What is an Independent Childbirth Educator?
Ever since Eve, women have turned to their mothers, sisters, and friends with questions about pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum. It’s only natural to want a woman’s opinion, insight and knowledge of these life-changing times, which only other women can truly relate. But we’re industrialized now. Birth is institutionalized—taking place now in unfamiliar hospitals, with unfamiliar nurses, and all sorts of unfamiliar machines and technology. Also, many women—perhaps even most women—of the past couple of generations were under general anesthesia at the time of their children’s births, and can tell their daughters little or nothing about the birth experience. A lot of natural, normal, woman-to-woman birth knowledge has been lost this way. This is where an independent childbirth educator comes in.
An independent childbirth educator answers only to you, the client. This is not a job, but a calling. Some may be trained and/or certified to use certain methods, such as Lamaze or The Bradley Method®; but many are self-taught and self-trained, developing our own curriculum to best fit our personal teaching styles and the birth environment in which our clients give birth. Whether you are planning to give birth at a hospital or at home, an independent childbirth educator can give you the information you need in order to have the best birth possible. We will teach you about normal labor, birth, and postpartum, as well as the many “variations of normal” that exist. You will learn the facts about induction, C-section, epidural, episiotomy, external fetal monitoring, ultrasound, etc. You will learn how labor “works,” as well as things that can help it along, or slow it down. You will get facts, not fear. This information is given so that you can make the best decision for you, considering all the facts and possibilities, benefits and risks. There is no hidden agenda here—you will be making the decision, so it is only right that you have all the information about all of your choices.
“Won’t I learn all this if I take the hospital course?” Hospital birthing classes are designed to inform you of the typical procedures you will likely encounter while laboring and giving birth at the hospital. This information does not just prepare you for contingencies—the “what ifs”—but it also prepares you to accept whatever happens as both normal and inevitable, when it may in fact be neither. When hospitals have a policy that laboring women are not allowed to get out of bed, you will not learn in their “prepared childbirth classes” that walking can help your labor progress, as well as make you less likely to need pain medication, or to have your labor augmented by Pitocin, or to end in a C-section. When the hospital policy is that laboring women are denied food and water (regardless of how long labor lasts), you will not be taught the detrimental effect this can have on your labor experience—that not only is it possible your labor will become dysfunctional from lack of food, thus “necessitating” a C-section or labor augmentation, but you will be more likely to have a higher degree of pain, and become more irritable, and might even request a C-section to end your labor so you can eat again. When hospitals make more money in less time from women having C-sections instead of laboring and giving birth vaginally, you will be extremely unlikely to learn ways to avoid this major abdominal surgery. Hospital-based birth educators must teach in accordance with the hospital’s set policies and protocols, regardless of the lack of any benefit, and in spite of the proven risks. And you will not learn from your hospital-based educator how to avoid or minimize the detrimental effect these policies may have on your labor.
You will remember the circumstances surrounding your labor and birth for as long as you live. You don’t have to have a generic, almost “assembly line” experience. Invest just a few hours in making this life-changing time an empowering event.