When she was pregnant with her first child, Sarah Lavery thought she knew everything she needed to know. As a nurse, she didn’t think there was much more she could learn. However, taking a childbirth education class through her hospital with her husband taught her a lot. Now, as a mom of four, Lavery, a prenatal education coordinator at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and a labor and delivery nurse, encourages all mothers to explore prenatal classes.
“I would suggest that everyone who can take the classes, does. I was a nurse and I didn’t think I was taking the class for myself. I thought I was taking it for my husband, but I learned so much,” says Lavery. “Most people think babies just pop out and breastfeeding is a magnet and babies just go right to it, but it doesn’t always happen that way.”
Like many local hospitals, Henry Ford West Bloomfield offers classes such as breastfeeding classes, infant care, childbirth and pain coping strategies, infant CPR and also a sibling preparation class for kids who are becoming big brothers or sisters.
In the childbirth classes, Lavery says she covers breathing techniques and changing positions, and participants watch a stages of labor movie. She also covers issues that may come up. Lavery says every delivery is different – sometimes things go smoothly and sometimes complications arise.
“The best thing to do in medicine is to be proactive. In this case, the prenatal education classes can help,” Lavery says.
Some of the classes continue to meet once the baby is born. For example, the breastfeeding class at Henry Ford gives mothers information and tips before the baby arrives and also welcomes them back once the baby is born to get advice on latching, holds and techniques. Working mothers can also ask questions about how to handle breastfeeding once they return to their jobs.
“Most of the people that come to our classes are first-time parents, but we also have some couples where one is a first-time parent and the other has been through it before,” says Lavery. “We try to alleviate a lot of anxiety and nervousness by providing the parents with general knowledge about how to have a baby and how to care for a baby.”
The nervousness can extend to future siblings as well. As families prepare to welcome a new baby, Lavery says older siblings might be worried about their role. Through a sibling workshop, brothers and sisters ages 2-8 can learn about caring for the new sibling and even about dangers, such as small toys, that can harm their new sibling.
Lavery recommends women take the classes in their second trimester. She says between 24 and 34 week is the ideal time because moms aren’t feeling tired or sick as they might in early pregnancy and they aren’t uncomfortable sitting for the classes. However, she says that she has seen mothers take the classes all the way to 38 weeks.
At Henry Ford West Bloomfield, most HAP and Medicaid plans cover the childbirth education classes. Lavery says the classes are affordable ranging from $25 to $65 per class. Specialty classes taken away from the hospital can cost more.
“There are a few instructors that lead the classes at Henry Ford West Bloomfield. We try to make the classes fun and interesting. When you are in labor, it’s also comforting to have the skills and knowledge to know what’s going on and make informed decisions,” says Lavery.
For information on prenatal classes, talk to your obstetrician or call your selected hospital. Many also offer lists of available classes on their websites.