactive group work including labor rehearsals and validation of feelings.  Discussion topics include associations with birth; how this pregnancy has influenced your life; strengths your partner has that will be helpful during labor; pain, intensity; what you most want from your partner during labor (both); why is he important to you in labor; things that relax you; becoming a parent.

3. Relaxation and visualization techniques, without emphasis on any one "right" way. Practice exercises facilitate mental, physical, and emotional relaxation.  Physical skills such as  a) muscle relaxation and deep abdominal breathing should be combined with visualizations that aim for an inner calm ("there is nothing I need to do but let it happen"); b) confidence in your natural power to create and give birth (note: body is instinctively giving baby everything it needs); c) visualizing birthplace and people attending (appreciating and thanking partner and those you have invited); and, d) complete surrender attained through receiving the support needed.  Special visualizations can be utilized for illness, single motherhood, previous miscarriage, healing from bad experience and others.  Each exercise ends with affirmations promoting trust, strength, confidence.  For fathers, "I am able to support my partner during pregnancy and birth."  "I see my partner as a strong and capable woman," and more.

4. Carl Jones defines "the inner event of labor" as the interaction of mind and body during labor.  Holistic teaching approach strives to influence mothers thoughts and feelings, not just give information .  She must learn that labor is the challenge of integrating opposing forces: strength and yielding.  Strong, in-control women need help with surrender and receiving support.  Anxious, less active women, need courage and empowerment. 

5. Comparing available childbirth classes to the way birth is viewed and carried out in other countries particularly Holland and Sweden is vital to understand that there is an overuse of medical technology in America and that women in more ideal birthing environments have safe, spontaneous and uncomplicated births.  In addition, many couples appreciate being informed about the benefits to be derived from the presence and guidance of an experienced woman during labor who augments the father in his primary role of emotional support.

6. Dads should be given lots of positive reinforcement for the supportive, yet "back seat," role they take and their very real importance to the moms.  "The Dad Film" by Leon Corcos, is wonderful for stimulating discussions and raising men's concerns about impending fatherhood.  The better dad feels, the better off mom will be and she plays a major part in making him feel included, needed and unique.

7. Preparation for changes in the marital relationship after the baby arrives.  The fact that having a child alters one's life forever, that the postpartum period is disorienting and stressful, and that husband and wife are no longer the center of each other's universe should not be overlooked.  The birth of a baby is a beginning and an ending of life as one has known it.  It is awesome, wonderful, and courageous to add this dimension to your life.  It can also be cause for grieving, resentment, and anxiety.

8. Special emphasis on parenting, networking, providing reading and local resource lists is a must.  Ours is a culture where parents are isolated just when they most need to interact with others sharing the frustrations and challenges of new parenting.  Childbirth classes can and should be the beginning of this invaluable connection.

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