by Connie Banack
new millennia of incredible choices, it is no wonder that there is also an array
of choices of which childbirth education classes are the best for you and your
partner. There are at least ten certifying organizations for childbirth
educators and each has a unique approach to childbirth. From the strict
patterned breathing techniques and outward focusing taught in the past by ASPO/Lamaze
instructors to the inward focusing Bradley Method, all are as individual as each
pregnant woman. Finding the best class is a combination of which technique will
work best for you and your comfort level with your instructor and your
beginning of “natural childbirth” classes in the 1930’s Dr. Grantly
Dick-Read gained his insights from watching middle class working patients give
birth without help from drugs. He also worked in Africa, where he observed women
giving birth on their own in rural villages. He saw the spiritual dimensions of
birth and wrote of women’s innate capacity to give birth successfully on their
own and without medication. From his experiences he taught women to trust their
bodies, using slow deep-breathing techniques to help cope with labour pain. His
classes never caught on in popularity in North America, but are the basis of
many programs today.
During the same time, Dr. Lamaze was working in obstetrics and found the
Pavlov experiments fascinating. He deducted that distraction during labour
through patterned breathing techniques and using focal points would help women
have painfree labours. Through his work he found this to be true if the
labouring mother did the focusing and breathing effectively, having learned and
practiced prior to labour. Today Lamaze has changed to incorporate deeper
breathing techniques. Lamaze classes are primarily taught through hospitals or
International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA), founded in 1960, pushed
ASPO/Lamaze to the left of center. With no ties to the health-care system, ICEA
has always been eclectic in its approach to birth in which they incorporate
sociology, anthropology and midwifery as well as nursing and medicine. ICEA was
the first national organization to focus on the psychological aspects of birth.
ICEA certified educators have largely replaced Lamaze educators in many of the
hospitals and health units even though they are still commonly referred to as
different approach was from Dr. Bradley and his “Husband Coached Childbirth”
philosophy that originated from his observation that women coped better and had
better birth experiences when their husbands were present. He also found that
the father-infant bond developed faster with the father present during birth.
The Bradley method is now well known and it has played a very important role in
allowing fathers into the hospital birthing rooms.
the 1970’s a second wave of childbirth organizations came into being in North
America and Britain. This second generation focused on alternatives to standard
medical and hospital procedures and practices. Among them the National
Association of Parents and Professionals for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (NAPSAC)
founded by a couple in North Carolina, challenged the assumption that a hospital
was the best place for birth. Rahima Baldwin, a Michigan midwife, founded
Informed Homebirth in 1977 which is now the Association for Labor Assistants and
Childbirth Educators (ALACE, pronounced Alice). ALACE trains both Labor
Assistants (commonly called doulas) and Childbirth Educators who “teach
relaxation and coping tools to work with pain and discomfort. We respect birth
as an intimate act and a creative expression of love. We respect obstetric
procedures as beneficial in some circumstances but potentially detrimental when
applied routinely. Our goal is to help women reclaim trust in their ability to
safely and dependably give birth.”
rising cesarean rate in the US brought about several women-founded organizations
focusing on grassroots education for cesarean prevention. One of these, the
Cesarean Prevention Movement, now the International Cesarean Awareness Network
(ICAN), brought about another form of childbirth education known as Birth Works.
Suzanne Arms explains in Immaculate Deception, “This teach training program
focuses on prevention of unnecessary cesareans and increasing the number of
women having vaginal births after having cesareans. The underlying premise is
that women innately know how to give birth successfully; they need to rediscover
their bodies’ wisdom and learn how to listen to their bodies. The approach is
psychological as well as physiological and the teachings of a number of
prominent authors in the childbirth movement have been drawn upon to create a
Pam England wrote Birthing From Within in 1998 and it’s unique approach to
birth launched the Birthing From Within Mentor training and certification
program across the US and Canada. It is a dynamic and organic program with no
predetermined curriculum in which the educator is more of a mentor and utilizes
the feedback from parents to determine the emphasis of each class.
In 1998 a new organization, formed to fill a need to increase professionalism and accountability within the childbirth education, lactation education, antepartum doula, labour doula, and postpartum doula professions, is the Childbirth And Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) and it’s Canadian division, CAPPA Canada. Their focus is in providing women and their partners with the tools they need to birth as they choose, with true informed consent. CAPPA’s educators strive to not involve guilt but rather empower women to choose the kind of birth that is best for them, be it medicated or un-medicated, intervention-free or full of traditional interventions. Their belief is that, given the facts, more women would choose a natural birth for themselves and their babies.
Colleges in Canada also provide Childbirth Educator training through their
continuing education or nursing programs, Douglas College in Vancouver and
Humber College in Ontario. Their in-depth, two-year programs provide a solid
background of knowledge about all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth. On
a different note, Christian Childbirth Education certification can be obtained
through Apple Tree Family Ministries and Titus 2 Birthing, both having a strong
biblical basis in their beliefs and training.
Lamaze and ICEA certified childbirth educators make up the largest majority of
certified educators in Canada due to their ability to fit well into the current
medical systems beliefs. Their educators are comprised mostly of nurses and
hospital based or health unit based educators. Independent educators commonly
choose certification from the newer organizations based on their own beliefs and
experiences. Currently only CAPPA Canada, GBI and the above colleges provide
certification specific to Canadians.
the array of choices available to women choosing a compatible prenatal class
series can be both challenging and exciting. When
you decide to attend prenatal classes, you should choose your teacher carefully.
Besides professional considerations, you will want to find out if the teacher
has values compatible with your own and personal qualities you desire.
When choosing classes, answers to the following questions will help you
find the right one.
What type of birth experience do I
Do I want the course to be woman
centered? … couple centered? … family centered?
Will my partner attend every class?
May my children attend?
At what stage of pregnancy would we
like to attend?
What does the course include?
What are the instructor’s
Does the instructor appear to be
Does the instructor appear to be
well prepared to deliver the information?
What are the instructor’s values
regarding pregnancy and birth?
Are they compatible with your own?
Does the instructor encourage a
non-threatening environment that allows honest discussion of feelings and
attitudes toward pregnancy and childbirth?
Where are the classes taught?
How many sessions are included in
How many people will attend the
How much will it cost?
questions courtesy of www.canadiandoulas.com
For more information:
Apple Tree Family Ministries www.geocities.com/Heartland/Hills/4150/atfm/ATFM.html
Birthing From Within www.birthpower.com
Birth Works www.birth-works.org
Bradley Method www.bradleybirth.com
Douglas College www.douglas.bc.ca
Global Birth Institute www.globalbirth.org
Humber College of Applied Arts and
Titus 2 Birthing www.geocities.com/titus2birthing/Opdocs.html
has been an ALACE certified labour assistant for 5 years, a CAPPA certified
labour doula, postpartum doula and childbirth educator. She is an approved CAPPA
labour doula trainer, postpartum doula trainer and childbirth educator trainer.
Connie is also the educational director for ICAN and owner of Mother Care (mother-care.ca).
She currently lives in Lloydminster, AB, is married and mom to three sons aged three
through eleven and a newborn daughter.
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