According to BORN Ontario, only 1 in 4 women report taking a prenatal class as preparation for childbirth.
Although this statistic varies by demographic group, it's still a sad state of affairs that so few women and partners take classes - especially for us childbirth educators. We are passionate about what we teach, and truly believe that more information is better.
Can you give birth without taking a prenatal class? Of course!
But will you have a better experience if you DO take a prenatal class? Most certainly! As Tabitha Bernard, one of my fellow teachers at the Ottawa Childbirth Education Association, says: "The more you know in advance, the better able you are to process information and events as they unfold. You can enjoy your baby's birthday more thoroughly if you're not learning about everything as it's happening.
I can't speak for every prenatal class out there, but the vast majority of participants who take our classes report that they leave feeling empowered and prepared. The experience is far from boring, and we work hard to present relevant content to our participants.
Here are five key things your Childbirth Educator wants you to know about birth - you need to take the class to find out more ;)
1) Birth plans are not a ticket to a cesarean
I'm sure you've heard the joke about the couple who showed up at the hospital with a 3-page birth plan (which included a short guide to lotus birth,) or maybe you read this hilarious article on McSweeney's. But jokes aside, we still want you to write a birth plan. Make it short, make it sweet and make it FLEXIBLE. When it comes to birth, nothing is set in stone. So highlight your main wishes, and make sure to include important information like allergies or specific fears.
2) Poop will happen
The other day my three year-old got off the toilet, looked in the toilet bowl, and exclaimed "now that's a log for a frog!!" A story only fellow parents can truly appreciate.
So here's the good news ladies - you will not be pooping a log for a frog. Early labour will help to clean you out (like enemas used to do back in the day,) and any poop that does come out during pushing will be very minimal. Maybe slightly bigger than a rabbit turd. But definitely not a log. And your kind nurse or midwife will quickly wipe it away before anyone notices a thing!
3) Birth is not a horror movie
OK, yes, so there's blood, urine, sweat, tears, poop and maybe even some guts. But if you are well-loved and well cared for during your birth, I promise you, it doesn't have to be a nightmare. Choose your care provider wisely, and consider hiring a birth doula. Bring relaxing music, light candles (or buy those fake LED ones so that you don't burn anything down) and let yourself be pampered. Birth is often messy, but it doesn't have to be scary.
4) Staying at the head of the bed will not stop the show
I often hear partners say that they want to stay at the head of the bed so that they don't see anything. That is perfectly acceptable, and if you are squeamish, it may be necessary. But the head of the bed is not a magical land where the vagina disappears. A woman can be pushing in a certain position that will make everything visible, despite where you try to position yourself. If you are squeamish, I highly suggest you watch a good birth video BEFORE the labour, so that you are well prepared for the sights and sounds. And you may surprise yourself by getting intimate with the whole process - I can't count how many times I've heard a partner peek down and say "That's a head!!? COOL!!!"
5) "There are no dumb questions, just missed opportunities to ask them"
A great quote from OCEA teacher Colette Gignac! There are no dumb questions in class, and there are certainly no dumb questions during birth either. In fact, the more questions you ask, the better you will feel about decisions related to your care. When in doubt, remember to use your BRAIN - ask about benefits, risks, alternatives, and whether an intervention needs to happen NOW (or can you take a wait and see approach?) Finally, trust your Instincts - what is your gut telling you to do?
Misty Pratt is the Community Manager for Kids in the Capital. For the past five years she has enjoyed a part-time career as a birth doula and childbirth educator with the Ottawa Childbirth Education Association. In her full-time life she is a mother, health researcher and budding yogi.