All public and private hospitals offer expecting parents antenatal or childbirth education classes. With my first baby in 2011 I attended a 2 hour antenatal class for 3 consecutive weeks at a large public hospital. So the total duration of the course was 6 hours- didn’t seem like a lot of “prep” for someone who hadn’t had a baby before but I was eager to learn. The classes were full, probably approximately 20 people, so not a lot of opportunity to get to know your classmates. So what exactly do I recall about these classes? My only vivid memory from these classes is an epidural needle being passed around and the midwife saying “you don’t want one of these, they hurt!”. They also had forceps, IV fluids and a ventouse. Come to think of it, there was a lot of focus on the medical interventions that could be used which was funny since we were all planning on natural births in the birth centre. Scare tactic maybe?
The classes went quickly and were taught by the midwives that worked in the hospital so some were not overly familiar with the format of information they had to teach. Did I find the classes helpful? Some of it, such as where to park the car and when to contact the hospital when you were in labour. It was also a chance to ask any questions. The rest was really a blur of games and group activities but I’m sure there was lots of useful information, if only I could remember it!
So what did I do the second time round?
I’m definitely not knocking these classes as all “knowledge is power” and learning this information helps in making informed decisions in birth and there is also hospital procedures that you need to know about. However it took a “traumatic” birth experience for me, ending in an emergency caesarean, and isolation from my baby after birth to search for a way that I could have felt informed and empowered during birth. I feel that taking private childbirth education classes like Hypnobirthing will enable the mother and birthing partner to be fully prepared for birth and any turn it takes. These classes teach what I feel really matters; the knowledge and tools to have a positive and calm birth.
The Hypnobirthing Australia program is a comprehensive antenatal program that includes the father or birth partner as an integral part of the learning process. These courses are also taught by certified Hypnobirthing Practitioners over a 12 hour period. There are many types of private childbirth education classes available and all are beneficial in educating expectant parents about labour, pain relief and decision making. But if you want to go beyond this, get educated and learn the tools to know how have an empowering and positive birth experience, consider Hypnobirthing for your next birth! I did for my second birth, and by utilising the techniques I had learnt I found that the idea of pain relief did not even cross my mind. I also felt educated in making choices regarding my birth preferences. I changed hospitals at 34 weeks so I could use water and labour in a bath! I definitely wouldn't have had the confidence to get the birth I wanted the second time round without hypnobirthing. I can also honestly say it was the most empowering experience of my life!!
As your pregnancy progresses I’m sure a lot of your thoughts have been focused on the type of birthing experience that you would like to have. So it makes sense that prior to your birthing day your intentions or anything you feel strongly about is documented in a written document called your “birthing preferences” or also called a “birth plan”.
So what are birth preferences or birth plans?
Basically it is an outline of your preferences for birth given to caregivers so they are informed of your choices for labour, delivery and post birth care. It should also include your wishes for what happens if an emergency arises. In Hypnobirthing we use the term “birthing preferences” rather than “birth plan”, because as you can imagine birth does not always go to plan! However by writing down your birth preferences for each stage of labour you can control the planning and choices that you make. A Hypnobirthing affirmation that we teach parents supports this concept “I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turn by birthing takes”. Hypnobirthing equips women with the tools to have a calm, positive birthing experience.
So why is choosing birth preferences a good idea?
There are many benefits for writing out your birth preferences. Apart from caregivers being informed of your choices for the birthing process, you get to outline the important choices for your birth. By having a plan in place means you are more aware of your choices. In order to make choices, you will need to be informed and this means researching your options regarding birth. By researching the options available you will be able to make informed decisions and be educated and empowered about the choices that you have made. If you are planning on delivering your baby with as little intervention as possible, researching your options will enable you to understand the benefits and disadvantages of the common interventions that may be offered to you in labour.
Another benefit is that your birthing partner/support person will get to know what you want too. By discussing the preferences prior to the birth the partner will be informed of the decisions and able to advocate for the mother during labour and be an integral part of the birthing process. Birth partners are an important part of Hypnobirthing classes as they practice and guide the mother through the relaxation techniques, visualisations and hypnosis and are a main source of support. It also allows the partner to feel like they have a “role” in the birthing process and are fully equipped to be an active participant.
In Hypnobirthing classes we also focus on the importance of birth preferences in more detail and the notion that women should be able to birth comfortably and without unnecessary interventions. We even provide a template that couples can use as a basis for their birth preferences.
For the positive birth experience that you deserve to have, don’t forget to be informed, be prepared and to trust that your body knows what to do!
Birth Guru Jenny Blyth and I at her "Amazing Space" workshop.
Hi, I'm Sam. I'm a Hypnobirthing Australia practitioner, Clinical Nurse, wife and mother of two. I'm passionate about all things to do with birth and have a strong interest in perinatal mental health and birth trauma. I would love to support you on your journey towards a positive birth!