20 Reasons Not to Take a Childbirth Class
Reasons not to take an [independent] childbirth class are everywhere. It seems like the first moment a mom even mentions learning about birth, she's met with the following list (and likely more) of why it isn't necessary. It amazes me that the same people who want to tell her not to worry about learning are the same who want to tell her to worry about all the things that can go wrong. So incredibly sad that people who love this woman would dissuade her from learning more about her body, reduce her fears, and learn about the birth industry. But, the reality is that those who are influencing her in the non-educated birth way have likely been misinformed as well, and that's what this post is all about.
20 Reasons women are told not to take a childbirth class... and reasons why they're bogus:
- Women have done it for thousands of years.
Absolutely! Wow, if women only actually believed their bodies worked just as good as women thousands of years ago did, childbirth classes would not be needed. Unfortunately, women don't trust their body, and are being misinformed by loving friends, family, and fear-driven (and many times, money-hungry) providers. They are told not to get educated, they have no clue how to eat well, they expect their doctor to "take care of them," and they believe epidurals don't cross the placenta nor affect birth. As a result, women are being induced a month early (because even 39 weeks is a month early for many babies), they're stuck in a bed that is not conducive to biological birth, and they're told if they don't have a baby in 12 hours, then their body doesn't work and they need a cesarean (regardless of distress or not). This, and many other reasons are why the US ranks so low in the world of maternal deaths and the cesarean rates have us believing 1 in 3 women need surgery to have their baby. Take a perinatal education series and get back that knowledge that women had 1000 years ago - when knowledge of childbirth was gained from experiencing it first hand from women in your family and community, when business wasn't a driving factor in the type of care women received, and when women were attended by loving providers.
- My body will do what it is supposed to do.
Well, not exactly. I mean, everything happens for a reason, and essentially we do all have the birth we need - there are higher powers at work here... but, we do have the ability to influence our birth. Your body doing what it is supposed to do really depends on where you're birthing and who you've allowed into your birthing space. You have to know how your provider practices, what routines they do and are OK foregoing. You need to know the policy of your birth location. Do they routinely clamp the cord early? Do they encourage movement during labor and instinctive birth positions? Do they limit food and water intake? Do you know why all this matters?
- Why do I need a class? The nurses will tell me what to do.
Oh, wow... ummm... First of all, I NEVER want someone telling me what I should be doing in MY birth. Instincts will do a wonderful job of telling me that. If my discomfort tells me to get off my back, no one will tell me otherwise... and you shouldn't allow them to do that either. But, more specifically, the majority of L&D nurses have little to no training, let alone experience, in natural birth - or even positive techniques in medicated births. Birthing in a hospital, it is very rare to see a completely natural birth. The chances that they've experienced a home, let alone biological, birth are slim to none and they're also taking orders from a doctor (who is likely not there). They are focusing on paperwork (preventing litigation), getting that routine EFM strip, and checking on the numbers to see how you're "progressing" according to their pattern, and if you "need" pitocin...etc. And then there is the very common situation that other moms are laboring at the same time so you don't get much of their attention. Please, please, do not rely on an L&D nurse to guide you through birth, unfortunately, many are not able to provide the support and perspective a laboring mother needs. You need to know how you can work with your body, and how your choices may limit your ability to do so... and how a doula can do what you likely believe an L&D nurse will do.
- I'll just take a hospital course.
Quite a few of moms taking independent childbirth classes with baby #2+ are moms who either didn't take a class, or took a hospital class with their first. In a nutshell, hospital courses are "how to be an obedient patient" or "what to expect when you arrive at the hospital." They don't provide you with all your options, and they often omit certain details that go against their policies. And, the one-day/crash courses are simply horrible. It is difficult to provide all the information in a 10-week series for parents to make good informed decisions... let alone a few hours!!! Independent perinatal education provides everything from nutrition, birth, and breastfeeding to home birth, midwives, and OPTIONS. That's the key, you need to know your OPTIONS. Did you even know home birth was a [safe] option? Did you know that IV's contribute to difficulties in breastfeeding? Did you know those gift bags filled with formula actually damage your breastfeeding experience? Don't rely on "what to expect" manuals and classes. You don't need to know what to expect, you need to know your options and how to be involved and affect your experience.
- I'm getting an epidural. What's the point?
This is a common misconception... a perinatal class that focuses on preparing a mother for natural birth doesn't omit all the details about medicated births. Considering the majority of mothers are birthing in a hospital with an obstetrician, it is crucial that medicated births are discussed. Likewise, moms planning home births may require a transfer to the hospital, and they need thoroughly prepared as well. There is also the factor that epidurals don't always work, and you would likely want to know some ways you can have a pleasant experience in that chance. Not to mention understanding the risks of epidurals that many providers lie to their patients about and others may not even understand. Even if an epidural is desired, do you know how you can work with your body to decrease fetal distress and increase labor progress?
But equally valid, have a little faith in yourself! Who made you think that you can't birth without an epidural? Most likely, they were uneducated and didn't make choices that supported a positive birth experience. Your body was designed to birth. Learning a little about that may help you realize how amazing birth can be.
- My doctor will take care of me.
In most situations, the doctor is not going to come in until you're pushing, and you're going to be relying on the L&D nurses (see #3) to "take care of you" and relay the information over the phone to your doctor. If you're going into your birth allowing your doctor to make all the decisions for you, you might find yourself with a not-so-pleasant birth experience. Many mothers really don't grasp how much their birth will impact them until it is said and done. Not to mention the impact your birth has on breastfeeding. Don't put your health and your baby's health in someone else's hands just because they wear the title of Obstetrician. Learn and discover what YOU want for your birth and how his choices can impact your experience, your baby, your postpartum, and your future.
- My doctor has my (and my baby's) best interests in mind.
Not always. In many situations, your doctor has their business in mind and often has litigation on the brain. Many routines that occur in maternity care today are not evidence-based but done so that a trail of paper can be used in a court room. Some obstetricians are taught that they can't be sued for performing a cesarean, but they can be sued for not performing a cesarean. Learn about your options so that you can make informed decisions and not allow your doctor, or anyone else in your birth space, misinform you of procedures - especially harmful ones.
- My doctor knows what they're doing.
This depends. If you have an obstetrician, they likely know what they're doing if you're having a high risk birth or need a cesarean. But, if you're planning a normal, natural birth, as in most cases, an obstetrician is not trained in this type of birth. In many cases, an obsterician has probably never even witnessed a normal birth, let alone has experience attending them. A midwife, however, is trained in normal birth. They are usually more apt to provide you with an environment that supports normal birth. By taking a perinatal education series, you can learn more about your options for care providers and understand more of the differences in the type of care that you might receive. Just because someone has a title doesn't mean they're the best fit for the job. You have to look at how they practice and what you want. If you hire someone to build your house, you likely don't randomly pick it in a phone book - you get references and hire someone who builds the way you prefer.
- All I care about is a healthy me and a healthy baby. I don't need to know the details.
You do need to know the details if you want a healthy experience. Unfortunately, to many, "alive" is equated to "healthy." When many of the practices occurring in L&D units are what is causing the negative birth experiences, you need to know how to avoid this from happening to you. Don't get the perception that just because someone has a cesarean that their doctor "saved their lives." Although some moms believe "if it weren't for the doctor, I would have died," in reality, many of those cases are actually "if it weren't for the doctor, I could have had a normal birth." The cascade of interventions starts by small changes like continuous monitoring, induction, back-lying positions...etc. Many of the birth practices are what contributes to postpartum depression and breastfeeding difficulties. The World Health Organization recommends no country should have over a 15% cesarean rate and the US MORE THAN DOUBLES this rate. This equates to quite a bit of unnecessary cesareans which means unnecessary major abdominal surgery, and all that goes with it... which also equates to unnecessary maternal/fetal morbidity and mortality. You need to learn how you can be healthy in pregnancy to avoid complicated births. You need to know how birth affects postpartum and your future. You need to know way more than you get from a 15 minute appointment every few weeks, more than an ultrasound will show you, and more than your friends and family are likely sharing. Don't be blinded by the poor state of maternity in the US - please, take a small portion of your time and learn some enlightening information.
- Don't worry about a class - you don't need to be a super hero. There are far more important things than a natural childbirth.
First of all, it doesn't take a super hero to have a natural birth. I've had two at home and they were amazing. They make me LOVE birth. I love to be in labor and that power I feel. It has nothing to do with being a super hero - I was scared once (before I was educated). There are many things that may be more important than a natural childbirth, but if you have the ability to do so, to affect your health and your baby's health, then take it! Your birth will impact you more than any other event in your life - your body was designed for this. Just because another mom may have needed an epidural or induction or cesarean absolutely doesn't mean you will. Just because a b and c happened to so and so doesn't mean it will happen to you. And, remember that they likely didn't take an independent childbirth class either. You're talking two different ball games with the educated vs. uneducated births.
- I've had a baby before, I think I know what I'm doing.
Many moms taking childbirth classes are mothers with previous children, and often previous births. Likely, along their way, they met someone who didn't have such a horrible birth experience, and they asked "how?" They were probably told about childbirth education, a doula, or a home birth (or all three). Every birth is different, and every birth is a learning experience. Don't believe that all births are the same or that you're unable to learn anything just because you've been there before. Equally, maybe you didn't have a positive experience.... and I'm here to tell you that they do exist, but they require knowledge about the industry and making choices that support a positive experience. Learn about those options!
- I can't have a vaginal birth, so what's the point?
(See #5) Equally, perinatal education isn't just about "the birth." You are going to learn about nutrition and exercise in pregnancy. You will learn about emotional well-being and how this affects you and your baby's development. You'll learn about prenatal changes as well as routines and procedures (that you have the right to refuse and that also carry risks). You'll learn about postpartum and breastfeeding, doulas and how they can help - especially in this type of birth. I can't say this enough - PERINATAL education... it is NOT just childbirth!
- I took the one day course at the hospital.
Please don't believe that you can receive all the information about your perinatal health and options in a one-day course. Not only do you lose focus after a few hours, but there is just too much information. These are even worse for "what to expect" when you arrive at the hospital than the series that most hospitals provide. If you're looking for a crash course, there are independent options out there, including very inexpensive options at EB Online; however, we really recommend a full series.
- My OB gave me a prenatal packet when I first got pregnant, and it had a lot of great information in it, and a book!
Unfortunately, these bags are often filled with formula handouts and pacifiers. They often have little to no quality information on breastfeeding, and likely full of medical pamphlets. This is not your ideal spot for anything of value. The real problem (as far as birth and education are concerned) is that dreaded book, "What to Expect When You're Expecting." To put it simply, avoid expectation guides and stick to informed decision-making about options. If you want a good book to read, check out Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Now, I do understand that many turn to this "expectation" book to understand that their breast changes, new dreams, and other similar things are normal - but there are countless places on the internet that will tell you the same thing. By grabbing this book, you're only learning what to expect, and not how to change (and some of the information is just incorrect). Most perinatal classes will talk about these conditions and how you can make them better or not exist. Many of these conditions are diet related - something which you can learn about in a perinatal class. Many of these "expectations" are actually choices that you can refuse. Take a class, trust me, you'll learn way more than from hearsay and expectation guides.
- My provider said it isn't necessary.
RUN... no, drive (at a safe speed) away from this care provider and find someone who encourages learning all you can about your changes and your options. If your provider offers their own childbirth class, then see #4 - it is the same situation. If your provider just doesn't think it is necessary, I would bet they're trying to hide something. I would bet they have some control issues and don't want you thinking for yourself. They are likely telling you #6, #7, and #8. A provider who wants you to believe vaginal exams are necessary, the Group B Strep test is required (and there are no risks to the treatments), and the test for Gestational Diabetes is required is a provider who wants you to have no choices. A provider who doesn't want you to know about positive birthing positions and moving with your instincts, just might have a lot of moms birthing on their backs. You'll learn about all this stuff and more in a perinatal series... might as well sign up.
- Not right now, it's too early.
I totally understand this one... you're not that far along, you might not even look pregnant yet. You want to be sure you get all that information so you remember it close to birth. However, planning for early education means you have time to make changes. Lots of moms take a perinatal series and then realize "WOW, look at all these options" and then they don't have time to change. Many times this happens with moms who discover home birth exists and it is wonderful. Unfortunately, when you get too far along, it can be difficult to find a care provider available, and some have limits of when they take new mothers (because being with you during your pregnancy means they learn a lot about you). Of course, always ask, but the sooner you ask the smoother things go. Additionally, and probably most importantly, if you wait until your third trimester to learn about good nutrition, it might be a little late. Of course a change in diet at any time is always a wonderful thing, but preventing third trimester complications can happen the earlier you learn. (Just a note, if you're worried about forgetting everything you learned - all you have to do is follow your instincts, your good choices will take care of the rest. But, even then, Esali Birth offers online classes that you can use until you birth your baby for review whenever you want). So, no need to wait until you're freaked out about everything from misinformation all around, get educated!
- I don't have time/I'm due in just a few weeks.
Again, see #16. And, also know that there are a LOT of "condensed" options. Esali Birth has condensed options that cost $10 and will only take 1 hour of your time. That is more information than you'd get from a hospital crash course. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is a great read as is Creating Your Birth Plan by Marsden Wagner. The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin is also an option. If you have just a few hours a day, you can take the complete online course with Esali Birth, or you can pick and choose between seminars (even a breastfeeding course to prepare you for postpartum). If you have time to spend reading this article, then you have time to take at least an online class.
- My birth partner doesn't want to take a class.
If your birth partner, someone you're expecting to support you and protect you, doesn't want to get informed - take this as a hint that they shouldn't be your birth partner. This doesn't mean they shouldn't be involved, but this means they probably don't know how to support you. And, if they don't want to take a class, they likely aren't interested in learning. This can be the most loving father or best friend, but all of that really doesn't matter if they don't have the knowledge or desire to properly support a birthing woman. Find someone who is interested in learning about your birth philosophy and take them to a class. It does not have to be the dad. Many dads are just not made to support birth. Their presence can be so valuable, but if they don't have the knowledge or compassion to support you during this intense time, then don't count on them. Hire a doula, and recruit a friend to be your class companion. You need to learn about options to develop your birth philosophy so that your birth partner (and doula) knows how to help you and so that your choices provide you with the best support.
- So and so said their birth classes "didn't work."
This perspective is a big pet peeve of mine (and the issue with childbirth "methods"). First of all, don't take a class because you believe their method is going to take all your problems (and pain) away. Take a class because of the informational value. Then, YOU are still required to make choices that support your birth. Just because you know the information doesn't mean you have the miraculous ability to avoid the unnecessary interventions. You have to apply the knowledge. If you want a natural birth, most times, an obstetrician just won't deliver. If you want freedom of movement, eating and drinking, many times, a hospital won't deliver. If you don't want routines happening to you and your baby, don't try to change their policies, just make selections that support your wishes. Your method doesn't make your choices - YOU make your choices. Now, a birth class that promises pain-free birth, I wouldn't recommend. A birth class that focuses more on birth pain rather than information about your options and biological birth, I wouldn't recommend. A birth class that focuses on "expectations" are just ridiculous (see #14). I recommend a class that empowers you for biological birth, and provides you with the information for birth variations. I recommend a class that provides you with information about nutritional necessities so that you can have more options by being healthy. Take a class for the information that affects your options, because only you can make those options.
- I can't afford it.
Let's put aside the fact that most educators are more than willing to work with budgets through payment plans, discounts, sliding scales, bartering, trades...etc. This is often the biggest reason mothers aren't taking independent classes - because they are often priced higher than the hospital course and usually not covered by insurance. However, you really shouldn't let money get in the way of good health and a good birth. You don't realize how this birth will affect you... forever and most importantly during the first years after the birth. I understand, it can be a little awkward to ask someone for a cut in price... I get that. So, let's move on to the real reason money shouldn't matter. This is your BABY. This precious thing you've grown inside you is relying on you to make good decisions. Learning about your body and about birth allows you to understand how your choices affect your ability to birth biologically. Paying a small amount for independent perinatal education can prevent paying a large amount for interventions and assisted births. If you learn how to stay healthy, if you make choices that support birth in a positive way, if you change your provider because you learn that they really don't have your best interests in mind, you can increase your health, your baby's health, increase your ability to bond through a positive birth experience, increase you chances of breastfeeding success, and change the way you view parenting. You can learn to stand up to people who are just throwing misinformation around. You learn about the business of birth. As a matter of fact, check out Rikki Lake's Business of Being Born and you might be enlightened as to why all these choices affect you more than you think. Don't worry about the money. This is more important than toys and cute blankets. Babies really don't need those things (your body does a wonderful job of regulating their temperature). Babies need you to be their voice, and without knowledge, you have no voice. Choosing to not have a voice is a choice - know how that choice affects you and your baby if you decide not to learn.
What are some reasons you've heard (or thought) for not taking a childbirth class?