Childbirth education, often referred to as antenatal classes, is a dynamic process, in which expectant parents learn about the physical and emotional aspects of pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting.
Pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting are significant life events. The meaning of childbirth is unique to every individual and family and it is important gather the knowledge to make informed decisions based on facts, not fears. Value clarification and informed decision-making are emphasised throughout the educational process.
What does childbirth education entail
The practice of childbirth education is broad; it extends from preconception through the early parenting period and may include other family members as well as the expectant couple.
The goal of childbirth education is to promote the competence of expectant parents in meeting the challenges of childbirth and early parenting. You will be helped to identify your goals for childbirth and to balance these with the often unpredictable reality.
Who is the childbirth educator
The childbirth educator is a professional practitioner who is accountable to her clients and the public, for maintaining high standards for childbirth education and for promoting the improvement of maternity care services. While she is caring and supportive, she also promotes independence and competence in her clients.
Her role is more one of facilitator. She should possess a broad knowledge base from the biological and behavioural sciences. She should be knowledgeable about obstetrical procedures and practices and the scientific basis for childbirth education.
Childbirth classes differ
Childbirth classes differ in the length of the course and the cost of the course. Make sure you check out the qualifications of the person whose classes you want to attend. Some classes offered in hospitals may only prepare you for the way birth is managed in a clinical setting. Childbirth educators should present information that is unbiased and factual, not just based on one set of values or opinions.
What classes should offer:
- The opportunity to learn about pregnancy, birth and parenting a new baby
- A means of exploring the physical, emotional and psychological changes and events of pregnancy and birth
- Social support from others undergoing similar experiences
- Growing confidence in yourself and your ability embrace and cope with this new experience
- The knowledge to manage your labour and birth, including pain management techniques
- A way of sharing as a couple in the preparation for your new role as parents
- A means to sort fact from fallacy and to be given proper research-based information
- An opportunity to explore your own feelings about these very emotional issues