Tuesday, March 08, 2016

3 Ways to Teach About Cervical Dilation

It is a mystery.

Fig. 1
How do you teach about something that can not be readily seen?  How do you describe how it looks?  How it feels?  How it functions?

It can be tricky and often difficult - especially if you are working with individuals who are visual learners who enjoy images, pictures, and analogies along with word pictures.  The more ways you can describe it, the better chances you have of creating a memory hook in the individual to whom you are sharing the information.  A memory hook is that word or image that immediately takes the learner back to the learning situation and helps them retrieve certain data about what was being taught.

Fig 2
Fig 3
When teaching about cervical dilation in labor and birth, the responsibility lies with the educator to create a memory hook.  Traditionally, there are charts that depict an artist's illustration of the cervix and the cervix while dilating.  Some illustrations are flat, while other charts include raised images that add to understanding with using touch. Figures 1 and 2 are classic charts from Childbirth Graphics.  Figure 3 is available from the International Childbirth Education Association.  Figures 1 and 3 feature the raised edges to the cervix to demonstrate the variations in cervical effacement. Learners can benefit from both types of illustrations - both the visual and the manipulative.  With the manipulative, they might then understand the guess-work that goes into evaluating a cervix for dilating and effacing.  Figures 1 and 2 might be cumbersome to pass around in a classroom setting, while Figure 3 might be easier.

Other ways to demonstrate cervical dilation and effacement include using a knitted uterus (Fig 4).  A knitted uterus can add color and some humor to an otherwise intense topic.  Used for decades by childbirth educators and midwives, the pattern for a knitted uterus can be found by clicking here on www.birthsource.com or purchased through Childbirth Graphics or Cascade Healthcare Products.  To add to the demonstrative use of the knitted uterus, a small baby doll can be used to show the birthing process or even a softball can be substituted for the baby's head.

Lastly, and one that can create the most memory hooks when teaching about cervical dilation
Fig. 4
is the use of food.  A circular oat cereal can be used to illustrate 1 centimeter of dilation, a horizontally cut banana slide is approximately 3 centimeters and a large apple horizontally cut illustrates approximately 5-7 cms.  Ten centimeters can be shown by using a large bagel.  The joke can be made that now the class attendees or clients would now look at these food items a bit differently - and that is the moment when a memory hook is made!  They relate something with which they were previously unfamiliar with somethings that they are very familiar with.

If you are a childbirth educator, midwife or doula, how do you teach about cervical dilation?  I'd love to hear about your style!

For more innovative teaching ideas, go to Praeclarus Press and order the 2nd Edition of Innovative Teaching Strategies for Birth Professionals! 

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