Prenatal Education: Why Is It Important?
Pregnancy, labor and delivery, and child care are exciting and joyful times for many people.
Although a natural part of life, becoming a parent is not intuitive and can have a steep learning curve.
Prenatal education can provide new parents with the information they need to be successful during this new season of life. Here’s what to know.
What Is Prenatal Education?
Prenatal education consists of lessons and training prior to the due date that help prepare parents-to-be for the birth and care of their baby.
There are many different classes that are included under the umbrella of prenatal education — some of the most common include childbirth education, breastfeeding, infant CPR, the basics of prenatal care, changes in pregnancy, and healthy eating.
Prenatal education can help new parents feel more empowered and confident going into childbirth, but the courses can also help experienced parents learn about areas they may not have previously explored, such as baby care with multiple children in the household.
Why Is Prenatal Education Important?
Prenatal education has many different benefits for expectant mothers and fathers.
Some of the most important reasons to explore prenatal education include:
- Increased confidence during childbirth
- Assistance in birth plan development
- Improved understanding of infant safety measures
- Higher success with breastfeeding
- Improved chances of a healthy pregnancy
Increased Confidence During Childbirth
Childbirth can be scary, particularly for people who have never been through the experience.
There are many different rumors about what labor and delivery are actually like, regardless of whether a woman gives birth vaginally or via a C-section.
Prenatal education classes offer helpful information about what people are likely to experience during childbirth and can also aid in the development of a birth plans.
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Assistance in Birth Plan Development
A birth plan is a formal or informal plan that guides a woman’s preferences during labor and delivery.
Prenatal education offers assistance in birth plan development by helping to inform women of the different options that are available to them, helping them to explore the wide range of possible scenarios that can occur during childbirth.
For example, a woman may prefer to avoid using medications for pain control during labor, and will want to stick to lamaze and other techniques, just as some women prefer to go to a birthing center over a traditional labor ward.
After taking prenatal education classes, a mother may feel comfortable enough in her own knowledge that she would be willing to take medications under certain circumstances based on her own pain tolerance or health care provider recommendations.
That same woman may be willing to also be open to a hospital delivery if the situation arised where she wouldn’t be able to get to her birthing center of choice.
Birth plans can be helpful because they are created when parents have plenty of time to think through different scenarios instead of on the fly at the hospital.
Prenatal education classes can help parents put together the birth plan that suits them best.
Improved Understanding of Infant Safety Measures
The life of an infant is incredibly fragile. While some first-time parents think of prenatal education sessions as covering only pregnancy, labor, and delivery, many prenatal education classes also provide information on infant first aid, newborn care, and potential hazards to newborns.
For example, infant CPR is often taught as a component of a well-rounded prenatal education program.
New parents naturally worry about the health and safety of their baby.
Prenatal education classes can be helpful in providing information about normal issues that can affect newborns, how to care for them, as well as warning signs or symptoms that indicate a trip to the pediatrician is warranted.
Classes will also usually talk about immunizations and vaccines, proper diapering and bathing techniques, car seat safety, and more infant care topics.
Prenatal education classes will also discuss Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SUID and SIDS.
Approximately 3,400 infants in the United States die suddenly and unexpectedly each year, often during sleep or in a sleeping area.
Prenatal education courses cover safe sleeping practices and other ways to reduce a child’s risk of suffering from SUID or SIDS.
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Increased Success With Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding might be natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Many new mothers struggle with breastfeeding their newborns, which can be a frustrating and discouraging experience.
Prenatal education classes provide information about the importance of breastfeeding as well tips for positioning, latching, and feeding.
Breastfeeding education also covers information on how much milk your baby needs based on their age, and how many wet or dirty diapers parents should expect in a 24-hour period.
Breastfeeding isn’t right or even possible for everyone.
In addition to teaching parents about breastfeeding, prenatal education classes also cover other options for feeding babies who may have difficulty latching, cannot obtain enough milk from the mother alone, or have allergies that require formula feeding.
There is also the possibility of combo feeding, which has grown increasingly popular thanks to the versatility and flexibility it can offer in the feeding schedule.
Improved Chance of Healthy Pregnancy
If you have never been pregnant, you may not be aware of the wide range of guidelines for a healthy pregnancy. In addition to commonly known requirements such as avoiding alcohol and drug use, pregnant women also should not smoke, eat soft cheese, consume deli meats or sushi, and more.
Prenatal education classes provide information on all of the things pregnant women should and should not eat and do in order to have a healthy pregnancy, and support a healthy labor and delivery.
Without prenatal education classes, pregnant women may engage in unintentionally risky behaviors that have the potential to harm themselves or their unborn child.
Even some sushi or an iced coffee can be harmful, and these words of wisdom are usually left to be passed down by a friend or family member — prenatal education can help ensure this info isn’t missed.
Improved Understanding of Postpartum Changes
The first three months after childbirth is often called the “fourth trimester” because of the many changes a woman’s body undergoes after giving birth and becoming a new mother.
Prenatal education classes provide healthcare information and info about what is and is not normal during this period of time.
Many women experience considerable hormonal shifts that can contribute to postpartum mental health issues, a struggle with redefining roles as a mother and partner, and difficulty managing the pain, exhaustion, and other discomforts that can often follow childbirth.
Prenatal education classes provide expectant parents with the resources they need for a successful first few months of parenting.
The Bottom Line
Childbirth education classes and other forms of prenatal education can provide parents-to-be with the resources they need to successfully navigate pregnancy, the birth experience, and normal child health and development.
These health education classes are linked to improved confidence, healthier pregnancies, reduced likelihood of a cesarean section delivery, and more.
References and Sources:
SIDS – Parents and Caregivers | CDC
Class is in session: The many benefits of prenatal education | UTSouthwestern Medical Center
How to Perform Child and Baby CPR | Red Cross
Bridget Reed is a Tampa-based content development manager, writer, and editor at GR0; specializing in content related to varying fields including medicine, health, and small businesses. Bridget went to St. Petersburg College and majored in Management and Organizational Leadership.
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