Over the next several weeks, Team Preparing for Birth will be debunking some common myths surrounding childbirth education classes. Check back every Monday to see the newest post.
MYTH #1: “I’m having a homebirth, and my midwife will do all my education.”
Home birth families often see childbirth classes as an extra, rather than a valuable and necessary tool to help them have the birth they are hoping for. The most common objection they have is that they will be able to get all the education they need from their midwife. While midwives do educate their clients to some extent, this perception that they can (or should) cover everything is a myth, for several reasons.
1) Education is not a midwife’s job.
Just as obstetricians are not childbirth educators, neither are midwives. Just because midwives are more likely to do more education than an obstetrician, does not mean they give comprehensive education, and they should not be expected to. That is not their job.
Rather, a midwife’s primary job is to maintain the clinical safety and health of the mother-baby dyad. This will involve some education, yes, but only as a by-product of good midwifery care.
A good midwife will encourage her clients to be active participants in their care by reading, taking classes, and educating themselves proactively, instead of passively relying on the lack of intervention common to home birth. Midwives want clients who are thinking women, who take responsibility for their own care, and who can integrate what they learn in practical ways.
2) The reality of transport.
Another downside to relying solely on your midwife for childbirth education is the preparation for hospital transport. Realistically, around 10% of women and babies need something that cannot be offered at a homebirth, for whatever reason. It is not a midwife’s job to prepare you for the hospital. Her job is to prepare you for birthing safely at home. Therefore, an expert on the hospital system is needed to prepare a birthing woman, in case of a transport. Most midwives spend very little time in the hospital, due to the low transport rate, so their expertise on local practices may be limited.
On the other hand, childbirth educators work very hard to stay up-to-date on all policy changes, protocols, and the general attitude of the staff in local hospitals. They often work (or have worked) as doulas, and have regular opportunities to interact with staff in the local hospitals that midwives simply don’t have. (This is not a criticism, merely a reality.)
While a midwife can go over what a typical transport looks like in her practice, a good childbirth education class will be able to prepare the client for what a hospital birth will look like. She can help the client to understand how to navigate the environment, and teach her how to communicate with the staff effectively.
3) The birth tool belt.
Midwives know that most women need a wide array of pain management techniques available to them, since an epidural is not an option at home. While a midwife will teach her clients the importance of stress management, emotional health, and relaxation, there is no substitute for a good independent childbirth course where you can actually practice tried and true techniques from all kinds of sources. This creates a solid foundation of knowledge, provides varying perspectives, and allows the birthing pair time and space to learn or review valuable tools for labor.
4) Prenatal appointments can only cover so much.
Even though midwifery appointments are much longer than typical obstetric appointments, it is still a very limited amount of time for a woman to learn all she needs to know about birth. Not to mention the birth partner, who may not be able to attend very many of the appointments. Childbirth education can fill in the gaps, empower a birthing pair, and provide opportunity to practice valid techniques in a real-world environment.
It is never wise to assume that your care provider will simply take care of everything, no matter who they are. Leaving the decision-making and responsibility solely in your midwife’s hands is not fair to her, to you, or to your baby. You owe it to yourself to take a proactive approach to childbirth education.