Welcome back to our series on the top 10 fears about childbirth that are addressed in a childbirth class! To view the whole list and links to the first articles, click here. Today, we're talking about the dreaded fear -- and very rare occurrence -- of making it to the hospital (or birth center) in time. In other words, not having a baby (unintentionally) at home or in the car. We've all seen the viral videos floating around in the last couple of years where mom has a baby in the passenger seat or out in front of the hospital building. While this rarely happens, even a few videos cause a stir of excitement -- and increased panic -- in expectant parents. In a childbirth class, you will learn how to stay home long enough so as not to arrive too early to the hospital, while making sure you give yourself enough time to avoid a roadside birth. Let's take a look.
The basics of labor - A good childbirth class will teach the basics of labor, which includes the different stages and phases of progression. Knowing typical signs of early and active labor vs. transition (the last phase before pushing) will help you understand and be able to assess your own experience and progress when it happens.
"Real labor" - Many educators avoid using the terms real/false labor -- every bit of action happening in your body is all part of gearing up to having a baby! That said, it helps to know if the contractions you're having mean that you're in labor or still warming up. Hint: contractions that grow longer, stronger, and closer together are the key.
Laboring at home - The revised guidelines for admittance into many hospitals is now 6cm dilation, which is the beginning of active labor (it used to be 4cm). Most people who are in labor and are at 6cm are actively working to cope through each contraction. This is different from the slight discomfort and small pauses with contractions that is typical of early labor. That said, if you're hoping not to arrive too early to your place of birth (which can help to avoid unnecessary interventions), you'll want to learn coping techniques for labor that you can use at home and on the car ride to the hospital or birth center. Childbirth classes teach you ways to cope with contractions, at home and in the hospital.
Consulting with professionals - The good news is that you don't have to figure this process out all on your own. A childbirth class talks about the importance of contacting your care provider -- OB or midwife -- and your doula while you're laboring at home. They can help you determine when you want to consider going or if you should stay.
Arriving too early - So what happens if you do arrive too early? Childbirth educators talk about options and strategies to avoid this, but it's not always possible. If you arrive too early (you're only dilated to 3cm, for example), there are options! You can 1) go back home, 2) arrive at your place of birth and labor in the lobby before you ask to be admitted (helpful if you live far away and want to play it safe) or 3) leave the hospital and grab a bite to eat or do a little shopping (in other words, kill time).
If you're looking to learn some basics about labor to boost your confidence, including coping techniques to use in early and active labor, Lamaze has an interactive, online FREE class called, "Labor Confidence with Lamaze." The class is part of the online classes suite from Lamaze, and teaches you six simple research-backed practices that help improve outcomes in birth.