Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Note To Expectant Moms: Take The Damn Childbirth Education Classes

I try not to be judgemental.  I really do. 

But, sometimes, it's harder than others.

Case in point: an article that appeared yesterday in the Los Angeles Times reporting on a new study that has found that "pregnant women show an amazing lack of knowledge about childbirth options."

According to the article, fewer than 30% of the 1,318 first-time mothers who participated in the study attended any type of prenatal childbirth education classes. 

Many of these women claimed to have read books and done research on the Internet, but they were still unble to answer basic questions about common procedures and interventions such as episiotomies, epidurals, and cesareans.

They "appear to be quietly following whatever advice the doctor or midwife recommends," states author Shari Roan.

My question is why.

Why are so many women ducking out on what could easily be the most important education of their lives? 

I've heard all the jokes about what a waste of time those silly classes are, and how all you really need is a good anesthesiologist.  Okay, point taken.  A lot of women don't really want to know anything about what's going to happen once they've been assured that they can get the good drugs.

But the United States ranks an astounding 50th in the world when it comes to maternal mortality.  This means that there are 49 other countries where a mother giving birth is less likely to die from the experience. 

And at least half of the maternal deaths occurring in our country are considered preventable. 


As in, these women shouldn't be dying.

What I take away from this data is not that we can't trust our doctors and midwives, but that we have to advocate for and protect ourselves.  We have to know what is going on.

And education is the key. 

As mothers, most of us aren't doctors or midwives.  We won't ever reach their level of training and expertise.  But, unlike most other procedures that take place in a hospital, childbirth isn't always a medical event. 

It isn't even a procedure. 

It's something that is intensely personal and unique for each woman.  Educating yourself about your options and addressing your questions and concerns beforehand is an important part of the process.

Of course you can and should trust your care provider, but how do you know which ones you can trust when you have no knowledge of childbirth?  Having a baby isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of a deal.  There are lots of different beliefs and theories, and providers differ drastically. 

You can't automatically trust that someone is the right person to see you through the birth of your baby just because they have a few credentials.  There's a lot more to it than that.   

Didn't somebody once say that if you don't know your options you don't have any?

First-time moms, I know it's overwhelming.  But I implore you, take a childbirth education class.  Don't just sign up for the one at the hospital.  Do some research.  Visit websites.  Ask friends or on message boards. 

Find a class that fits your budget, your schedule, and your philosophy.  Take your partner with you.  And, most importantly, keep an open mind.

After all, this is your life we're talking about.

For more on the subject of childbirth, check out my posts at Parenting Squad:
And if you're in St. Louis, a couple of places to start your search for the childbirth education classes that are right for you:

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