An interview with The Austin Doula Team on choosing the right birth education course ~
Sam: So, Steph. How do you help parents decide on what classes they should take to prepare for their birth?
Step: It’s such a good question. And I’m going to be honest; most parents don’t ask. But a birth education class is a highly underrated piece of the preparation.
All that said, I like to recommend a class based on their personality and learning style.
So one of the first questions I like to ask is “how do you learn?”
Sam: Right!? If you’re more of a very like logistical thinker. You’ll resonate more with evidence based birthing birthing or Bradly method and if you’re more of a visual learner and intuitively lead, you might resonate more with hypnobirthing or lamaze.
Personally, I had an incredible birth experience because of the tools I learned in Hypnobirthing so I’m a little biased – but the moms I’ve assisted that used these tools seemed to also have a the most positive birth experiences.
Using the hypno-tools is really about understanding how your mind (i.e. your ability to control your stress levels) and how thoughts affects your body.
Because a “drug free” birth is still “assisted” by your body’s natural chemicals ~ oxytocin and adrenaline to name a few.
Steph: Right. I took a Bradley method class, which is an eight week course. And each week, we would meet for like three hours. It’s loooong and intense but worth it.
In general, I believe knowledge is power, so having those thoughts about how birth is likely to go, stages of birth, what to be doing during those stages, how your partner can help, etc – those were important tools for me having an empowered birth.
Sam: I love that! And both are really valuable.
Which is why if you’re somewhere in between wanting both knowledge and intuitive tools ~ we’re the perfect doula-duo to help you prepare! (Shameless self-plug!)
So what if my hospital offers a birth class?
Sam: Firstly I’ll say if it is in your budget – 100% taking a birth course that’s completely separate from the hospital.
I suggest looking for two types of classes – one being a lactation class if you plan to nurse. And of course, a childbirth class that includes how to recover postpartum would be an EXCELLENT investment.
I’ve found the postpartum piece often gets overlooked, so taking a class that covers basic baby-care (like knowing if green poo is normal) and self-care (like when to know you’re ready for sex, exercise, bath time, etc. postpartum)…all of that is really important.
Steph: Yeah! And something to note about the hospital course is that many of them don’t address keeping you comfortable. It’s more about what birth is anatomically. Like, how your anatomy works and hospital policies, etc.
And that’s an important piece to why having a doula is really is essential too. Because we are going to help kind of hold space for your birth plan.
Some stages, you’re going to be able to communicate your needs and some stages, you’re not really going to be able to do that as much. And so we will never speak on your behalf, of course. But we help hold space for those pieces that are really important to you and your partner (or whomever is whoever you).
We really want to also give them a reminder about informed consent, and when you’re in a hospital setting. Of course, we’re always as cooperative as possible with the medical staff, and at the same time, we are witness to for your wants and desires; to ask things such as “is this urgent or could we have a moment to speak about it in private?” ~ things like that.
The informed consent idea might not be as emphasize in a hospital presented courses. So all that said, if it’s in your budget, we recommend taking some additional courses.
Sam: I also recommend watching some documentaries, as well. My two favorites are the orgasmic birth and the business of being born. Both under $10 and just SO good. These are also great if you’re on the fence about having a hospital (typically medicated) or birth center or home birth (unmedicated).
What should you look for in a birth class?
ASPECTS OF BIRTH // I think the understanding of the anatomical aspect of birth, as in knowing what your body is going to do, and knowing what is normal and healthy is most important.
COMFORT TECHNIQUES // The other piece is comfort techniques. Depending which goes by several titles right because comfort techniques comfort measures; which basically addresses how how to deal with stress.
And everybody does deals differently so that’s where either having that strong knowledge base or just knowing what you can do internally is really important.
Sam: It is all it comes back to your brain, right? Controlling the thoughts that are happening in your brain by keeping your body relaxed is the goal with birth. It sounds counterintuitive, but relaxation is really key to alleviating pain. So knowing how to control your body under the stress of contractions and the environment is essential.
It’s also important to note: if you’re in the hospital, the environment is just less conducive for relaxation. You basically need all the same body chemicals during birth that you have during sex…so the closer to the bedroom, the easier time you’ll have. And generally, there will be less strangers in and out of your birth room if you’re at a birth center or home. So – just something to keep in mind.
POSTPARTUM & BASIC BABY-CARE // Lastly, look for a class that addresses how to care for yourself and your baby postpartum. Healing, nursing, and caring for baby are all pretty vast topics, but a class that covers the basics of how to sleep, how much baby should be eating, and newborn “normals” will be critical things to know once you bring that little bundle home.
How much should a birth class cost?
Steph: I would say anywhere between $150 for a solid group class and maybe on the high end, $750 for a private class. But I would say if you can take a group class, you’ll find a lot of value in connecting with other parents.
What can you expect to spend, overall, for birth support and education?
Steph: For $1,500-2,500, you should be able to get a doula, birth class, lactation support, and postpartum support if you wanted it. And if you have a very limited budget or are on medicaid, there are local programs in your area – like GALS in Austin – that will help you get the support you need.
Does The Austin Doula Offer Birth Courses?
Sam: For our doula clients, we offer a mini-birth class at a very affordable rate, which covers basic birthing information, labor position, comfort techniques, and Hypnobirthing basics.
To learn about our LIVE group Hypnobirthing class this May, head over here.