Childbirth Class Experience - Oncourse

Childbirth Education Class Experience
Lindsey M. Gamrat
Indiana University
Expectant parents often have many questions and concerns about their impending birth
and parenthood. Fortunately, many hospitals offer some sort of education for parents. IU Health
Bloomington Hospital provides the opportunity for parents to attend several types of classes
including childbirth education, baby basics, infant CPR, breastfeeding, car seat safety, and even
offers classes directed towards siblings or grandparents as well. The author was able to sit in and
observe one of these classes to gain insight in to the education of future parents.
On Saturday September 8, 2012, Bloomington Hospital offered an all day childbirth class
for expecting parents. This was a onetime class split in to a morning and an afternoon session
and taught by Cathy Greene, RN. There were eight expecting mothers in attendance who were
each accompanied by a support figure who were all the fathers of the babies. The couples were
all expecting their babies in October, November, or December.
In addition to observing the content of the class, the author was also able to observe many
interactions between the mothers and their support figures. All of the couples seemed to behave
in very similar manners. The fathers were all really absorbed in the material of the class. Many
were observed frantically taking notes and asking lots of questions. This is normal behavior for
fathers who have entered the focusing phase of their development of the pregnancy. During this
phase, the father becomes actively involved and needs to determine where his role lies in the
birth and parenting process. Fathers often have many concerns and fears and they do not always
have the means to feel like they are actively involved in the process. Childbirth classes allow
fathers time to ask their questions and feel like they really are a key part of the pregnancy
(Lowdermilk, Perry and Cashion, 2010). The fathers were also very considerate and
compassionate towards their partner. Many of them were observing holding hands, sneaking in
quick kisses on the cheek, rubbing their partners back, etc. The childbirth class really seemed to
be a bonding experience for the couple.
The morning section of this particular class was split in to three main parts: signs and
symptoms of labor, the labor process, and a breathing exercise. After a brief introductory speech,
Cathy began the class discussing what happens when labor begins. The first topic brought up was
the breaking of the waters. The mothers were curious about what it would feel like, look like,
smell like, etc when this happened. Cathy answered all of their questions and was very good at
telling them what to expect. She emphasized that it is very different for every pregnancy. She
also used an interesting acronym for the mothers to describe their water breaking to their doctor
or midwife. This acronym was TACO: Time it broke, Amount of water, Color of fluid, and
Odor. She went on to explain each of these categories and the variations that could exist for
them. The next topic of discussion was contractions. Again, the parents were concerned with
what it would feel like. Cathy was very thorough in discussing the descent of the baby, dilation
and effacement of the cervix, anatomy of the contractions, and how to time the contractions.
Cathy also touched on signs of infections and a few other signs of labor before moving on.
The bulk of the education for this class was centered on the labor process. This included a
thorough description of the stages of labor, interventions in the birth, positions for labor, and
pain management. Cathy was very adamant about education on options. She wanted the
expectant parents to know about all of their options related to birth and have the resources to
make an educated choice about what they wanted. The author felt that this class was very
efficient about educating without bias so that parents really could make their own educated
choice. Cathy explained the labor process quite in depth from Stage I early labor all the way
through postpartum. She was sure to be realistic with the couples on subjects such as early labor
and that it takes up half of the total labor time. Cathy also spent a lot of time discussing pain
management. She stressed that labor pain was unique by using another acronym; PAIN
(Purposeful, Anticipated, Intermittent, Normal). She concluded the discussion with explaining
various mental and physical techniques to manage pain in place of or in addition to
pharmaceutical interventions. A video was shown to supplement this information as well.
The final part of the morning section of the childbirth class was a breathing exercise. The
class was relocated to a different room complete with mats, pillows, and birthing balls. Cathy
then explained techniques of deep breathing, light and music therapy, and using a focal point to
manage pain. She demonstrated these techniques with an exercise of holding a frozen water
bottle in one’s hand for a full minute. All of the expectant mothers, support figures, and student
observers were encouraged to participate. Using deep breathing as well as the other mentioned
techniques, the class was able to see how they could help the time spent holding the water bottle
be less intense, go faster, not as focused on the pain itself, and help the pain not radiate as much.
While holding a frozen water bottle is not quite labor contractions, the class was able to see the
effectiveness of these pain management techniques that they could then apply during their actual
labor process.
The author learned a lot from observing this childbirth class that was different than the
material covered in a nursing classroom. Information presented in a nursing class is always
geared towards a nursing perspective and it was a unique experience for the author to hear the
information presented to the parents’ perspectives. Despite differing perspectives though, a lot of
the information was still the same. Cathy described the process using accurate medical
terminology and did not leave out any information in fear that the parents would not understand.
She just moved at a pace that was tolerable for the parents and offered ample opportunities for
questions. For example, Lowdermilk, Perry and Cashion (2010) describe the signs and symptoms
of labor in a very similar manner to the class content covering what happens during contractions,
loss of the mucous plug, the feeling of lightenening, etc. The main difference again is that the
text uses phrases such as “the woman will feel” or “the woman may complain of” while the
childbirth class was directed towards “the women” who were going to go through the process
themselves in the very near future. The text devotes the entire chapter 10 to the “Management of
Discomfort” just as Cathy devoted a large section of the class to pain management (Lowdermilk,
Perry and Cashion, 2010). Both the class and the text discuss perceptions of pain, positioning,
breathing techniques, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, music therapy, massage, etc. The text also
elaborates a lot on medical interventions such as intradermal water blocks, sedatives, epidural
analgesia, narcotics, nerve blocks, etc. (Lowdermilk, Perry and Cashion, 2010). The class did not
really spend a lot of time on these techniques but instead focused on things that the woman could
do to manage pain that did not involve medical interventions. Another main difference from the
class was that the information was geared to how the woman could manage her own pain and
how her partner could offer support with the medical aspects of it more in the background. In the
nursing texts, the focus is often how the nurse can manage care and medical interventions while
the couple’s response is more in the background (Lowdermilk, Perry and Cashion, 2010).
The author really enjoyed being in a class with real expectant parents to hear their
concerns and get to know them. She feels that it really gave her a greater insight that will allow
her to meet outlined clinical course competencies and be a better nurse overall. A specific
clinical course competency that observing this childbirth class really contributed to is
“collaborating with colleagues and families to access community resources that will meet
identified needs” (Watts, Hensel and Ball, 2012). Getting to spend time with these expectant
mothers and their families made the author more comfortable with them and gave her a greater
knowledge on how to talk with them in her future practice. She gained insight on common
questions and concerns that families in this situation have and can better prepare herself to be
able to answer them. This will help her better be able to collaborate with families in the future.
Attending the childbirth class and seeing how helpful it is and also learning that there are many
other types of educational classes has broadened the author’s knowledge of community resources
available to families. She will now have the insight to suggest these classes to future clients so
that they may have the same wonderful learning experience that the author was able to observe
the other couples enjoying during the childbirth class.
Lowdermilk, D. L., Perry, S. E., & Cashion, K. (2010).Maternity nursing. (8th ed.). Maryland
Heights, MO: Mosby Elsevier.
Watts, P., Hensel, D., & Ball, S. (2012). The developing family and child: Practicum syllabus.
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