Pregnancy: Choosing a Childbirth Educator

What are some methods of childbirth education?
Lamaze: Because “Lamaze” has become a generic term for childbirth preparation classes, it is important to make sure that a “Lamaze” class is, in fact, taught by a teacher certified by Lamaze International. The Lamaze mission is “to promote normal, natural, healthy and fulfilling childbirth experiences for women and their families through education, advocacy and reform.” Lamaze has become known for the “breathing,” but focusing on the breath and using breathing patterns is only one of many tools for coping with labor that is taught in Lamaze classes. In addition to relaxation and comfort measures, Lamaze classes cover normal labor and birth, labor and birth options, strategies to facilitate good progress, and communications skills. They provide information on medical procedures and pain medications to help couples make informed choices. Most educators also cover breastfeeding, postpartum and newborn issues, and adjusting to parenthood. While Lamaze is known almost exclusively for preparation for hospital birth, the Lamaze philosophy of birth explicitly supports birth in birth centers and homes.

Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth: Among other things, Bradley classes focus on good pregnancy nutrition, natural childbirth, the husband as labor coach, no separation of healthy babies from mothers, and breastfeeding. Women are taught to cope with labor by relaxation, natural breathing, and tuning in to the body. Bradley classes encourage parents to take responsibility for decisions and advocate consumerism and positive communications, as well as being prepared for the unexpected, such as emergency childbirth and cesarean section. The series consists of twelve classes, the first few taken in early pregnancy followed by birth preparation classes beginning in the sixth month.

International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA): ICEA’s motto is “Freedom of choice based on knowledge of alternatives,” and its philosophy is based on the principles of family-centered maternity care. Family-centered maternity care is care that achieves the best possible health outcomes for all family members. Family-centered maternity care treats childbirth as a life event, not a medical procedure. It recognizes the importance of family relationships and respects the woman’s individuality and autonomy. The goal of ICEA’s certification program is to produce educators who have the necessary knowledge and skills to help expectant couples prepare mentally and physically for childbirth. ICEA educators advocate for the natural process of childbirth and the right of parents to make informed choices about their care.

BirthWorks: BirthWorks begins with the premise that women need to develop confidence in their ability to give birth and to allow themselves to be guided by that inner knowledge. There is no “right” way to give birth; each birth experience is unique. BirthWorks believes that while cesarean sections are necessary at times, the current rate is too high and that vaginal birth after cesarean is preferable to planned repeat cesarean in most cases. BirthWorks classes encourage women to choose a place of birth in which they will feel secure, which may be the home or a birth center. BirthWorks also encourages women to participate actively in decisions made about their care. BirthWorks classes begin preferably in early pregnancy or may be started even before pregnancy. This is so that women can become aware of beliefs that influence decisions about caregiver and birth place, learn how to communicate effectively with caregivers, and learn about good nutrition in pregnancy.

Association of Childbirth Educators and Labor Assistants (ALACE): ALACE "seeks to help all women experience birth’s transforming power with dignity, in safety, support, and confidence." To that end, ALACE educators work to increase trust in the natural birth process and teach students how to cope with the pain of labor. They also provide the information needed to make informed choices and avoid unnecessary interventions, in particular, cesarean section. ALACE educators prepare women for birth at home and in birth centers, as well as hospitals.

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