By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
The process of giving birth is a miraculous one. However, with so much information floating around, it can also be a nerve-wracking, anxiety-ridden time. To make things a bit easier, a local licenced educator recommends couples attending Lamaze classes.
Even if an expectant mother has gone through the process of giving birth before, every pregnancy is unique and there is still much they can learn from Lamaze instruction.
Popularised in the 1950s by French obstetrician Dr Fernand Lamaze, based on his observations made in the Soviet Union, the method seeks to teach expectant mothers ways to work with the labour process in order to reduce the pain and promote a normal birth.
Today, beyond the breathing and relaxation techniques commonly associated with Lamaze, educators work closely with primary physicians and families to simplify maternity care decisions by providing the best information available to facilitate healthy deliveries.
Brenicka Smith, a certified childbirth educator, recommends expectant mothers to at least consider participating in a Lamaze class as they can offer emotional and physical support during and after the pregnancy.
“Considering Lamaze is very important, because learning what to expect and understanding how to cope during the birthing process can help women ease their fears and stresses so that they can have a better overall birth experience. Taking a birthing class helps mothers-to-be make decisions that match their values and their priorities. It also helps them to recognise their options for labour and delivery,” she said.
One of the main benefits of Lamaze, she added, is that it helps parents make sense of all of the information out there surrounding pregnancy and childbirth.
“So that they feel confident and empowered as they ask questions, make decisions and navigate through their journey. Another benefit is decreasing anxiety and overall fear about childbirth,” she said.
“There can still be value in mothers taking a formal child birth education class even if they have given birth before. They can take the class as a refresher because we do provide the most up to date information for mothers so there’s value there.”
During Lamaze classes, expectant mothers are taught thoroughly about labour, birth and the postpartum period. They also learn and practice ways to find comfort during labour.
Other topics covered include breastfeeding and current options available in the local maternity care system.
“We also review informed consent and informed refusal. Overall, you will walk away with confidence in your own ability to give birth,” said Ms Smith.
She also recommends fathers-to-be to attend classes.
“Birth is an intense process, emotionally and physically for mothers. It’s important for fathers to learn effective ways to support their partners. It’s also important for fathers to be informed so that they can be advocates for mothers during the birthing process,” she said.
Early on in her career, Ms Smith connected with mothers-to-be while working as an assistant in the ultrasound department at Doctors Hospital. There, she fielded questions about pregnancy discomfort and the actual process of labour and delivery. In 2011, she became a licenced massage therapist and finally settled in the niche market of massage services for expecting mothers when she launched her business, Prenatal Pampering, three years ago.
“Initially, I wanted to provide a service specifically for expecting mothers where they could receive massages that were safe for both mommy and baby. Moving into the Lamaze training was a natural progression for my business as mothers often shared their concerns surrounding the birthing process,” she said.
“As a Lamaze educator, my focus is being an advocate for parents and helping them to understand that childbearing is a normal, natural and healthy process. Through the Lamaze education families are provided with the tools needed to confidently prepare a birthing plan.”
With her company, she also wants to provide services during the postpartum phase in which the needs of the new mother are often ignored.
“Once the baby is born, the attention naturally shifts to the child and new mothers are often overlooked. Tremendous support is still required from a physical, mental and emotional standpoint as women make the transition from carrying a child, birthing a baby and now caring for a newborn. We are focused on supporting mothers throughout each stage,” she said.
Prenatal Pampering offers Lamaze coaching and in-house massages at the Advanced Family Medical Centre on Shirley Street and also provides at-home services for women who are on bed rest for a portion of their pregnancy or who may find it difficult to leave their homes shortly after giving birth.
“My goal is to serve as a bridge between doctors and patients and ensure that women are confident as they approach giving birth and new motherhood. It’s a win-win situation for all involved,” said Ms Smith.