As a labor and delivery nurse, there have been so many occasions with patients where I have seen firsthand how beneficial childbirth education is for expecting families. They come in more confident, more knowledgeable, and more prepared to handle birth and the postpartum period.
And on the flip side - I have cared for countless families and thought, “Wow! You guys really could have used some prebirth education!” Active labor is not the best time to be learning about the risks and benefits of epidural anesthesia or deciding whether or not you want to give your baby the recommended routine medications after birth.
In 2019 my family moved to Kitsap County, and pretty quickly I saw a need for more access to pre birth education in my new community. But before I seriously considered stepping into the role of childbirth educator, I dug into the research. I wanted to see if it confirmed my experiences and make sure I was serving my community in an evidence based way. And lo and behold, the research agrees: childbirth education for pregnant persons and their families is a vital component to achieving healthier, happier moms and babies.
So, why is childbirth education so important? Well, let’s look at the research!
It Improves Birth Experiences.
Birth can be a transformative experience for many, but up to 45% of parents may experience birth trauma. Birth trauma (defined as physical or emotional distress during and after labor) can have lasting, profound effects on both birthing people and their babies. But childbirth education can help.
A 2020 study from Bilgin et al. showed that mothers who participated in childbirth education held significantly more positive birth-related perceptions and actually experienced a lower level of pain in delivery.
It Decreases Risk of Cesareans.
While cesarean sections are an important and sometimes lifesaving procedure, they are also associated with increased risks to mothers and future pregnancies.The goal in most births is to deliver vaginally if possible. And the simple act of participating in childbirth education can increase your chance of having a vaginal birth.
A 2022 study from Vanderlaan, et al. showed that attending a childbirth class decreases risk of primary cesarean sections.
Lastly (and perhaps most importantly!)
It Increases Breast/Chest feeding Success.
I could (and probably will!) write a whole separate blog post on all the amazing lifelong health benefits breast/chest feeding has for birthing people and their babies. The first step towards a successful breastfeeding experience is childbirth education.
A 2019 study from van Dellen et al. showed that breast feeding support programs that include pre birth lactation education resulted in 66% less cessation of breastfeeding among participants by 10 weeks post partum.
The research is clear.
Childbirth education plays a vital role in making birth safer and better for our families. I truly believe that every birthing person should have quality childbirth education taught by a health professional. Having knowledge about your body and the labor process helps decrease fear, allows you to make educated, informed decisions with your healthcare team, and sets you up for success post partum.
In my class, you’ll often hear me say the phrase “healthy moms, healthy babies”. Because that’s really what our goal is here - for you to deliver safely, with a healthy baby, and be as prepared (as you can be!) for parenthood.