Young Moms: Making Childbirth Education Relevant to Them

This guest post is part of my blog break festival. The festival continues throughout December, so please check it out and consider submitting a post! Also, don’t forget to enter my birth jewelry giveaway. This guest post is about making childbirth education relevant to young mothers. I have a previous post about the classes I taught for a local Young Parents program (some handouts are included): Young Parents Program Prenatal Classes. Another related post, though not specific to childbirth education, is this one about Rites of Passage Resources for Daughters & Sons. If you’re interested in providing birth education specifically for young parents, you might also enjoy checking out CAPPA’s Teen Educator certification program.

Young Moms: Making Childbirth Education Relevant to ThemLoriblessingway 117a

by Keri Samuelson

In this day and age, encountering young mothers is common. With so many of our daughters fitting into this category, updating the ways we educate these expectant mothers should be a top priority. Young people may think they can handle everything on their own, but the truth is that they may still need to learn the basics when it comes to childbirth. They need to know what to expect and how to react. Here’s my take on how to tackle the experience:

Update The Imagery
We have many tools at our fingertips, but some of them require a bit of updating. For instance, it’s imperative to revamp the video and online databases that we frequently employ in hospitals, high school classrooms and the like. Young people today simply do not relate to the characters depicted in movies from the 80s or 90s. They want to see people they can relate to experiencing what they themselves are about to. Do yourself a favor – avoid these outdated resources, and make suggestions to libraries or clinics that still use them.

The Whole Truth
Tell girls the truth – this will need to encompass more than just some action shots of women giving birth. If you are for instance sponsoring a program for expectant mothers, invite women who have recently given birth, and have them detail everything from the beginning to the end of the laboring process. This way, mothers-to-be will have fewer surprises in tow. Also, make sure there is time for questions, and be sure to allow questions to be asked confidentially (on slips of paper, for instance, that you collect and read without announcing the asker), so that the session is truly as relevant as possible.

Show them that birth is unlikely to be like the shows they watch on television or the movies that they have seen. It sometimes can take many, many hours. It can be exhausting and might be very painful, but it is also very normal and usually safe.

Celebrity Guest Spots
Information is a wonderful tool, but the presenter of this information is what can make or break its effectiveness. In this day and age, celebrities are given the floor more than medical professionals, and so it can be a wise decision to have celebrity mothers give their own testimonies of and their experience. Obviously, not everyone has access to a celebrity, so perform simple Google searches for celebrities you know of that your clients might identify with, and see what they have to say about motherhood on their website, or in interviews. If this still doesn’t work, look for local superstars whom you know have given birth – athletes, state officials, teachers, etc. that you know your young clients will look up to and listen to.

These are, of course, just a few ideas for making childbirth education a little more relatable to youth that are expecting a child. It begins with accurate information, presented by someone who they feel they can trust, and delivered in a manner that doesn’t sugar coat the process either.

Keri Samuelson writes about health promotion, motherhood and helping young people find the best accelerated nursing programs.

Guest Post: Nine Reasons to Choose Independent Birth Eduation

This guest post is part of my blog break festival. The festival continues through December, so please check it out and consider submitting a post! Also, don’t forget to enter my birth jewelry giveaway.

I’ve been an independent childbirth educator since 2005. For many years, I’ve taught one-on-one classes to local couples and it has been wonderful to connect on a personal level with such individualized classes. Now, I’m teaching Birth Skills Workshops in collaboration with Rolla Birth Network. I’m still an independent educator—one not employed by any other organization or hospital—but now, rather than exclusively one-on-one, small groups of couples come together to practice hands-on skills for birth in a private, comfortable setting. I previously explored my own take on why choose independent birth education and here are some additional reasons!

Nine Reasons You Should Choose Independent Birth Education

by Jan Haley

Whether you still have a few months to go before the birth of your baby or the due date is right around the corner, it’s not too late to look into some independent birth education. Why are these educators an excellent decision? Read on to find out!

At a recent workshop.

At a recent workshop.

Personalized Attention
In a class, everyone has to work on the same components at the same time. However, with independent birth education, the program is tailored to your own needs. If you already know the answer to a particular question, you need not spend countless minutes listening to a lecture on the subject matter.

Personalized Questions
In addition to not hearing information of which you are already well aware, independent birth education allows you to ask the questions that pertain to your specific situation. Whether it’s about the birthing process or how to handle your baby immediately after birth, the concern will be addressed.

Personal Information
Let’s face it: when it comes to giving birth, you need to be comfortable revealing some personal information about yourself. However, that doesn’t mean it must be done in a room full of strangers. Working one on one with someone allows you to still maintain a level of privacy.

In a hospital program, the educators might have to answer questions in a very diplomatic way, because that is what their work policy requirements. When it comes to independent education though, no such requirements exist, unless the person is attached to a hospital or other type of program.

A Customized Plan
Many mothers write out a birth plan, but some of them may feel forced into certain decisions. An independent birth educator will know a lot of information and will be able to offer many details and ideas for structuring a birth plan. A good independent educator will also remind you that a birth plan is not a substitute for good communication with your health care provider!

Some women choose to give birth at home. Doing so can feel like a lot of pressure on dads, so it’s common to ask independent birth educators for referrals for doulas to be present and support the process (some independent educators are also doulas and may be available to attend births). Birth partners can also feel totally comfortable asking questions in a private setting and they will also learn many useful comfort measures to add to their own labor support “toolbox.”

For Single Moms

Speaking of going it alone, it’s important to address single mothers when it comes to independent birth education. Being pregnant alone can be a really lonely road, and these educators provide not only an instructor, but a friend to such individuals.

Formal Instruction
Some educators are certified. Therefore, they are not only providing their personal experience as mothers, but also information that was garnered from a reputable course or program, so you’re really gaining the best of both worlds.


It’s easy to feel embarrassed about giving birth or anxious about everything that is going to happen after the baby is born. Fortunately, independent birth educators are able to give women the boosts of confidence that they need, because as they get to know you, they can help you figure out what works best for you.No matter what plan you ultimately wind up choosing for your birth, be sure to at least consider independent birth education to have a method that is tailored to you. I tried this track, and I never looked back.

Jan Haley writes about motherhood, health and more. A home nurse, she enjoys writing about the profession and helping aspiring nurses find the best RN-to-BSN Programs for them.

Continuing Birth Education (Free Webinar Round Up)

I have a good friend who has become very interested in training as a doula. I love sharing information and resources with excited women new to the birth work field! It is rejuvenating and reminds me my own enthusiasm for women and birth. When I shared this same sentiment on Facebook a fan commented with this lovely observation: “Birth is an ever-evolving subject, and there are as many different ways to do it as there are fingerprints!! How could anyone get bored in the birth work field?? I love it!! It keeps me in the Presence of Now and reminds me of the Sacredness of Life…” 🙂

Anyway, I’ve been collecting books like crazy to lend to my friend (just a word: never ask me for a book about anything unless you are ready to be overwhelmed with options!) and doing so reminded me of some free webinars that have crossed my desk(top) recently as well as some other, older continuing education resources for birth professionals or aspiring birth professionals. I always go to books first and to written information. Love it. Can’t get enough words! But…many people learn better through other mediums. Here are some non-book, free possibilities for self-education in birth work:

Edited to add another free webinar from ICEA (with paid contact hour option) that I just learned about:

Prenatal Fitness Webinar
 Join us online 
 Thursday, December 13, from 9-10 pm EST for this new educational offering
worth 1.0 ICEA Continuing Education Credit!!
This offering is free for all participants to audit.
The continuing education credit may be purchased after viewing the webinar for $35.00 by clicking here!
Once the credit hour is purchased, print out your receipt for confirmation of your hour earned!

A reader also commented to share that she is enrolled in a free Coursera course on contraception (she also took one that looks great about community change in public health!). There are a variety of interesting looking courses available from well-known institutions in the Coursera offerings under Health & Society and Medical Ethics.

And, for those who do well with auditory learning, I have some podcast recommendations that are available on an ongoing basis:

La Leche League International offers a series of free podcasts, my favorites being:

And, the Motherlove blog has some awesome resources too, including:

And, finally there are some great free classes and certificate programs available from Global Health eLearning Center. Many are designed for global audiences and are not specifically geared toward doulas (or even midwives, but more of health workers in general). I particularly enjoyed this class: Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy

Enjoy! And, if you have favorite recommendations to add, please let me know! (free, please)

Due to reader request, a book recommendation post will soon follow! Past book recommendations can be seen in this post, as well as a postpartum list, and also in my book reviews section.

Bits of the (Birth) Net

The following is a collection of the bits and pieces that caught my attention and then were shared via my Talk Birth Facebook page during the last two weeks.


From a good article by the National Association of Mothers’ Centers in Mother Support: When Words Get in the Way

Words, whether written or voiced, are so very fragile. They can be bent or twisted, even become unrecognizable from their initial intentions. They can have different cultural meanings, regional understandings, and generational perceptions.

There will always be the opportunity for miscommunication…

Such a good reminder. What you say and what people hear are often two different things. What you say and what you mean can be different. How your words are received and interpreted can be very important and intent in many ways doesn’t matter! Communication is transactional process. A two-way process. And, it is symbolic. Meaning can never be fully interpreted and understood completely.

This article also reminded me of one of my own older articles, Listening Well Enough, which came to mind because I’m finishing up with the training of two women. The essay describes my own experience when I was training as a breastfeeding counselor in 2005.


The topic of what to risk sharing online came up with friends recently and I enjoyed this article about answering the question of How Much Of Your Private Life Should You Keep Private On Your Blog?

Childbirth Education

Childbirth education is beginning too late in pregnancy; it needs to begin in the first trimester or even before women become pregnant…

The above is one of the concluding points from an interesting article from Birth Works International about supporting women without epidurals.

Good article from Lamaze about your breath and how it can help during pregnancy and birthing!

Virtual labor simulator!

Pushing Positions

Very interesting article on What is the Evidence for Pushing Positions?  Apparently there is more blood loss and second degree tears with upright pushing positions. Personally, I CANNOT imagine giving birth in a supine position. But, I’m also really, really, tired of tearing (tired enough that it is one of the factors in our decision not to have “just one more!” baby). For more thoughts about pushing, see previous post on Following Your Body’s Urges to Push…

And speaking of upright birth, Barbie homebirth photos! 🙂

Informed Consent

Valuable article addressing 10 Responses to Pressure to Consent (remember, it isn’t “informed consent” if you do not have the option of saying NO!)

Posts I’ve written about informed consent:

Prenatal Yoga

Online video prenatal yoga class: Prenatal Yoga – when you feel good, your baby feels good.

And my own prior posts on the subject:

Birthing Room Yoga Handout

Birth, this elegant, simple, yet intricate process has had unnecessary, complex, expensive technology superimposed onto it, creating a dangerous environment for birthing women.” -Alice Bailes

Loved this article on what really matters for midwives!


NEW STUDY: Epigenetics: Mother’s Nutrition — Before Pregnancy — May Alter Function of Her Children’s Genes. “As parents, we have to understand better that our responsibilities to our children are not only of a social, economical, or educational nature, but that our own biological status can contribute to the fate of our children, and this effect can be long-lasting,” said Mihai Niculescu, M.D., Ph.D., study author from Nutrition Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in Chapel Hill, N.C.–Epigenetics: Mother’s Nutrition — Before Pregnancy — May Alter Function of Her Children’s Genes

After CAPPA this year, I wrote about epigenetics here: Epigentics, Breastfeeding + Diet, and Prenatal Stress

Call the Midwife

Fun! Ms. Magazine linked to one of my blog posts about midwifery in their post about the PBS show Call the Midwife!  And, after posting to the CfM Facebook page about how I didn’t get to watch the show myself because I have no TV channels, CfM fan Jackie clued me in that Call the Midwife is available online (no TV channels required!) Yay! 🙂

Older Posts of My Own

Birth Culture: “Birth is cultural, the way eating is cultural. We don’t just eat what our bodies need to sustain us. If we only did that, there would be no reason for birthday cake. Birthday cake is part of our food culture. The place you are giving birth in has a local culture as well. It also partakes of our national birth culture. Not everything doctors do regarding birth makes the birth faster or physically easier for you or the baby. Some things are just cultural.” -–Jan Mallack & Teresa Bailey

Creating Needle Felted Birth Art Sculptures: My first foray into birth art, before I fell in love with using polymer clay!

Centering for Birth: “Centering is a breath awareness strategy that I’ve adapted for use in birth classes based on the ten second centering process described in the short book Ten Zen Seconds…” Free handout available about centering for birth! (I was reminded of this post by Enjoy Birth!

Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue:“What happens when society and culture pollute the maternal nest? Is that mother and baby’s problem or is it a political and cultural issue that should be of top priority? Unfortunately, many politicians continue to focus on reproductive control of women, rather than on human and planetary health…”

During a week when I didn’t have time to craft delightful new blog posts, it was fun to have a post from a couple of months ago suddenly getting all kinds of hits and Facebook shares. Thanks, internet! ;-D (Around 150 shares on Facebook apparently. I ♥ Facebook!)

On Parenting Books

Mama Birth: Sadly, Parenting Books CAN’T Actually Raise Your Child: Enjoyed this post! (But I recommend NOT reading the comments on the original article she links to about “detachment parenting.” I lost about 30 minutes of my life, felt my blood pressure rising, and only made it to page three!)

The revolution must have dancing; women know this.
The music will light our hearts with fire,
the stories will bathe our dreams in honey
and fill our bellies
with stars.
-Nina Simons via Rebecca A Wright, Doula

DVD Review: Laboring Under an Illusion

DVD Review: Laboring Under an Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. The Real Thing
Filmmaker: Vicki Elson
50 minutes, $39.99 (personal use­)

Reviewed by Molly Remer, Talk Birth

Laboring under an Illusion is a treasure trove of discussion-provoking material. Filmmaker Vicki Elson is an anthropologist and childbirth educator who has created a striking documentary exploring media-generated myths about childbirth. As a childbirth educator, I often reference in my classes how our attitudes and expectations about birth are shaped by media messages—birth is an emergency, etc. This film eloquently and entertainingly provides 50 minutes of backup material for the idea!

The film blends media messages from comedy shows like Murphy Brown, Mad About You,and I Love Lucy, movie clips such as Juno, Coneheads, and Nine Months, along with “reality” based shows on Discovery Health with the inherently contrasting messages in clips of beautiful births from films like Birth as We Know It, The Business of Being Born, and Orgasmic Birth. It also contains brief voiceover narrations from “regular” women about birth. Occasionally, there is a scene with the filmmaker speaking directly to the viewer about concepts raised in the film. These scenes are less entertaining than the popular media clips and the friends with whom I watched the film wanted to fast-forward these segments—the media clips chosen so clearly speak for themselves that they don’t really need explanation, at least to the already birth-savvy viewer. Because of some strong language in the media clips, I caution parents to preview the film before sharing it with children.

Laboring Under an Illusion is an entertaining and illuminating film for consumers as well as for birth educators, doulas, and midwives. I highly recommend it!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the DVD for review purposes

Amazon affiliate link included in image.

New Birth Skills Workshop!

Active Birth and Labor Support

Saturday November 17, 6-9:00

Location: Tara Day Spa in Rolla, Missouri

Cost: $35 for the pregnant woman + one support person (husband, partner, relative, friend…)

Workshop description: First, practice active birth techniques and learn about working with pelvic mobility. Next, spend some time learning labor tips and tricks and practicing comfort measures with doulas! Then, enjoy a friendly Q & A session all about what you most want to know. You will have access to three birth professionals for the price of one! We will close with some relaxation skills practice and a guided visualization.

Interested? Please email me and I’ll send you the registration form!

Can I really expect to have a great birth? (updated edition)

Given my limited situation, can I really expect to have a great birth today?” For the woman who asked me this question a homebirth, a birth center, a midwife, and a doula were all not remotely feasible options. My answer to her question is a qualified “yes!” and it really got me thinking about ways to help yourself have a great birth when your overall choices are limited. In fact, there is a long list of ideas of things that may help contribute to a great birth!

  • Choose your doctor carefully—don’t wait for “the next birth” to find a compatible caregiver. Don’t dismiss uneasiness with your present care provider. As Pam England says, “ask questions before your chile is roasted.” A key point is to pick a provider whose words and actions match (i.e. You ask, “how often do you do episiotomies?” The response, “only when necessary”—if “necessary” actually means 90% of the time, it is time to find a different doctor!). Also, if you don’t want surgery, don’t go to a surgeon (that perhaps means finding a family physician who attends births, rather than an OB, or, an OB with a low cesarean rate).
  • If there are multiple hospitals in your area, choose the one with the lowest cesarean rate (not the one with the nicest wallpaper or nicest postpartum meal). Hospitals—even those in the same town—vary widely on their policies and the things they “allow” (i.e. amount of separation of mother and baby following birth, guidelines on eating during labor, etc.) Try checking with for local information!
  • When you get the hospital, ask to have a nurse who likes natural birth couples. My experience is that there are some nurses like this in every hospital—she’ll want you for a patient and you’ll want her, ask who she is! If possible, ask your doctor, hospital staff, or office staff who the nurses are who like natural birth—then you’ll have names to ask for in advance.
  • Put a sign at eye level on the outside of your door that reads, “I would like a natural birth. Please do not offer pain medications.” (It is much easier to get on with your birth if you don’t have someone popping in to ask when you’re “ready for your epidural!” every 20 minutes.)
  • You might want to check out either or both of these two books: Homebirth in the Hospital and/or Natural Hospital Birth
  • Work on clear and assertive communication with your doctor and reinforce your preferences often—don’t just mention something once and assume s/he will remember. If you create a birth plan, have the doctor sign it and put it in your chart (then it is more like “doctor’s orders” than “wishes”). Do be aware that needing to do this indicates a certain lack of trust that may mean you are birthing in the wrong setting for you! Birth is not a time in a woman’s life when she should have to fight for anything! You deserve quality care that is based on your unique needs, your unique birthing, and your unique baby! Do not let a birth plan be a substitute for good communication.
  • Two resources I particularly enjoy that shake up the notion of a birth plan are, 1. the birth as a labyrinth metaphor from Birthing from Within and 2. this article about how does one really PLAN for birth.
  • When making a birth plan, use the Six Healthy Birth Practices as a good, solid foundation.
  • Cultivate a climate of confidence in your life.
  • Once in labor, stay home for a long time. Do not go to the hospital too early—the more labor you work through at home, the less interference you are likely to run into. When I say “a long time,” I mean that you’ve been having contractions for several hours, that they require your full attention, that you are no longer talking and laughing in between them, that you are using “coping measures” to work with them (like rocking, or swaying, or moaning, or humming), and that you feel like “it’s time” to go in. If you’re worried about knowing when you’re really in labor, check out this post: how do I know if I’m really in labor?
  • Ask for the blanket consent forms in advance and modify/initial them as needed—this way you are truly giving “informed consent,” not hurriedly signing anything and everything that is put in front of you because you are focused on birthing instead of signing.
  • Have your partner read a book like The Birth Partner, or Fathers at Birth, and practice the things in the book together. I frequently remind couples in my classes that “coping skills work best when they are integrated into your daily lives, not ‘dusted off’ for use during labor.”
  • Practice prenatal yoga—I love the Lamaze “Yoga for Your Pregnancy” DVD—specifically the short, 5-minute, “Birthing Room Yoga” segment. I teach it to all of my birth class participants.
  • Use the hospital bed as a tool, not as a place to lie down (see my How to Use a Hospital Bed without Lying Down handout)
  • If you feel like you “need a break” in the hospital, retreat to the bathroom. People tend to leave us alone in the bathroom and if you feel like you need some time to focus and regroup, you may find it there. Also, we know how to relax our muscles when sitting on the toilet, so spending some time there can actually help baby descend.
  • Use the “broken record” technique—if asked to lie down for monitoring, say “I prefer to remain sitting” and continue to reinforce that preference without elaborating or “arguing.”
  • During monitoring DO NOT lie down! Sit on the edge of the bed, sit on a birth ball near the bed, sit in a rocking chair or regular chair near the bed, kneel on the bed and rotate your hip during the monitoring—you can still be monitored while in an upright position (as long as you are located very close to the bed). Check out the post Active Birth in the Hospital for some additional ideas.
  • Bring a birth ball with you and use it—sit near the bed if you need to (can have an IV, be monitored, etc. while still sitting upright on the ball). Birth balls have many great uses for an active, comfortable birth!
  • Learn relaxation techniques that you can use no matter what. I have a preference for active birth and movement based coping strategies, but relaxation and breath-based strategies cannot be taken away from you no matters what happens. The book Birthing from Within has lots of great breath-awareness strategies. I also have several good relaxation handouts and practice exercises that I am happy to email to people who would like them. One of my favorites is: Centering for Birth.
  • Use affirmations to help cultivate a positive, joyful, welcoming attitude.
  • Read good books and cultivate confidence and trust in your body, your baby, your inherent birth wisdom.
  • Take a good independent birth class (not a hospital based class).
  • Before birth, research and ask questions when things are suggested to you (an example, having an NST [non-stress test] or gestational diabetes testing). A good place to review the evidence behind common forms of care during pregnancy, labor, and birth is at Childbirth Connection, where they have the full text of the book A Guide to Effective Care in Pregnancy and Childbirth available for free download (this contains a summary of all the research behind common forms of care during pregnancy, labor, and birth and whether the evidence supports or does not support those forms of care).
  • When any type of routine intervention is suggested (or assumed) during pregnancy or labor, remember to use your “BRAIN”—ask about the Benefits, the Risks, the Alternatives, check in with your Intuition, what would happen if you did Nothing/or Now Decide.
  • Along those same lines, if an intervention is aggressively promoted while in the birth room, but it is not an emergency (let’s say a “long labor” and augmentation with Pitocin is suggested, you and baby are fine and you feel okay with labor proceeding as it is, knowing that use of Pitocin raises your chances of having further interventions, more painful contractions, or a cesarean), you can ask “Can you guarantee that this will not harm my baby? Can I have in writing that this intervention will not hurt my baby? Please show me the evidence behind this recommendation.
  • If all your friends have to share is horror stories about how terrible birth was, don’t do what they did.
  • Look at ways in which you might be sabotaging yourself—ask yourself hard and honest questions (i.e. if you greatest fear is having a cesarean, why are you going to a doctor with a 50% cesarean rate? “Can’t switch doctors, etc.” are often excuses or easy ways out if you start to dig below the surface of your own beliefs. A great book to help you explore these kinds of beliefs and questions is Mother’s Intention: How Belief Shapes Birth by Kim Wildner. You might not always want to hear the answers, but it is a good idea to ask yourself difficult questions!
  • Believe you can do it and believe that you and your baby both deserve a beautiful, empowering, positive birth!

I realize that some of these strategies may seem unnecessarily defensive and even possibly antagonistic—I wanted to offer a “buffet” of possibilities. Take what works for you and leave the rest!

I posted on my Facebook page asking for additional thoughts and suggestions and I appreciated this one from doula and educator, Rebecca:

“I think I’d tell people to stop closing doors on themselves you know? Stop making assumptions about what is possible and be open to creating new possibilities – maybe not perfect and exact but inviting in opportunity. No money doesn’t mean no doula in most cases.”

She’s right! A lot of doulas-in-training will offer free birth services, many doulas and midwives do barter arrangements or other trades, and many non-traditional birth professionals also have sliding scale rates.

Great births are definitely possible, in any setting, and there are lots of things you can do to help make a great birth a reality!

This post was revised (from this one) to participate in… And the Empowered Birth Awareness Blog Carnival!