As anyone whom has taken my classes knows, I rarely tell people what they need or should do. In fact, in the vast majority of birth-related situations, that goes completely against the scope of both childbirth educators and doulas. However, I will tell you this. A doula does not take the place of a birth class. So if you feel you need a doula for support and education, then you also need a birth class.
1. A birth class provides you with free-flowing education - the facts, the research, the risks versus benefits, the information necessary for formulating your own birth priorities - while a doula helps support you in putting it all into action based on your own expectations/desires.
2. The training and certification of a birth doula is completely different than that of a childbirth educator. A birth doula actively trains in listening, non-judgmental support, and verbal and physical comfort techniques while childbirth educators train in dissecting research, providing unbiased evidence-based information, understanding medical interventions and procedures, hospital procedures and policies, and public health.
3. If budgeting for a birth class and a doula proves financially difficult, many birth professionals will be flexible with payment, either working out a payment plan, a barter, or a discounted rate. Keep in mind that discounted services are generally reserved for those with a true financial hardship.
4. Prenatal doula visits are a time for you and your doula to get to know one another, to build a plan for your communication in labor, and to relate your birth wishes to the role of your doula in labor. Childbirth classes are a time for you to learn the physiology of the process and have a basis for why things may be suggested in labor and why your doula may be encouraging you to ask questions of your provider.
5. A birth class will help you take greater advantage of the skills and encouragement offered by the presence of a doula - you will literally be able to express a desire for certain techniques, verbal affirmations, or positions, and know what questions you should be asking and why - because your knowledge base will be far broader and more comprehensive than without the education component.
We rarely have the responsibility in being both informed and confident when approaching such a transformational life event as we do in birth. The childbirth professional community, both locally and nationally, is vibrant and multi-faceted and has the potential to offer support in many ways, allowing you to build confidence and knowledge while being supported in putting it into practice.
For more info, check out these blog posts on the differing role of a childbirth educator and a doula:
Science and Sensibility
Giving Birth With Confidence
As the Philadelphia birth world blooms bigger and brighter, I think it's time I start putting some of the insightful questions I've received and information I've research into a public journal. I hope you'll find this inspiring, empowering, and totally enjoyable.