When I'm at a childbirth event in the community, I'm frequently asked why someone would spend so much on a childbirth class when they can take a class at the hospital for a fraction of the price. Here are my top five reasons to invest in an independent class:
What's the difference between my hospital childbirth class and an independent childbirth class?
1. Most independent childbirth classes teach you what the evidence says is best practice, regardless of hospital policy.
Hospitals function from a policy and procedure protocol that does not always follow evidence based care or what is considered the “gold standard” for care. For example, many hospitals do not allow laboring women to eat or drink yet there is absolutely no evidence to back up this policy for normal labors. Your doctor might even be supportive of eating and drinking; yet they may not be able to encourage you to go against the policies of the hospital that they practice in.
2. Independent childbirth classes can teach you how to navigate hospital protocol and routine procedure.
Because independent childbirth educators are not bound by the rules and regulations of hospital policy and liability, they not only teach you the best evidence, but also how to identify and navigate restrictive and non-evidence based policies.
3. Independent classes teach couples how to tell the difference between routine use of intervention and medically necessary intervention along with the risks and benefits associated with those interventions. This information is necessary for the legal right to informed consent.
Because many routine procedures are part of hospital protocol for the management of labor, hospital classes may not differentiate between routine use of intervention vs. necessary use determined by each individual birth.
4. Independent classes teach you all the comfort measures and labor support skills you could possibly use, including when the best time is to get an epidural in order to reduce risks of further intervention and what you need to know about experiencing a cesarean section birth.
Decades of routine use of epidurals and other interventions has created a loss of knowledge of how to support women emotionally and physically during an unmedicated or low intervention birth.
5. Independent educators have invested in specialized training and are often passionate and excited to teach couples about how to have a childbirth experience that is based on that couple’s individual goals and one in which they felt supported and informed.
While Lamaze is traditionally associated with hospital childbirth classes, many hospitals do not hire certified educators. Instead their educators are often labor and delivery nurses who are teaching as part of their nursing job and may or may not be aware of or allowed to teach the best evidence, particularly if the policy and procedure of that particular hospital is not backed by evidence based care.
I often recommend that couples take both a hospital class and an independent class to be the most informed. It’s also important to keep in mind that some hospital classes have wonderful and passionate educators!
The important things to point out here are the systemic and institutional protocols that may interfere with best practices when it comes to maternity care and childbirth education. Individual doctors and nurses may be very supportive and aware of what the evidence says is best practice. You can ask your doctor how she or he uses the best evidence to inform the care they provide if if they face systemic barriers in providing that care.