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Right upfront … Birthing Better families look at birth much more from their own viewpoint. This means Common Knowledge Trust that produces the Birthing Better online birth classes looks at how the use of birth and birth-coaching skills positively impacts birth professionals.

That’s right. The vast majority of Obstetricians, obstetrical nurses, CNM, Direct Entry Midwives, Lay Midwives, and Doulas never have the experience of working alongside skilled birthing mothers and fathers/others. There is no societal expectation that expectant families learn birth and coaching skills much less use skills to prepare the pregnant body for birth.

Childbirth Conversation

Since the early 1980s, moms-to-be have been told to make a Birth Plan. The theory is simple … Women know what they want at their birth so they should be able to ‘choose’, write a Birth Plan and expect you, their birth professional, to do the best you can to give them the birth they want.

That childbirth philosophy either makes sense or not.

Birthing Better skills were developed in the early 1970s prior to the choice-based approach to childbirth. Birth Plans didn’t exist. In fact, there was sort of a skills-based approach because in the US both Lamaze and The Bradley Method childbirth classes were taught everywhere … and those were skills rather than information.

Back then, in the ‘evidence-based practice’ of that time, pregnant women saw an Obstetrician, went to the hospital, had lots of medical assessments, monitoring and procedures as part of the ‘standards of care’ of that time. Obstetricians and obstetrical nurses saw many millions of women and men using simple breathing and relaxation skills.

Sadly, those skills were attached to 3 goals advocated by Lamaze, Bradley, and natural birth advocates who began to speak out in the 1960s. These 3 goals: natural birth, pain-free labor, and no interventions. While almost every expectant couple attended these classes, there was no doubt the focus was on natural birth versus medical birth.

The Great Mistake

Imagine if Lamaze, Bradley, and birth advocates had just simply said: “One hundred percent of pregnant women will give birth and unless you’re unconscious, you can and should learn and use birth and birth-coaching skills”.

The appropriate goals should have been:

  • To see more women coping with the natural occurring pain of labor contractions
  • For skilled women to use their skills with or without medical care
  • To have fathers/others to have effective coaching skills to help the birthing woman feel in control throughout their birth journey even if they can control nothing except their own responses.

Even with this grave mistake, birth professionals in the US saw many millions of women trying to use skills and fathers, who were just permitted into labor and delivery, were trying to also use the Lamaze and Bradley skills taught.

Birth professionals often ridiculed the goals because ‘there’s no way to know what any birth will be like’ and the assumption was ‘therefore, there’s no way to really prepare for birth’. Birth just happens. Not enough women achieved a natural birth, definitely not pain-free labor and no medical interventions (assessments, monitoring, and procedures) were unrealistic.

Women felt disrespected. Most birth professionals dismissed the ability of skills to achieve these 3 goals.

Imagine now in hindsight, what if all pregnant women and expectant fathers had been encouraged to learn birth and birth-coaching skills to achieve these broader goals that include all births without exception?

We would now be three generations of mothers and fathers who told their children it was normal and natural to self-learn birth and birth coaching skills when pregnant and use skills throughout their baby’s birth journey. We’ll never be able to plan the birth we have and you never know what the birth will be like; however, giving birth is always an activity each woman is doing with her baby. Birth skills can easily achieve these more realistic goals.

A New Childbirth Paradigm

Common Knowledge Trust has been dedicated for over 50 years to a skilled birthing population for all births working alongside all birth professionals. We must dignify birth to a life-transforming activity that deserves to be associated with skilled moms and dads.

What is the role of all birth professionals?

  • You need to encourage your pregnant clients to self-learn birth and birth coaching skills from 24 weeks onwards. It’s that simple!
  • Then give each expectant family a hand-out of skills-based childbirth methods … don’t include ‘information’ childbirth education. Information is all about ‘what’. Skills are all about ‘how’. Birth Plans are about ‘what’.
  • Ask your pregnant mothers to write a Skills-based Birth Plan as well as a Choice-based Birth Plan
  • From 24 weeks, just jot down what skills each pregnant mom has learned. Each appointment just notates which skills have been learned. Example: breathing, relaxation; stretching; meditation. Don’t judge, just notate.
  • As birth unfolds, you will see whether the birthing woman looks and sounds as though she is coping well and her support person is helping her stay in control. Praise! If the birthing woman looks and sounds overwhelmed or stressed, any birth professional present can look through the woman’s notes and see what skills were learned. Encourage!
  • Debrief after birth. Talk about ‘choices’ and ‘skills’.

Remember, even though a Great Mistake was made and the wrong goals were associated with the first skills-based methods; many millions of birthing women impressed birth professionals of that time. Now … you’ll rarely see a skilled birthing woman and skilled birth coach. It’s all about ‘choices’ instead of ‘skills’.

Bottom line: 

The change will not come from Women. You have to be pro-active and encourage pregnant families to become skilled just as health care providers encourage those with diabetes, heart conditions and obesity to change their diet, lifestyle, stress, and exercise. In the 1970s/80s both Obstetrician and General Practice Doctors would have just expected ‘follow your doctor’s orders’. General Practice has changed. Now it’s time for Maternity Practice to change! You have to want expectant families to self-learn skills and use them as an active part of their maternity health care.

Birthing Better skills are housed within Common Knowledge Trust