Within recent years, several studies have been published about how uninformed first-time mothers-to-be are about childbirth, and the Internet has exploded with discussions. This phenomenon is being attributed, in part, to a decline in childbirth education participation, outside of a hospital tour.
I have been conducting my own informal survey of the expecting couples I lead on tours of Advocate Lutheran General Hospital’s Maternity Center, and my findings are similar to those of the experts. It seems fewer and fewer couples are opting for childbirth education classes prior to the arrival of their first child. My colleagues at surrounding hospitals are noticing the same trend.
As a nurse and certified educator, I find this troubling, and not just because I enjoy helping expectant parents understand what they can expect. I believe that the more they know about every step of the process and the options available to them, the more comfortable they will be in this new phase of life. Childbirth and newborn care are worrying enough when you know what to expect, but it can be downright intimidating when there is a surprise at every turn.
It is for that reason our childbirth classes at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital are designed to be as informational as possible. We maintain a fun atmosphere and encourage couples to interact during class, sharing their concerns. We also provide a forum where no question is off limits. Specifically, we address:
Labor & Delivery – Whether you are planning a medicated or non-medicated birth, knowing all of your options before you go into labor can make the entire process less frightening.
Role of Nurses – Nurses care for and offer support to patients during labor and delivery. Understanding how they can advocate for you and your baby is a big part of this education.
Breastfeeding – The American Academy of Pediatrics is very clear that exclusive nursing for at least the first six months is in the best interest of a child’s health and wellbeing. We also know that the sooner a mother starts nursing and the more support received, the more likely she will continue to nurse. Having a basic understanding of what to expect can alleviate some of the worries new mothers often feel if that the early feedings in the hospital aren’t as successful as they would have otherwise anticipated.
Depression – An important portion of this class is dedicated to providing spouses and partners the information they need to recognize postpartum depression. We also discuss what depression during pregnancy can look and feel like.
Baby Care – We also help new parents manage their expectations regarding the care of their newborn. There certainly is no instruction manual for babies, but we do our best to provide a guide for getting started.
Lutheran General offers a number of other educational opportunities that cater to new parents and their families, including:
- Boot camp for New Dads
- Infant Massage
- Baby Care for Adoptive Parents
- Breastfeeding and Returning to Work
- Grand parenting
- Marvelous Multiples
But, now I would like to hear from all of you reading this column, especially if you are expecting for the first time. Did you or do you plan to participate in childbirth education classes? If not, I would be interested in understanding why so that we can continue to improve our classes to meet your needs.
Cheryl Oakdale, RNC-MNN, MS, LCCE, IBCLC, CIMI, works in Childbirth Education at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital.
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