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!
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!