Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Becoming a Childbirth Educator in Three "Easy" Steps

I became a childbirth educator in 1980.  And to this day, I love what I do.  I have expanded my role from childbirth educator for expectant parents, to educating via social media, educating those new to the childbirth profession, and as a leader in childbirth educator organizations.  For three + decades, I have devoted my professional life to sharing and encouraging the embrace of the evidence and facilitating informed decision-making.

And it only took three “easy” steps.

Step one was to decide that this passion was also a career choice.  It is one thing to be excited about something shortly after the birth of one’s child.  It is quite another to take the proverbial bull by the horns and see it through the good times and the challenging times.  Some of my most fierce challenges included completing my certification through Lamaze (which included typing my six week curriculum on a portable typewriter with carbon paper), seeing the ramped used of epidurals in the late 1990s, and too-early elective induction/cesareans which necessitated the need for more NICU space.  Some of my peers quit during any one of these challenges.  I knew there was a proper way for birth – a physiologic way for birth to happen – and my passion kept me going.

“Cesarean surgery is the quintessential issue that distinguishes the medical and physiologic models of care.”1

Stepping into social media and the “computerized age” seemed daunting however, I embraced Step Two - always educating.  Always loving gadgets and how things worked, everything from cell phones (remember the bricks?) to my first Apple IIc computer became a way to extend my passion.  Oddly, what seemed so
daunting back then has now become my most used educational tool.  Via my cell phone, I can log onto Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or be available for a client/peer with a question.  Via my computer or iPad, I can research new evidence, update my blog or website, or get answers to those with questions.  While books and magazines certainly do play a vital part of my research life, I cannot imagine how my research, educating or marketing would be without the internet, computers, cell phone, or other smart device.

Through all of the certifications, recertifications, continuing education, conferences,  organizational politicalness and perceived hiding of the evidence surrounding physiologic birth, I never lost the focus (Step Three) that physiologic birth is best for mother and baby.  Many authors have studied it, written about it and shown the evidence to be there – if we clean up our maternity care act, our maternal/infant morbidity and mortality rates with improve.  As we saw an increase in chemical pain relief, we also saw a decrease in breastfeeding rates. Anesthetics cross the placenta and reach the infant quickly and also target the mother’s sensory nerve tissue.  Early induction predicates cesarean sections, with associated risks. Yet knowing all of this, we still hesitate to do skin-to-skin during the immediate postpartum because it may interfere with continuing medical procedures; ignoring the fact that skin-to-skin supports normal thermal stability, stabilizes newborn blood sugars, releases milk to the newborn, and promotes gastrointestinal motility and digestion in the newborn (just to name a few of the benefits)2.  

Clearly we do not focus on the evidence which leads to physiologic birth which leads to optimum labor/birth outcomes.

But I digress.

Yes, the three easy steps of becoming a childbirth educator: passionate career choice;  embracing technological change to find and promote research;  and staying focused on the evidence for positive outcomes.  To be called to this profession is a humble privilege.  To sustain in this profession, takes a passionate focus.

It is indeed my pleasure.


  1. Romano, A. and Goer, H. (2012) Optimal Care in Childbirth: The Case for a Physiological Approach. Classic Day Publishing.
  2. Smith, L. (2010) Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding, 2nd Edition.  Jones & Bartlett Publishing.

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