As a midwife and childbirth educator I've been working with families as they prepare for the arrival of their baby for over a decade. In this time I have had the privilege of caring for hundreds of women through their labour and birth, and I have seen what works and what doesn't. For many years I worked as a midwife in a major tertiary maternity hospital here in Adelaide, supporting families through all kinds of births - from the intervention free water-birth in a birth centre, to women experiencing premature labour or an emergency caesarean birth. I truly have seen it all, and I believe that no matter what path our birth takes, we still have options and choices, and in the vast majority of births it can be a positive experience.
I 100% believe that preparing for birth is an essential part of a positive birth. There are many options now-days for birth preparation - from hospital classes, to online courses, to group or private sessions. The options really are endless which is great as it gives us choice, but can also be a little overwhelming. I am often asked what the difference is between my course and others that are out there - and while I cant fully answer this as I have not taught every other course, I can give you some key questions to ask when looking at a course.
What is the experience/training of the facilitator?
It is so helpful to resonate with the teaching style of your course facilitator, so it can be a good idea to check out their social media pages, and see if you can watch any videos (whether that is on their website or instagram stories etc) so you can get a feel for how they present. We are all different, and you're going to be spending hours listening to this person so it's great if you actually like them/their personality!
You may also want to consider their qualifications and experience, and what is important to you. Not all childbirth education or hypnobirthing courses are taught by a midwife, which may not bother you, but if you are looking for a course that is presented by a health professional that has been at many, many births, and who understands hospital policies, and can share how it really is in our maternity system then you might want to look for a course taught by a midwife. As a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) I also include information on preparing for breastfeeding success in my course as I think it is as important as preparing for birth (if you are planning to breastfeed).
As much as I am about being real and sharing our experiences, I think it is important that your Childbirth Educator has the right qualifications and experience so that they are not just sharing from their experience and what worked for them. Of course this is valuable information and I share about my birth too, but I know that each birth is different, and what may have worked brilliantly for me in labour, may be different for someone else. That's why in my course I teach a number of different techniques so you can choose the right fit for you.
What is the course format and is this going to be the best way for my partner and I to learn?
This is a personal one but think about how you learn best. Is 4 x sessions on a weekend morning going to work better than focussing (and staying comfy) for a full day course? Or would a full day course work better for your schedules? Some parents have jam packed weekends so weeknight courses work better. And of course online courses can be a great option if you work shift-work and struggle to make it to an in person course, or have other little ones that need care. Some facilitators offer a hybrid online and in person course option which can be a great blend of the two!
Is it just the hypnobirthing that is covered?
As much as I am a HUGE fan of hypnobirthing and believe that it is one of the most powerful tools for birth, I also believe that a childbirth education course should provide information about the physiology of birth, common interventions and how you can still use your hypnobirthing tools, and way's to navigate different scenarios (like what if the pain/intensity is too much, what if labour is prolonged, what if you need an induction etc). I am really passionate about parents being prepared for all kinds of births, not just a natural birth as sometimes this is out of our control (but it doesn't mean that it has to be a traumatic experience).
Also ensure that the information and techniques provided are evidence based - this means that there is research to back their effectiveness. If you're using something in labour you want to know that it works right? And that it's not just some crazy technique someone came up with. I can assure you that all of the techniques that I teach in my course are evidence based, as well as the resources I provide you with.
Is there any ongoing support provided?
Something that I am proud to offer for my group and 1:1 clients is ongoing email support in the lead up to their birth for any questions around the hypnobirthing techniques, partner support, writing their birth plan, or if they would like any links to extra reading + research. Check with your course facilitator to see if this is an option, as I have found this to be invaluable with my clients. It is common to have a few fears pop up as you get closer to your estimated due date so it is great to have someone you can chat with, or who can give you a bit of a pep talk! The support doesn't just end when your course does.
What resources are provided?
If you're anything like me when I was pregnant - pregnancy brain is real, and always say you probably won't remember everything that was taught at your course. Most hypnobirthing facilitators recommend beginning a course between 20-30 weeks of pregnancy, but that can sometimes leave you feeling that your birth is still some time away, and you may worry that you will forget what you were taught. This is why the resources you're provided with are important - it helps you get the most from the course, but also to feel fully prepared for your birth. I know many mums I have worked with like to go back over the videos/materials once they start their maternity leave which is a great idea. With my course you receive an ebook, printable handouts, extra video training, relaxation and fear release meditation mp3s, a prenatal yoga video - plus for those that complete my group in person courses you also receive full access to the online course so that you can refresh any of the mindset, techniques or information in the lead up to your birth. Also I have just recently included access to my Positive Breastfeeding + Postpartum Course for free for anyone who signs up for a hypnobirthing course with me (valued at $97) because I truly believe preparing for postpartum is as important as preparing for birth.
Are private health rebates available?
Depending on your health fund private health rebates may be available (usually this is only available if your course facilitator is a midwife or other registered health professional). Check with your private health fund to see if you are covered for antenatal/childbirth education with your selected provider.
Once you've asked these five questions you'll have some great information to help you decide what the right course for you is. If you'd like to find out more about my 'Hypnobirthing with Hannah' course click here. You can also get in touch if you have any questions, and I offer a free no obligation 15 min phone consult if you'd like to chat more about whether this course is the right fit for you.
Photo credit: Ashlyn Cooper - Focused on Love Birth Photography