Tag Archive | birth education

Childbirth Education Mnemonic Devices

Thanks to the word “tulip,” used by my Western Civilization professor in 1996, I will never forget the 5 basic beliefs of Calvinism. This is an example of a mnemonic device that was (to me) apparently unforgettable. In March of this year, I took the ICEA childbirth educator certification exam. I studied compulsively for the exam and came up with a couple of mnemonic devices (word tricks that help you remember things) for several birth-related anatomy terms that I was otherwise having trouble remembering.

1. “What do you want for Isthmus [Christmas]?”  “A lower uterine segment!”

2. “Brady’s always been a little slow…” (said with a sort of sympathetic grimace. This helped me remember the difference between bradycardia [too slow FHT] and tachycardia [too fast]).

3. “I schitt on my tuberosities” (not pronounced quite as bad as it looks, draw out the “sch.” This helps me remember that the ischial tuberosities are the “sitting bones” at the bottom of the pelvis–I was getting them confused with the iliac bones and perhaps with the ischial spines).

4. And less interesting and more classic, that arteries carry blood *away* from something (both start with A) and veins carry blood to it.

5. I remember the three layers of the uterus by using the start of the word to remind me of its location. Endometrium is on the INside (end–>in). Perimetrium is on the perimeter (the outside. Words both start with “peri”). And, myometrium is in the middle–both start with “m.”

These are the ones that have come to mind right now. Does anyone else have any devices to add that they use for terms like this?

I’d like to find one for the 7 cardinal movements!

Active Birth Video

Lamaze and Injoy videos have teamed up on a nice new website called Mother’s Advocate. The site has a variety of handouts and a booklet to download based on “6 Healthy Birth Practices” (which, in and of themselves form a nice little birth plan for a normal, healthy birth!). I especially enjoyed their video on active birth: “get upright and follow urges to push.” The video urges upright birthing positions and avoidance of directed/forceful pushing (the kind with counting that you see so often on tv!).

Skipping Birth Class?

Yesterday, I watched a short clip on why people don’t take birth classes. The comment that I found most interesting from the expert interviewed was: “The instructors in a lot of these classes –are a little bit doctrinaire about their point of view. They made an issue out of saying  ‘You’re not a real woman if you need drugs. She should go through labor and childbirth on her own with help from your spouse with breathing techniques. They made it a kind of a contest. A lot of mothers today don’t want it — they want to go in and have their baby with a pain free a time as possible.” I find this perspective about “a contest” sad and disheartening and inaccurate. It is also slightly amusing–seriously, I know NO ONE who would say to someone else “you’re not a real woman if you need drugs” least of all a professional person teaching a birth class! I think this might be an example of what someone says being different than what someone else hears: i.e. the instructor says, “all medications have an impact on the baby. Additionally, many women find a very satisfying sense of personal mastery from giving birth without medication.” The person hears, “you’re not a real woman if you need drugs.”

This reminds me of an excellent section I’m re-reading in the book Mother’s Intention: How Belief Shapes Birth about judgment and bias. The author also address how the word “balanced” is misused in childbirth education–as in, “I’m taking a class at the hospital because it will be more balanced.” Balance means “to make two parts equal”–what if the two parts aren’t equal though? What is the value of information that appears balanced, but is not factually accurate? Pointing out inequalities and giving evidence-based information does not make an educator “biased” or judgmental–it makes her honest! (though honesty can be “heard” as judgment when it does not reflect one’s own opinions or experiences). She says, “Every person has a lens. Every opinion is biased, including the ones you hold. The question is, what created the perception leading to a particular bias?…When it comes to childbirth and parenting, when someone dismissed information as ‘biased,’ what it actually means is the information does not fit their already held biases. It is our insecurities that bring up defensiveness in the face of judgment, or perceived judgment, as the case may be…You may never even have a thought in your head that the other person could have or should have done anything differently, but they are seeing your actions through their own lens and making assumptions.” (i.e. if a mother had a homebirth it may be assumed she hates doctors and hospitals). I think this is exactly what was happening in the video clip–because a birth educator shares the benefits of natural birth, the assumption is that she “hates epidurals” and thinks you’re “not a real woman” if you have one!

As far as the “contest” idea goes, I’ve mentioned this before–just because someone runs a marathon, for example, doesn’t make the person who opted out of the marathon bad or “less than” 🙂

The expert in the video clip referenced above also emphasized several times that the time investment in classes is just too much and parents just “don’t want to invest.” So, now perhaps this IS “doctrinaire” or unpleasant of me, but I also find it a little frustrating that people are apparently unwilling to invest the time in preparing for their children’s births–most people watch more than 8 hours of TV a WEEK, but 8 or 10 hours of birth classes total is too much to invest? I hope my classes are exciting and informative and useful to the parents that come to them. I also realize that week after week CAN feel like a lot, which is why I designed my single session classes. I get a lot of interest in the single session classes and I’m glad I came up with them, because I think it allows me to better meet more people’s unique needs! In fact, so far this year, I’ve done only mix-and-match classes (from 1-4 weeks), no full six-week-series’ (perhaps they are a thing of the past?). I find I get clients who are very well-informed and interested and that these classes “hightlight” the things they are most interested in learning about, though they often tell me at the end that they wish they had signed up for more classes!

Fear & Birth

I was interested to read a short segment in the book Labor Pain about studies on fear about birth. A Swedish study indicated that it was not pain that caused women the most anxiety about labor (44% of women had fear of pain). It also wasn’t fear of death of the mother or baby (55% worried about this). It wasn’t fear of their physical or mental capacity to give birth (65% feared this), but it was “lack of trust of obstetric staff during delivery” (73%).

This is tremendously significant! As I mentioned in the post, can I really expect to have a great birth, it is important to choose your birth care giver and place of birth carefully–to ask questions before your chile is roasted! Considering that the Listening to Mothers reports by Childbirth Connection and the Millbank Report on Evidence-Based Maternity Care reveal that many doctors do not utilize evidence-based practices, it seems that women’s top fear is very warranted.

Educators as “bankers” or “midwives”

I recently wrote on ICEA about two different approaches educators can take to presenting information  (birth educators or otherwise). “Bankers” teach by “making deposits” of information into their students’ minds. “Midwife” teachers do the opposite. Instead of depositing information for the student to store, they “draw out” the information the student already has–so the student “gives birth” to their own inner wisdom.

Click here to read the whole post.

Benefits of Childbirth Education

People sometimes wonder what are the benefits of childbirth education. Classes can seem expensive and they wonder what they will get out of them. The main question that researchers have examined is whether classes reduce labor pain (inconclusive). I have a book called Labor Pain that cites research indicating that classes do reduce the need for medication during labor. According to the same book, though study results do not always agree, various researchers have also found:

  • possible decrease in length of labor
  • lower levels of uterine dysfunction requiring augmentation
  • fewer cases of elevated blood pressure
  • “less maternal illness and less use of antibiotics after birth”
  • “more stable heart rate readings in babies during labor”
  • “more involvement by partners”
  • “more positive feelings about birth and giving birth among women attending”
  • less pain during labor
  • “less frequent use of forceps at delivery”
  • “greater awareness at birth”
  • “more enjoyment of birth for women who had attended classes than for those who had not”

Sounds like there are lots of benefits to taking birth classes! 🙂

Personal Mastery and Birth

I wanted to share a link to a post I wrote recently for the ICEA blog. In this post I discussed some research from the book Childbirth Education: Research, Practice, & Theory:

The book also shares the research that when mothers were interviewed postpartum who had had epidurals, their comments following birth focused almost totally on the baby. Women who had relied on relaxation and other non-pharmaceutical coping methods talked about the baby AND about the emotional and psychological benefits of their birth experiences. Women in both groups expressed satisfaction with their birth experiences, but for those in the epidural group “the element of personal accomplishment or mastery was missing in their comments.”

I believe that starting out the parenting adventure with a sense of “personal accomplishment and mastery” is a tremendous gift and I wish all expectant couples had the opportunity to experience birth in this way. In my classes, I strive to emphasize that both process (giving birth) and product (healthy baby, healthy mom) are important!

As long as I’m discussing posts I’ve made elsewhere, I wanted to also link to my CfM blog post this week which was about what are we thankful for? (in the “birth world”). I have a lot to be thankful for and hope you do as well!

What’s at the root?

On a discussion board this week in the birth professionals section (doulas, midwives, birth educators), someone asked the question “what’s at the root of your love of birth?” I was still for a moment and let my intuitive, heart-felt, gut level response come to me and it was this:


Women’s health, women’s issues, women’s empowerment, women’s rights.

Social justice.


And, that feeling. The “birth power” feeling–that laughing/crying, euphoric, climbed-the-mountain, glowing, rapture…feeling. The transformative, empowering, triumphant, powerful, I DID IT, feeling.

I want all women to have the chance to experience that.

As I look at my list above and invert it, it becomes my “tree” of birthwork–with women as the root and then spreading up to blossom with that birth-power-feeling. 🙂

To any birth professionals reading this, how about you? What’s at the root for you?

Right Brain Learning Activities

I have mentioned several times that I strive to orient my classes to “right brain” learning activities. I like this explanation of “why” to take this approach, from Family Centered Education: The Process of Teaching Birth by Trish Booth:

“In the past, much of childbirth education has been weighted toward left hemispheric functions of analysis and linear learning…However, the experience of labor and birth is not necessarily orderly and rational. In fact, emotions and beliefs play a significant role both in how a woman copes with her labor and how it progresses. Therefore, childbirth education is beginning to look at more creative, inutitive, right brain approaches to teaching…If families needed only to take a paper and pencil test or write and essay on birth, the more analytical, rational approach might suffice. However, families must experience the physical and emotional as well as intellectual parts of labor. In order to be better prepared for this intense and integrated experience, they need more integrated learning activities.”