Navigating Your Unmedicated Hospital Birth: A Childbirth Class Designed for You!
Since the day I became a doula, I've intended to add on childbirth education to the birth services I offer. Over the years, I've offered limited childbirth class options: private three-hour in-home customized birth classes, and the three-hour Birth Class Date Night I teach with my backup doula colleagues. I packed as much info as possible into these three-hour class offerings, but there is SO much to learn and share about birth, and during these three-hour classes, we can barely scratch the surface!
So, in the fall of 2022, I finally added comprehensive, group birthing classes to the services I offer. I started with a class I specifically designed for those preparing to give birth in the hospital without pain medication, called Navigating Your Unmedicated Hospital Birth.
Why a class specifically for preparing for unmedicated hospital birth (which some call "natural hospital birth"?)
While there are things you need to learn in any birth class--the standard progression of labor, what cervical dilation and fetal station mean, when to go to your birth place or call your care provider, and more--there's a specific set of knowledge and skills that can be particularly helpful if your goal is giving birth in the hospital without pain medication.
As a doula, I have helped many families work towards and achieve this goal. I've seen the preparation necessary to have an unmedicated birth--mental, physical, and relational. And I've brought all of those experiences into the creation of this class.
So, while we will absolutely learn the birth "basics" of the stages of labor and the physiological process of birth, this class doesn't stop there. Let me give you a short tour of the topics we dive into in class!
In the first session, we learn about basic terminology about your relevant anatomy and the process of labor and birth. We learn the basics of how your uterus contracts to open your cervix and move your baby down through your pelvis and out into your arms. We listen to what labor sounds like and practice making sounds that will encourage your body to open and release. We watch videos of labor and discuss what we see. We discuss your--and your partner's--anticipated needs during labor.
In the second session, we start to build your labor toolkit. We do a lot of practicing. We practice communication skills so that you and your partner can make sure you're on the same page. We practice discerning whether your care provider is truly supportive of your birth goals--and how to know if changing care providers will be beneficial. We practice relaxation and breathing strategies, learn how to break out of the fear-tension-pain cycle and give birth confidently, and we practice several other comfort measures for labor. We also practice a variety of positions for labor and birth and discuss when each might be helpful.
In the third session, we practice more strategies for communicating with your care provider about your birth goals and preferences. We learn counter pressure--an amazing way to maximize your comfort during contractions! We discuss the choices that are available to you during your birthing experience, and we learn about the dreaded "cascade of interventions" that can upend your plans for an unmedicated birth--and how to avoid it!
In session four, we begin by creating an internal birth plan--how will you cope and open and remain confident when the going gets tough? We practice making informed decisions by researching trustworthy sources. We learn some body balancing strategies that help get your baby in a good position before labor starts so that it can go as smoothly as possible. And you get some tools and work time for creating both a birth plan and a postpartum plan.
In the last session, we focus on everything that happens after baby comes. We discuss lactation and breastfeeding: reasons to do it, reasons people choose not to do it, how it works, and how to know if baby is getting enough milk. We practice several nursing positions with baby dolls so you can get the hang of each position. We learn about what to expect with diapering, and learn some strategies for soothing gassy babies. We also learn strategies for soothing hungry, tired, or uncomfortable babies! We discuss postpartum depression and other mood and anxiety disorders so that you can be on the lookout for them and know how to get help as soon as you need it if you think you may be developing postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mood disorder. And we finish the class by starting to build your community of support, because, whether this is your first baby or your fifth, you'll need people to lean on as you begin this next chapter of your life!
In every session of the class, I prioritize having activities that are interactive and engaging, so that you'll remember what you learn--no boring lectures here! I have two degrees in education, so effective teaching is something I care a lot about. Classes are enjoyable and memorable and will boost your confidence as you prepare for your birth!
Whew! Just writing all that out makes me so excited for the next session of Navigating Your Unmedicated Hospital Birth! I hope you'll join me!
At my initial doula training, another doula told me about Evidence Based Birth®: Rebecca Dekker, a nurse with her PhD, reads all of the academic studies about common birth practices and synthesizes them in a way that's accessible for the general public. She hosts a podcasts and writes articles on everything from natural induction methods to Group B Strep. Along the way, she often highlights the fact that many common, undesirable practices in hospitals (like restricting eating and drinking during labor and inducing for a suspected "big baby") aren't necessarily supported by the research evidence.
I was quickly hooked on the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast. Much of the research felt validating, because I'd had a difficult first birth many interventions that I now saw as unnecessary. My second birth, in which I more carefully opted for a select few interventions that matched my birth circumstances, had felt entirely different. And I liked knowing the research was on my side.
More than just knowing that research was on "my side," though, listening to the Evidence Based Birth® (EBB for short!) podcast continually affirmed a theory I was formulating: that when parents are informed about best practices for pregnancy and birth and make truly informed decisions, they feel whole and often empowered by their births, even when they take unexpected twists and turns.
When Rebecca Dekker announced that Evidence Based Birth® was going to be hosting an in-person conference, I knew I wanted to be there. And when she send a call for workshop proposals to her birth professionals email list, I got brave and submitted a proposal. I was ecstatic when I heard back that my workshop, titled "Birth Words: Choosing Our Language to Positively Impact the Birth Space" was accepted as part of the conference! In this workshop, I drew on my background in applied linguistics and meshed it with my love of birth and created a memorable one-hour workshop for birth professionals about how to be intentional about using our words to make the birth experience the best it can be. (If you're interested in learning more about my work at the intersection of birth and linguistics, check out my podcast, Birth Words--you can find it on most major podcast platforms--and my website. You can even listen to the episode where I interviewed Rebecca Dekker on Birth Words!)
Attending and presenting at the Evidence Based Birth® website was inspiring. I went out to dinner with Rebecca Dekker and the other conference presenters, she signed my copy of her book, Babies Are Not Pizzas (yes, this signed copy is the very one available in my lending library!), and I learned from many other wise birth workers.
After the conference, I was firmly committed to my future goal of becoming an Evidence Based Birth® instructor. Since becoming a birth doula, I had planned to tack on being a childbirth educator--my college degrees are, after all, in education! And EBB instructors are able to teach not just childbirth classes, but also workshops for birth professionals and birthing parents (more on that below!)
It took a few years for the timing to line up, but in fall of 2022, I finally applied to be an Evidence Based Birth® instructor. The application is rigorous and a bit nerve-wracking, requiring four letters of recommendation and thoughtful answers to many questions about teaching experience, commitment to evidence based care, commitment to birthing and social justice, and more.
I was relieved and overjoyed when I received my acceptance email last October. I worked diligently on the training throughout the end of 2022 and early 2023, and finished my training in mid-January! I'm now currently offering two different Evidence Based Birth® classes for expectant parents: the multi-week, comprehensive Evidence Based Birth® Childbirth Class, and the power-packed one-hour Savvy Birth 101.
So, now that I'm an Evidence Based Birth® instructor, what classes will I be teaching? I'm so glad you asked. ;)
Evidence Based Birth® Childbirth Class
The Evidence Based Birth® Childbirth Class is a comprehensive birth class in which you'll learn everything from the stages of labor, to your birthing rights and how to advocate for evidence-based care, to comfort measures, to lactation basics and newborn care. This class can be taught either fully online or with a hybrid model, where the first and last class are held in person. Either way, it consists of 4-6 (depending on length) meetings of everyone in the class, plus some videos you'll watch on your own in between classes. To start, I'll be offering the hybrid model, though I may open entirely virtual options in the future! Check out my current offerings here!
Whether you're preparing to give birth at home, a birth center, in the hospital, or need help deciding, this class will confidently prepare you for birth. You can also read more about the Evidence Based Birth® Childbirth Class on the Evidence Based Birth website.
Savvy Birth Workshop for Parents
Unlike the Evidence Based Birth® Childbirth Class, The Savvy Birth workshop for parents is not a comprehensive childbirth class. Rather than a multi-week series of classes, it's a one-night-three hour class focused on giving you the skills you need to communicate with your care provider to get evidence-based, family-centered care.
As EBB describes it, "The Savvy Birth Workshop for parents was developed by Evidence Based Birth® to give you and your partner the confidence and know-how you need to have a more positive, empowering experience in the birthing room." In the Savvy Birth Workshop, you'll learn what evidence-based care is, discuss local birth options and their pros and cons, learn communication skills for discussing your preferences with your care team, learn how to have optimal support from your labor team, and learn about your legal rights in birth. I don't currently have a Savvy Birth Workshop scheduled, but I plan to in the future, so check back here! And I AM currently offering the one-hour, condensed version of this workshop: Savvy Birth 101! Keep reading for details on that!
Savvy Birth 101 for Parents
Like the Savvy Birth Workshop for Parents, Savvy Birth 101 is not a comprehensive birth class. We won't be learning about the stages of labor, how to push your baby out, or how to stay comfortable during labor (remember, you'll want to go to the Evidence Based Birth® Childbirth Class for that!) We will be packing that hour full of info on how you can advocate for evidence-based care (and what that even means!) in a way that builds bridges, not walls. I'm teaching a Savvy Birth 101 workshop on March 29 with Brielle Bernards (The Calming Doula). Check out the details here!
The last resource I'm able to offer parents as an EBB Instructor is private coaching. If you'd like a one-on-one session with me about how to best get evidence-based care, what your birthing rights are, how to build a great birth team, and more, please reach out on my Contact page, or send me an email (email@example.com) or a text (385-309-0167).
I'm thrilled to be offering this content to Utah! Which class are you most excited about?
Hi, I'm Sara. I'm a childbirth educator and birth + postpartum doula serving Utah county. I'm a twin mom (plus one!), natural VBACer, and birth lover!