Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Parents Need and What They Want in Childbirth Classes: Is there a disconnect?

My experience as a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator has given me the opportunity to teach in a variety of venues.  I began teaching at an adult school affiliated with a high school in a rural California, to a community college on the Atlantic coast of Florida, to private classes in Los Angeles, to volunteer teaching on an Air Force Base, to teaching for three hospitals, and finally back to private teaching now in Ohio.  From my Lamaze Seminar Trainer, Harriet Palmer, I learned that being able to empower women and families through research based information (or the truth) was the most valuable teaching tool.  And even though I had to leave one of the hospitals because I wanted to teach the truth and resisted censorship, I can still look myself in the mirror and be proud of the educator that I am.  I personally and professionally have fought against co-optation.

Birth professionals who have been active since the 60s and 70s will no doubt remember the writings of Eugene Declercq in the Birth & Family Journal (now the BIRTH journal) and Polly Perez and myself in Lamaze's Genesis, pointing out the side effects of co-optation....when former community based childbirth education classes become part of the hospital revenue stream.  The fear then was that childbirth education classes would be censored, restricted, condensed and basically not resemble anything close to childbirth education.  They would be, in a sense, what to expect from THE HOSPITAL while you are in labor.

The time arrived and co-optation did occur as predicted and in most (yes, I say most because there are still a few hospitals who value evidence-based uncensored childbirth education classes) cases, there have been censorship, restrictions, and condensed versions.  In most situations, labor and delivery nurses are asked to teach childbirth education classes and I must tell you that nursing school does not prepare you to teach childbirth classes.  While it does prepare you to do snippets of education at the bedside, childbirth education is another animal altogether.  And in many cases, these labor and delivery nurses are not required to become certified childbirth educators in order to teach classes.

Why does this all of this matter?  It matters for several reasons:

  • Co-opted childbirth classes are not in the best interest of the expectant parents.
  • Certification DOES matter.
  • Teaching informed decision-making and evidence-based information impacts everyone.
  • Birth matters to the baby.
  • Birth matters to the mother/parents.

Midwives are particularly suited to add childbirth education to their repertoire of services as they have had the emergent and normal/physiologic side of childbirth in their education....nurses typically do not receive the normal/physiologic information in their classroom studies.  Midwives can take the time to teach and explain thus empowering their clients to achieve and enjoy this once in a lifetime birthing opportunity; to not be rushed through a process which can leave a lasting imprint on a woman's heart and soul.

Educating expectant parents of today takes more skill and cleverness, resourcefulness and constant marketing.  Today's parent needs to be exposed to something nearly 10 times before acting on it, as opposed to the 3-4 exposures for parents in the 1980s.  Educators must make their classes timely, evidence-based and truly innovative to meet the ever changing learning needs of parents.  Parents still need the information, the evidence and the facts, but they need all of this in a concise package with minimal fluff and tricks ~ otherwise they get very bored very fast.

Get certified.

Become well-versed in social media marketing to reach the parents of today.

Write your own curriculum - tedious, yes but more valuable than you can ever imagine!

Evaluate your curriculum including the dates of the evidence for topics as well as the teaching strategies.  

Remember we aren't in Kansas anymore Dorothy and the bottom line is we can't teach like we are!

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