The Benefits of Taking a Childbirth Class: Podcast Episode #197
Kristin Revere chats with Lisa Newhouse of Gold Coast Doulas about the benefits of taking a childbirth class. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.
Welcome. You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Let’s chat!
Kristin: Hello! This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am here today to chat with Lisa Newhouse. Lisa is one of our advanced birth doulas, and she’s also a certified HypnoBirthing educator. Our topic of the day is all about the importance, even in today’s modern times, of still taking an in-person childbirth class or a live virtual childbirth class. Welcome, Lisa!
Lisa: Thank you! Thank you for having me!
Kristin: So I’m excited to dive into this! I feel like I hear from some of our Becoming A Mother students and just clients in general as they’re talking about their birth prep, and some people, especially 20-somethings, they are tending to utilize a lot of social media for some of their preparation, YouTube channels, for example, TikTok, and podcasts, of course, like Ask the Doulas, and books as a replacement for childbirth ed. But as doulas, we certainly see the difference in our clients and how they understand the physiology of labor if they choose to take an in-person childbirth class, whether it’s our HypnoBirthing class or even my short Comfort Measures class or a class like Lamaze, for example.
Lisa: Yes, yeah. I think all education, knowledge, is so helpful as you’re going into your birthing space. So books and podcasts are great. But sometimes there’s just so much more to be gained from that in person meeting, right? It’s that exchange of dialogue. It’s that clarification of questions that come up or special things like, how does that relate to me, that you can get in an in-person class. In an in-person class, the instructor can take the time to really focus on, what is it you are searching for and trying to gain from this experience.
Kristin: Yes, exactly. And there’s also that component for the in person and even the live virtual classes that we teach through HypnoBirthing that couples make connections with each other and find similarities and learn from the sharing in class.
Lisa: Right. And that is nice that we have this option in our world now, right, that we can do something virtual. Where we are still visually seeing each other and individuals can see each other and make those connections and so on, and I’m grateful to have that opportunity to meet with someone that way, if that is the option that we need to do. But again, I always have a preference for in person. I am a communicator that loves to – I talk a lot with my hands. I do a lot of visual, really making sure that everyone’s understanding. And sometimes that can be lost in virtual a little bit. But we do our best, for sure.
Kristin: Yeah, for sure. And during the pandemic, there were two years where we had to teach virtually, and in my very hands-on comfort measures class, that was a challenge. But I made it work. Everyone just got out their yoga mats in their living room, and I had hip squeeze videos and demonstrations. And it worked, but it’s so much better to have it in person. But it’s nice with your virtual HypnoBirthing classes that students can take it anywhere in the world, or sometimes we’ve had partners that are traveling for work, and they’re able to pop onto a virtual class with their wife or partner and be able to still be engaged and not miss a beat during the travel times.
Lisa: Exactly. And of course, I mean, if that is your option – if the option is not to take a class or take it virtually, absolutely go with virtual, right? Instructors who are doing virtual classes – we are trying to make it engaging. We are trying to have that interactive component. Like I always tell people, do not – there is no formality here. You do not have to wait for me to stop speaking or raise your hand. If you have a question, please jump in.
Kristin: So how are the partners enjoying the in-person class? I’d love to hear – it’s been a bit since I’ve been in the HypnoBirthing class. Are you seeing some apprehension on those first days, and then some warm up from the partner who may be wondering, especially with HypnoBirthing, it seems a little woo at times until people really understand that it is so based on science.
Lisa: Yeah. That is so interesting and funny because you see this progression from typically the first session to the fifth session, right, because HypnoBirthing class is five sessions. And absolutely, in that first session, in particular, at the beginning, I think everyone’s thinking, especially the partners, HypnoBirthing? What are we going to do here? Are you going to hypnotize us? But right from the beginning of that first session, I focus on what it actually is, and what it actually is, it’s this learning about these tools that you can fill your toolbox up with on how to deeply relax and how the mom’s body works and how we’re made for this and how we can just get into this deeply relaxed state to calm our muscles, calm our body, calm our mind, to be able to focus on doing this instinctually. And I can just see the interest in like, oh, okay, and then when we start in some of the sessions later on, starting some of those relaxation techniques – wow, by the last one, the partners are, like, totally relaxed. Totally like, oh, I was so out of it. It’s funny to see that full progression.
Kristin: Yes, they’re definitely on board by the end. So it is very beneficial. Partners are not required to attend any of our classes from Breastfeeding to Newborn to Comfort Measures to HypnoBirthing, but it certainly is beneficial, especially with HypnoBirthing and the relaxation component and really the affirmations and some of the cues with that. Let’s dive in to other childbirth prep options outside of HypnoBirthing, and explain some of the differences between, say, a hospital class and HypnoBirthing and Lamaze and even some of the newer ones that are very similar to HypnoBirthing. Gentle birth or HypnoBabies. That is a self-based virtual course. So, yeah, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I can share some of mine, as well.
Lisa: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting when I think of my own birthing experiences compared to now. When I was having my babies, I felt like there was only really two options available, which was either a hospital-based education course or a Lamaze course, right? And some of the hospital-based courses, they tried bringing in some of the Lamaze work in regards to the breathwork, and although – you know, they were typically – especially the hospital-based courses, they might have been like a one-session type thing for a few hours, and they showed you a video of birth and went over a few breathing things and instructed partners, like this is how you can support and possibly hold the partner during this process. But it was really surface, right? And I don’t remember coming away from those courses feeling more educated in regards to how my body would work. I don’t remember feeling like all the anxiety was taken care of. I know my partner did not feel like they were really – could do a whole lot more besides like, well, I’ll be there for you. I’ll be offering you encouragement. I’ll hold your hand. I think possibly in Lamaze, which I never took, maybe you had a little bit more, but it was a lot of breathwork that seemed to be busy work, right? Whereas now I think we’ve had this wonderful crossover where with HypnoBirthing, gentle birth or HypnoBabies, we’re kind of all focusing on the physiological birth that can be calm, people, more gentle, and it’s not a one-class session, right? We do five classes. Each class is two and a half hours long. So we’re really digging in and doing all that prep work, making sure that mom and partner are educated in regards to how the body works, fully educated in regards to how to get into those deeply relaxed states, which is through self-hypnosis. It’s nothing I’m doing. It’s nothing magical. It’s you teaching yourself how to bring your body down to those relaxed states and then how to bring your baby into this world in a calmer setting. So I think there’s just been this nice bridge to where we are now that, gosh, I look back at my experience, and I’m so envious of mothers being able to have these options now. It’s like, oh, I would have loved that option.
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Kristin: Sure. I took Lamaze with both of my kids. There was a HypnoBirthing class, but it was out in the Lakeshore, and I worked in Lansing and had to jet back home to Grand Rapids. So that was the best option for me. My mom happened to take Lamaze as well, so that was a factor, and I took the whole class twice. And so Lamaze is geared more toward the natural birther. I know that instructors have the ability to change their curriculum a bit. So again, my kids are 10 and 12. Things may have changed since then, but there is a focus on breathing and using positions and partner support to accomplish an unmedicated birth. And so the students that were in my classes – you know, it’s very hands on. We were trying different positions and understanding a lot of the physiology. There’s a breastfeeding component, six weeks. And so I felt like I had a good education, but once I became a doula for part of my doula certification, I audited a HypnoBirthing class in full, and then of course, when Gold Coast started, we had Michigan’s first HypnoBirthing educator as my former business partner and our HypnoBirthing instructor. So we really started Gold Coast with a focus on HypnoBirthing and that mind-body connection. And the thing that I love about HypnoBirthing, that difference, is we have students who have planned surgical births that take HypnoBirthing to prepare for some of the fear that they may be experiencing or just wanting a different birth, even if they’ve had prior surgical births. And we have clients who birth in home, who birth with doulas, who want an epidural right away, and still find benefit from HypnoBirthing. So it’s not just one of those childbirth classes where you’re only preparing for an unmedicated birth. Bradley is a very comprehensive 12-week class that is partner-focused. The partner is the primary support person, although I’ve worked as a doula with Bradley student couples. And so that is another option that is very naturally focused. And as you mentioned about your own experience taking hospital classes, and of course, it varies by the hospital on the focus, but those are more geared toward the average patient experience, not really for the natural birther. It’s just trying to give an overview. It sometimes includes as tour of the hospitals, more generalized. And some can be a short session, or some hospitals have longer, more involved sessions. So it definitely varies. And then certainly HypnoBabies was an offshoot of HypnoBirthing and is self-paced, so for people who want to go at their own speed and still have that visualization, mind-body connection, that is an option. And then Gentle Birth again uses some of that HypnoBirthing approach and sports labor physiology. It has some differences, but also has their own download tracks. So it’s a matter of really finding out what works for your schedule, what works for your location, the type of class that you and your partner are looking for and what your goals are in spending that time and that money in childbirth education. Now, many classes are covered by a health savings or flex spending. Many hospital classes, depending on your insurance, are covered by all of your insurance or part of your insurance. So looking into budget is also a factor. I talk to my Becoming a Mother students about it when they’re planning for birth and baby. What are your goals? Is education part of it? Is a breastfeeding class going to work for you and taking it through Gold Coast or trying to take it through a hospital and have insurance pay? Really mapping things out the way you do for building a home or planning a wedding is key, and I know, again, time and resources can be tight, and so finding the thing that works best for you is a tip that I have for our listeners.
Lisa: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. And I do – I think that is sometimes a misnomer, that individuals think, regarding HypnoBirthing, that it has to be natural. But natural is different. It has different definitions for many people, right? Natural could be, well, I want it to be a vaginal birth. Or natural could be, I want it to be a birth with that plus no pain medications. But really what I try to instruct and really emphasize to individuals in the class is that HypnoBirthing can be used wherever your birth path leads. There’s going to be many turns on that birth path, and at the end of the class, I just want you to feel like you have been educated and feel empowered to use your voice and make the decision that’s right for you and your baby in that moment. There is no right and wrong. It’s what’s right for you. Use those HypnoBirthing tools throughout that whole process, whether it’s a surgical birth, whether it’s a birth that you decided, when I get to this point, I want an epidural, or whether you decided I want to try to take this the full route without any pain medications. All the techniques can be used in all of those scenarios.
Kristin: Absolutely. I remember one of my birth doula client’s partners telling me that he had to have a procedure done and utilized some of the HypnoBirthing breathing and relaxation techniques for that procedure.
Lisa: Absolutely, yes, yes. I did that just recently with a child of mine who had her wisdom teeth out and was having a lot of anxiety, and I started the calm breathing with her. I was like, okay, we’re going to start some breathing. And that type of breathing works for everyone in stressful situations. Something about focusing on your breath and inhaling and exhaling slowly – it just automatically brings you to a different level.
Kristin: Yeah, exactly. I use it in heavy traffic, like stressful situations and the dentist, as you mentioned. It is something that you can really carry with you for a lifetime.
Lisa: Yes, practical use.
Kristin: Exactly. And with me and my over-preparing personality, I wanted to take full childbirth classes with each of my births, but we do have options at Gold Coast for our HypnoBirthing students who have already taken a full HypnoBirthing series and are pregnant again. They can do a refresher and do a private session with you to cover just some of the basics of what they want to re-learn and use again in that birth, so that can also be very helpful.
Lisa: Yes, it can be very helpful. I’ve had a number of clients reach out for that service, and when you do a refresher course, it’s a conversation between the two of us to begin with. Like, what do you feel like we need to focus on again? Because I want to set this refresher up to hit all the points that you feel you need a refresher on. Quite often, I find that involves breath work again. Can we review the breath work and maybe one of the deepenings or maybe a fear release. But honestly, I do it – I formulate this class based on individual needs.
Kristin: Yes, which is so beautiful and needed. One thing, as we’re talking about again the importance of taking a childbirth class if that works for you, and we support clients who do nothing and just want a birth doula to be there, in whatever is better for your life situation, budget, and time capacity. But if you are considering a childbirth class, again, that connection in these virtual times – it’s nice to have Zoom student connection or in-person classroom connection with other couples who are going through the same thing as you and even using some of those same tools. I know for my second Lamaze class, I see a family quite frequently at track meets and cross country meets. Our kids go to different schools, but it’s so fun to run into them and with the first class that I took, our educator has us all come back after the final baby was born, and we would tell birth stories and line up the babies for a photo, and then I got together with those couples for many years. I think until our kids were 4, we did an annual reunion. During maternity leave, many of the women from my class, we met at Meijer Gardens and parks, and our kids got to know each other, and I’m still close friends with a lot of them. So I carried that tradition on when I taught Sacred Pregnancy for a handful of years and had reunions with all of my students. Everyone brought their babies, and it was so fun to hear birth stories and to get together. So there is that community connection that can be made and is so helpful.
Lisa: Yes. We’re going to start out with Gold Coast the HypnoBirthing Mothers, as well. In fact, it’s on my agenda to possibly plan in summer or early fall, just whoever can show up. If you can come, we’ll meet, gather, share experiences, share stories. I love anything like that. It encourages community.
Kristin: Yes, definitely. Well, I’m glad you’re starting that up. What a nice surprise to hear. I know we had talked about it in the past, so looking forward to hearing about the gatherings, and I know you have the private Facebook community for current and former students, and they share birth stories and resources and encourage each other. It’s quite a lovely community that you’ve build. Thank you so much, Lisa. Any final tips for our listeners when they’re thinking about childbirth class preparation?
Lisa: I would say if you have any questions regarding – there’s so many options, right? Feel free to reach out and review some of the options and see which one will be a right fit for you. Know also that sometimes you see a schedule out there and you think, oh, how am I going to make this work. But I know myself, and I think there’s a lot of instructors out there – we are in this because we want to help you through this time. So there’s a lot of flexibility. I know I offer for anyone who is like, I just can’t make that time work; can we try and come up with another time? And I always try to make that happen because I don’t want – I feel so closely when we can’t do it for someone, and I feel like they really wanted it. So I try to make that happen, and I think other instructors do as well.
Kristin: Yeah, I agree. Well, thank you so much, Lisa, and for any of our listeners who are interested in learning more about any of our childbirth preparation classes at Gold Coast Doulas, you can find Lisa’s HypnoBirthing class and others at goldcoastdoulas.com. Thanks again, Lisa, and have a great day.
Lisa: You’re welcome. Thank you.
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