Prenatal ClassesTuesday, January 31st, 2017
As it is the start of another new year I am struck yet again at how quickly the time passes. Our babies become toddlers and then pre-schoolers, grade-schooler and beyond. And it happens in what feels like a moment. I thought we would spend this week talking about all the possible classes that can prepare you for the new adventure of bringing home a new baby (or two). During your sixth month is a good time to sign up for classes.
Before the mid-twentieth century, the most help a woman could hope for in preparing for birth was some wise advice from her mother, sister, or friend. Fathers were not involved in birth at all. For many women, giving birth for the first time was frightening. Childbirth education has radically improved the experience of childbirth for most women. Depending on where you live, you may be able to choose among many types of classes for parents-to-be and new parents. Some places offer classes as narrowly focused as “Pregnancy Meditation” and “Preparing for Twins or Triplets.”
Here are some typical offerings:
Usually taught by a gynecologist or nurse practitioner, these classes cover fertility, conception, and caring for your health before and during pregnancy.
Most often taken during the first trimester, these classes cover information about changes in a woman’s body, fetal development, and nutrition. Because so many women have a small library of pregnancy books at home, many communities are eliminating early-pregnancy classes.
These classes are led by a physical therapist or a personal trainer with advanced training in obstetrics, the musculoskeletal system, and women’s health. The classes generally include low-impact aerobics, stretching and strengthening exercises, and relaxation. For safety, most of these classes require a doctor’s referral.
These classes are designed to increase comfort and flexibility in a pregnant woman’s rapidly changing body; to alleviate common discomforts of pregnancy such as back pain, sciatica swelling, anxiety, and fatigue; and to help the woman connect with her developing baby. Many women find prenatal yoga classes to be both relaxing and energizing.
Labor and childbirth preparation
These are most often designed as a series. There is instruction in relaxation and breathing to reduce the discomfort of labor, massage, positions for labor and birth, the partner’s role, hospital procedures, medicated and non- medicated labor, anesthesia, and cesarean birth. You and your partner will want to take a course taught by a certified childbirth instructor, a registered obstetrical nurse, or a midwife.
A certified lactation consultant discusses the benefits and basic techniques of breastfeeding; how to prevent, recognize, and manage difficulties; and how partners can help.
Refresher for childbirth or breastfeeding. For those who already have one or more children, these classes provide a review and an update of labor and birth, breathing and relaxation methods, and the partner’s role during birth and breastfeeding.
These classes can be great fun, as they often involve hands-on practice (on dolls) with diapering, wrapping, dressing, and bathing. Newborn appearance and behavior, infant development, and practical tips for new parents are frequently included.
Infant safety and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
I recommend that parents take one of these classes when their babies are 3 to 6 months old, although the demonstrations and practice are on infant mannequins rather than real babies. The classes address how to recognize and treat emergencies such as choking and respiratory difficulties, how to perform basic first aid, how to “childproof” a house, and how to avoid common childhood accidents.
These are wonderful classes to take with your baby. They teach gentle massage strokes that promote digestion, elimination, and relaxation in the early weeks after the baby’s birth.
New moms’ support groups
These informal groups, a lifeline for many new mothers, often sprout from a childbirth preparation class. Although dads are usually welcome, the groups tend to be made up primarily of women whose babies are close to the same age. Sleep, husbands, work, sex, all things baby, and life in general are discussed. I started a new moms’ group when Alexander was born, and the other women have become some of my dearest friends. We call ourselves the Sanity Sisters. We do things together with our children as well as without them. We try to have dinner out at least once a month, and we occasionally even include spouses! For nearly five years, the kids spent every Wednesday together, and they now think of each other as cousins. Today, there are thirteen children between the six of us. I have heard similar stories about such friendships from mothers everywhere.
Support groups for parents of multiples
I strongly recommend that moms of twins and other multiples get dialed into their local twins or multiples mothers’ support group while they are still pregnant. These groups can be an enormous help. Depending on where you live, you may find one or more groups. Because urban areas tend to have a lot of twins, if you live in or near a city you may have several groups to choose from. In your local community, first check with your own hospital or childbirth education center. Time and again, I hear women say that they wish they had become involved in a multiples group before their babies were born. They feel that the chance to talk with a mother who had been through the experience would have saved them from having to figure it out alone. Here is a very telling quote from a mother of twins: “I figured that I was an efficient, high-energy career woman, that I didn’t need any special support, and that I would figure out what was best for our family. But once the twins came, it changed everything. I realized that I couldn’t just ‘figure it out.’ My parents-of multiples group helped me find a much-needed night nurse to help care for my children from 10 P.M. to 6 A.M., twice a week, so that I could get some sleep. This was an expensive indulgence for us, but worth every penny. I was so exhausted that I could barely function, and my night nurse was my savior! Later, I went to a couple of the multiples-club support groups, and ended up meeting two moms who remain close friends to this day.”