As you prepare for labor and delivery, childbirth classes can be extremely helpful and reassuring. They should give you the details of what you're about to experience, while also giving you plenty of time to ask all the questions that have been on your mind since the day you found out you were pregnant. But perhaps most importantly, childbirth class can and should be a forum for hearing the story of normal, natural birth. Your best teachers will be women who have given birth naturally and normally ‑- and are willing to share their birth stories.

Understanding how your body works and is designed to give birth will help you gain confidence in your own ability to give birth and help you have a deep trust in the process. To achieve this, the childbirth educator you choose needs to be knowledgeable about natural childbirth, and she needs to believe in your ability to do the hard work of labor and birth without medical interventions. The childbirth educator should trust birth, be a good teacher and have confidence in you. She should be an advocate who shares the information that you will need in order to make decisions about your birth. And she should respect your ability to make decisions that are right for you.

Finding a Childbirth Educator

Finding such a childbirth educator can be a challenge. Within the hospital system there is sometimes pressure to prepare women to willingly accept routine interventions and restrictions on their freedom. If that is the approach you are faced with, you may leave your class with little confidence in yourself and a great deal of confidence in technology, tests and machines. But the truly knowledgeable and effective childbirth educator knows normal, natural birth and also knows how to help you negotiate the health care system to be able to give birth the way you want to.

There are a number of programs that educate and certify childbirth educators, including Lamaze International, which has certified more than 11,000 childbirth educators, many of whom are also nurses. Each Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) has passed a rigorous national certifying examination that tests competencies based on the Lamaze Philosophy of Birth. Each LCCE is knowledgeable about natural birth and has the teaching skills and confidence in the birth process to help you prepare for yours.

Certification provides you with a certain level of assurance that the childbirth educator is competent. But don't lose sight of the fact that every woman who has ever given birth is able to share her knowledge. This informal education, passed from generation to generation of women, can be very effective. The most important "credential" is really a deep trust in the normal, natural process of birth and a belief in all women's inherent ability to give birth.

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