Three Ways Childbirth Education Empowers Your Birth Experience

by Kelly Devi Swails, RPYT, CCCE, CLC

When expecting moms ask me if they should take childbirth education, I believe what they are really asking is: How will this benefit me and my partner? The most obvious answer is that childbirth education (a.k.a. childbirth preparation) helps you gain an understanding of what happens with your body, and your baby, just before, during and immediately after labor. You are likely to learn about various medical procedures that may, or may not be necessary on the day of your labor. There are also the basics, like: signs of labor, and when to go to the hospital. But there are a few substantial benefits childbirth education offers that help to improve and empower your birth experience. These hold true whether your birth includes medications, surgery or is completely natural.

 

Normalizes birth and increases trust in the body. Women instinctively know how to give birth! But, let’s face it, our society does not largely support this fact. Generations of women have lost sight of their innate capacity and many harbor doubts and even distrust of their bodies. Such feelings create unnecessary fear and effectively mute a woman’s instinctive body wisdom. This can result in a more challenging, and yes, painful birth experience. Childbirth education classes (depending on the scope of the class) are often designed to help women reconnect with the power and ability of their bodies by normalizing and reframing the birth process. Some childbirth education classes also guide couples in ways to remain active participants in the birth via informed decision making. This has been shown to increase a woman’s overall satisfaction in her birth experience, and consequently how she views herself in the months and years beyond birth (regardless of delivery mode). Even if medical intervention is necessary or wanted, a woman who enters birth and motherhood informed, calm and believing in herself will generally have a much easier time than one who is fearful, unsure or doubtful of her body.

 

Ways to reduce pain and facilitate labor (And… ways your partner can actively support you). In many childbirth education classes, couples gain solid information and may practice techniques that help reduce pain and build confidence in the body and birth process. This helps women learn, but more precisely; trust that there are indeed many simple things they can do to effectively, and more easefully facilitate birth. This is also very useful for women electing an epidural as there will be time in early labor, prior to the procedure, and again during the pushing phase of labor when it helps to have an idea of how work with, and not against the body. For partners, this practice fosters confidence in their role of birth support. They learn exactly how to provide practical, effective hands-on support and advocacy.

 

An overlooked, long term benefit of learning these techniques for pain and stress management is that they are highly transferrable to many other uncomfortable or challenging situations in life. I regularly rely on variations of these techniques for dealing with the inevitable physical, emotional and mental discomforts life sometimes tosses in my direction (or that of my loved ones). As a new parent, this is a nice gift to yourself!

 

A forum to connect with others. That’s right! Meeting and talking with other couples is a huge benefit of childbirth education. Talking as a group, asking questions and learning from each other creates bonds with other new parents in the community. This is an invaluable, far reaching benefit that is not gained by reading books or surfing the Internet. Meeting other couples in your community is a fantastic way to build an ongoing social network of parents. Numerous friendships, parent groups and play dates have their roots in the connections made during childbirth education class.

 

Finding the class for you. Childbirth Education classes are not one-size fits all and can vary widely in focus and depth of material covered. Before signing up, find out the scope of that particular class and determine if it fits your needs. Consider the background of the facilitator (some are more clinical, while others are more body/mind focused). This will help inform you about the philosophy of the class and ensure it’s the approach that resonates with you. If you’re still unsure, reach out to the instructor and ask questions.

 

The Scoop on Prenatal Yoga

by Kelly Swails, RPYT, CCCE, CLC

 

IMG_5075Over the years I’ve come to realize that prenatal yoga may be one of yoga’s best kept secrets.  It offers a full range of benefits specific to the physical and emotional transformations of pregnancy, labor and beyond. But, perhaps most surprising to many new prenatal yoga students is that this practice provides elements not found in a regular yoga classes. So, let’s take a closer look at the things that make this practice so unique.  

 

Community

A few minutes of every class are always set aside to simply talk as a group. Women are encouraged to ask questions, share resources, get and give support and make new friends.  As women, and especially as new moms, this is an invaluable benefit! Prenatal yoga is one of the few places pregnant women can go and simply talk to one another and express their feelings and concerns. Plus, the connections made in prenatal yoga class often last for years to come.

A more easeful labor experience

Studies indicate that women who practice prenatal yoga generally cope better with the physical and emotional demands of labor. Researchers have noted that women who practice prenatal yoga seem to have a reduced perception of pain, and improved confidence during childbirth (Research Strategies for Normal Birth by Amy Romano and Henci Goer, Lamaze International, 2008). Perhaps this is because during prenatal yoga classes, moms actually practice a whole set of mind-body coping strategies that are practical and useful in the labor room. These include a range of flowing movements, many of which help to optimally position babies and reduce discomfort in coordination with breath, meditation and relaxation practice.

Reducing the discomforts of pregnancy

Prenatal yoga is specifically designed to target and address the discomforts experienced in all trimesters of pregnancy. Since everyone in the class is pregnant, it is much easier for the teacher to hone in on specific discomforts and help moms to find a sense of relief. In addition, specific tips on various day to day comfort measures are also provided during class; such as how to adjust your sleeping area to alleviate the issue of tingling fingers or sore shoulders, neck and hips, ways to make more “space” in the body and feel less compressed, or how to align your posture so there is less strain on the lower back.

Focus on breath awareness and deep relaxation

Yoga is all about breath and relaxation. This is as true in a regular yoga classes as it is in prenatal yoga practice. But, in prenatal yoga, moms dive more specifically into the process of breath and relaxation within the context of pregnancy and birthing. Training the body exactly how to achieve a state of deep relaxation takes time and regular practice. Attempting to learn effective breath and relaxation techniques after labor has already begun, or when you’re dealing with a fussy baby is definitely not a good time to get a handle on this! Learning and practicing these techniques well before labor is a better approach.  After all, the ability to consciously and effectively relax, soften and let go is absolutely the key to a more easeful birth.

A time to celebrate your pregnancy

Prenatal yoga class is a special time to engage in a beneficial practice for both you and your baby. The class is much more than just yoga as it provides time for connecting with other moms, bonding with your growing baby, learning about the rapid changes occurring in the body, gathering resources, asking questions, having a laugh or two, and dedicating a time to simply slow down, breathe and celebrate your pregnancy in the company of other moms-to-be.
JOIN US!

You do not need any previous experience in yoga to participate in a prenatal yoga class. The practice is appropriate and recommended for women in all stages of pregnancy. So whether you’re in your first month or your last, now is the time to take advantage of this special class.  Check the schedule for class times. 

Kelly is an Integral Yoga teacher with certifications in general hatha, prenatal, postnatal and restorative yoga.  She is also a doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, and mom.  It is Kelly’s strong desire to help women connect with the sacredness of pregnancy and labor by developing trust in the body’s ability to give birth.  Kelly’s classes include a strong focus on pelvic floor awareness, its connection to the breath and ways to find space, stability and comfort during pregnancy. Students also gain a deeper understanding of the physical, emotional, and spiritual changes of pregnancy, as well as the importance of honoring the body’s needs during each trimester. Kelly’s ultimate goal however is to encourage pregnant women to fully embrace their innate power and awesome ability to grow, nurture and birth babies from that deep maternal place of “knowing”. Kelly has worked with hundreds of pregnant women and their partners in the past decade. As she continues to witness the profound nature of birth first-hand, her dedication to this work has only grown and deepened.