Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Birth Classes: To Take or Not To Take?

Usually when confronted with a decision where some research would help, I consult sources to help me make the tough choice. For the decision about whether to take birth classes, also called 'antenatal classes,' it didn't take much to convince to pass on them. Before you gasp and say, how could you? Let me just say that: a) they aren't free, b) the latest research report says they don't decrease the use of an epidural or create a more positive 'birth experience,' -or- reduce the rate of a C-section, and c) are considered by many women to be a waste of time — especially if you are the type to educate yourself.

Now, cost is not really a big concern, but the cost of dragging myself and Mr. FN to a class every Thursday night for 2 hours from 7-9pm is a significant cost. I start heading toward snoozeville at 7pm and both of us are ready to be out like lights by 9pm. Put me in a room where I have to listen to someone tell me crap I already googled or read on my own and make feel dippy by having me practice breathing (something I already know how to do from meditation practice) and I am bound to drop out.

Add in the latest research, reported by the BBC and based on the study of 1,000 women who participated in classes, and I am not inclined to go. The research found that taking classes to learn and practice breathing and massage techniques to reduce pain did not lower the rate of epidurals, C-section or use of instruments like vacuum and forceps, nor did it affect the perceived quality of the birth experience.

I can't say I am surprised by it, since I doubt there is anything that can prepare a person to cope with intense pain, besides perhaps, having already experienced it. Practicing breathing and massage in the absence of pain and expecting that juju magic to work when there is real pain is just plain naive if you ask me. I know it's going to hurt like hell, I can imagine it's a hell of a lot worse than the pain I got from endometriosis and cysts rupturing — the kind of pain where you are reduced to lying on the floor crying out for a god you don't even believe exists to make it stop. I remember that vividly, and I imagine what I am in for is at least that bad.

But, unlike then, now I know why the pain is happening, that it is for a good reason, and that it will not last forever. I think that can make quite a bit of difference, but we'll see. I do aim for a natural childbirth, free from drugs. Having an epidural strikes me as a good way to prolong labor and increase the likelihood of having surgery, something I definitely want to avoid. And, really, it will come as no surprise whatsoever given my academic background, that the knowledge that women have been doing this for eons is comforting.

This is one case where I can't wait to experience the pain. It means waiting will be over and the real fun can begin.



What about a Doula?
Someone to be your birthing advocate.

Field Notes said...

My mom will be our doula =D

Virginia Burnett said...

Now, before you read what I'm about to write, be aware that I never actually made it to transition - my silly kid was trying to come out backwards and got hung up on my pelvis so I had a c-section.

My 36 hours of labor was NOTHING compared to some of the endometriosis pain I have experienced in my life. It wore me out but did not hurt as much as I had expected. If you already know how to breathe and have a positive support team, you are going to be Fine. You already know how to handle intense pain.

Cecile/DreamCreateRepeat said...

Each birthing experience is different, and not only from woman to woman but from child to child by the same woman.

I found the exhaustion to be as bad as the pain, and with one birth I also vomited for every contraction ending up with dehydration to boot(that one ended up however being the fastest and without an epidural!).

Being the nerd I am, I remember the most helpful thing was chanting to myself a line from Frank Herbert's Dune series, "Pain is the little mind killer," and trying to just not give in to fear but ride through the pain....

....all the way to BABY!!

Rose Connors said...

You should read the book "birthing from within" from the inventor of birthing classes by the same name. I never wound up having a baby, but that book inspired me.