The thought of giving birth can be both scary and confusing; particularly with conflicting advice given by friends, health workers, family and the internet. Research* has shown that pregnancy education, also known as childbirth education or antenatal classes, is one of the most effective tools to minimise fear. “In this day and age getting information isn’t the problem,” says Pretoria-based neonatologist Professor Suzanne Delport, “it’s finding the right source of information.”
The theme of this year’s Pregnancy Education Week campaign in February ‘Date and way of birth – what would baby choose?’ highlighted howchildbirth education enables parents to make informed choices about what is best for them and their baby. “Only about 5% of pregnant women attend formal antenatal classes,” says Lynne Bluff, national co-ordinator of the Childbirth Educators’ Professional Forum (CBEPF). Doctors would like to see that number increase, as the labour outcome for an educated parent is likely to be better. Recent research* has shown that pregnancy education is one of the most effective tools to minimise fear during birth. “You can tell during the birth whether or not parents have been to classes. They are more knowledgeable, less anxious and more relaxed,” says Bluff.
Professor Delport has been sharing up-to-date research on the optimum date and method of birth with childbirth educators. “A full-term pregnancy used to be considered to be somewhere between 37 and 42 weeks. Newer research has shown that foetal brain development continues late into the last week of pregnancy. Full-term is now considered to be 39 to 40 completed weeks; birth prior to then is now considered early term and carries a risk of delivering a baby who may develop serious complications due to immaturity of organs, including the brain.”
Delport says method of birth is another area where opinions can often outweigh factual information. “More than two-thirds of births in the private sector in South Africa are by caesarean section, yet evidence indicates no benefit, and increased immediate and long-term risks to both mother and infant. By sharing evidence-based, factual information childbirth educators allow expectant parents to confidently make informed decisions.”
Johannesburg-based nurse-in-action Dumisile Mncwango has been giving childbirth education classes for the past three years. “I encourage partners to attend. In some communities people say birth is a ‘woman’s thing’ but it helps so much if both parents have the same understanding to deal with the many myths that do come up.”
“We strongly recommend childbirth education,” says Lauren Macnab of Bio-Oil, official partner for Pregnancy Education Week. “It allows parents to make informed choices and gives expectant parents confidence and reassurance.”
To find a childbirth educator in your area and visit www.expectantmothersguide.co.za or
www.facebook.com/ExpectantMothersGuideZA or #WhatWouldBabyChoose.
Six good reasons to attend childbirth education classes:
1) Expertise – educators are experienced nursing sisters and midwives who have chosen to specialise in childbirth education because they passionately believe in it.
2) Knowledge – you learn about ALL the childbirth options available to you, and the pros and cons of each.
3) Tools – you’ll be given practical tips and techniques – such as breathing, relaxation, positions, massage and visualisation – that can help you have an easier birth.
4) Confidence – you and your partner will feel more confident knowing what to expect and how to manage it.
5) Preparation – you’ll be taught about all aspects of pregnancy and birth, from stretch marks to caring for your newborn.
6) Connections – you’ll meet other expectant parents from your area.