How antenatal classes covering C-section and instrumental birth can prepare women and reduce birth trauma
Knowing what to expect when giving birth can help you prepare yourself mentally so you can feel informed and empowered.
Every pregnant woman hopes they will have a simple, straightforward and problem-free labour and birth. However, sometimes things don’t go according to plan or there are additional risk factors which may mean you need medical intervention to safely deliver your baby.
Attending an antenatal class is a good way of learning about what will happen during labour and birth. Understanding what is going on and what is likely to happen next can help you feel calmer and more in control.
Most antenatal classes tend to focus on natural, vaginal births, although some may include some information about the possible interventions your midwife or doctor may use if there is an issue. Some courses may also discuss caesarean sections (c-sections), although they tend not to go into too much detail.
However, there are antenatal classes available which specifically cover what will happen during a c-section and instrumental birth – where your baby is delivered with extra help from the medical team. Let’s Talk Birth and Baby runs an online caesarean section workshop, which is the third part of the Labour and Birth Essentials series.
The class talks about what a c-section is, why you might need to have one and how the procedure has improved over time. You will learn about how you will be made comfortable and what both you and your partner can expect.
As well as talking you through the procedure itself and what is likely to happen, it will cover topics like spending time with your baby after they are born and the recovery process. It may also give you ideas of things you can include in your birth plan or pack in your hospital bag to make the experience a more pleasant one for you.
Who should attend an antenatal class about c-sections?
Any expectant mum, no matter how simple and straightforward her pregnancy has been, might end up needing a c-section to deliver her baby. People often assume they don’t need to learn about a c-section as it is a medical procedure and will be handled by the doctors, nurses and midwives.
However, having no knowledge of what the procedure involves can make it a frightening and confusing experience, especially if it needs to be performed quickly in an emergency situation. Understanding what will happen can reduce the risk of birth trauma as it will allow you to mentally prepare yourself.
Taking an antenatal class about c-sections is particularly important if already know you will be delivering your baby this way and are booked in to have an elective c-section. It is also a good idea if you have a high risk pregnancy and there are factors which increase the chance of you needing to have a c-section.
This could include expecting more than one baby, having a low-lying placenta or your baby being in a difficult position. Mothers who are older, overweight, have diabetes or who have had a previous c-section are also more likely to need a c-section to deliver their baby.
Antenatal classes about instrumental birth
Difficult births do not always result in a c-section but you may need to have what is referred to as an instrumental birth. This is when some medical assistance is needed to deliver your baby safely and may include the use of forceps or ventouse or an episiotomy.
These kind of interventions may be discussed briefly in general antenatal classes but many women still feel unprepared and this can make them more likely to experience birth trauma. Let’s Talk Birth and Baby runs an online class called Induction and Instrumental Birth to help expectant mums feel better prepared for labour and birth.
The class covers what happens when labour is induced as well as giving information about epidurals, forceps deliveries, ventouse deliveries and episiotomy. It also explains how you and your baby may be monitored and includes useful information about being a birth partner.
This workshop is suitable for anyone who is hoping to have a vaginal delivery. If you already know you are booked in for an elective c-section, the information you need will be covered in the caesarean section workshop.
How can classes help prevent birth trauma?
Birth trauma is a phrase used to describe the distress some people feel after giving birth, especially if the labour and birth were difficult or didn’t go to plan. New parents might feel numb, shocked or anxious after the birth or they may experience feelings of guilt or even panic attacks.
It is usually more common to feel emotional trauma after childbirth if you felt frightened during the experience or you felt that you were not being listened to by those caring for you. One of the risk factors for birth trauma is having a birth which did not meet expectations or needing an assisted delivery or c-section.
Antenatal classes can not prevent you needing medical intervention during labour and delivery but they can help you feel less frightened if something does happen which was not in your birth plan. Learning about what can happen in advance can help you understand the process and make you feel more able to voice your needs.
Involving your birth partner in your antenatal classes can help them learn about what you would want to happen if you needed an instrumental birth or a c-section so they can advocate for you during your labour if they need to.
Having realistic expectations and knowing what your options are will help you to feel more in control if something does happen. It also gives you an opportunity to talk to your midwife if there is anything which concerns you about anything which is raised during your antenatal classes.