Like many things that come with pregnancy after loss, childbirth education can be complicated. During your previous pregnancy, you might not have gotten to the point when it’s common to take a childbirth preparation course. Or maybe you did participate in a class, but your baby died even though you were prepared, and the thought of revisiting childbirth education feels, well, pointless.

childbirth preparation class - 3 tips for choosing a childbirth preparation class during your pregnancy after loss

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You may be wondering, “Should I take a childbirth education class?” or “Will a traditional course be full of triggers?” These are important points to consider. As with every pregnancy, including one after loss, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to questions about childbirth education. But we do have three tips for how to choose a childbirth preparation course during a pregnancy that follows a loss.

Research Your Options

Some of the common childbirth curricula are Lamaze, The Bradley Method, HypnoBirthing, and Birthing From Within. If you are planning a hospital birth, it’s likely that the hospital where you are delivering offers a childbirth education class[1]Childbirth Education Classes;” American Pregnancy Association; April 10, 2017; That might happen in large chunks over a weekend, or it could be spread out over a few weeks. Depending on your loss experience and your birth preferences, this traditional type of childbirth education might be a good fit for you.

However, many loss parents find that the hospital childbirth preparation courses are geared toward first-time expectant parents who are full of joy and know little or nothing about what could go wrong. While hospital courses do cover emergencies and loss, instructors typically cover those topics briefly, often leaving loss parents feeling isolated. Many loss parents also feel torn between wanting to share their stories and being afraid of scaring new parents.

If your goal is out-of-hospital birth, talk to your midwife about childbirth education options. Many birth centers offer courses, and even some home birth midwives teach a class as part of their practice. If your provider doesn’t offer an official course, discuss local options for childbirth education. You could also ask your doula, if you’re hiring one, for her recommendations.

Contact Individual Instructors

When you find a childbirth education curriculum and location that seems like a good fit for you, reach out to the instructor and let them know about your previous loss. Many childbirth educators are accustomed to holding space for loss families, and some even have special training when it comes to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death.

Here are some potential questions to ask a childbirth educator when you’re trying to determine if their class is right for you[2]“Childbirth Educators Share Tips on Dealing with Pregnancy & Infant Loss in Childbirth Classes” by Sharon Muza, BS, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA); Lamaze International; … Continue reading.

  • Is there a special section dedicated to loss, or is it weaved throughout the course? Then think about which you prefer. Some loss parents find it more manageable if there is just one part that specifically addresses loss. In this scenario, you might choose to excuse yourself from the room.
  • How in detail do you go into loss? Even if there’s only one portion of the course that addresses loss directly, keep in mind that hearing about some details of “normal” pregnancy and birth can still be triggering.
  • May I share my loss story with the group? Some instructors appreciate when loss parents share their experiences. It often helps foster a close-knit, supportive environment.

Explore Alternatives

Pregnancy after loss is a unique, complicated journey, so try not to be discouraged if the courses offered by your birthing facility or provider don’t seem right for you. You can create your own childbirth education experience. There are several alternative options that are worth researching.

Consider a Childbirth Refresher Course

This type of class is designed for parents having subsequent pregnancies, rather than first-time parents, and the instruction is usually more tailored to the individual class members’ needs.

Take an Online Class

There are many digital courses available that suit a variety of needs and birth preferences. An online class is also helpful if you’re looking for a self-paced option that allows you to read and learn on your own schedule.

Hire a Private Childbirth Educator

This could be in-person, virtual, or a combination, depending on the instructor and their location, and will provide a highly individualized curriculum. The downside is that hiring a private childbirth education may not be accessible and affordable for everyone.

Compile Your Own Resources

There are many excellent childbirth preparation books that are available. You might start by asking your prenatal care provider for recommendations and then research resources online.

Research Special Classes for Pregnancy After Loss

Studies show that parents experiencing pregnancy after loss have needs and views that differ from those who are pregnant for the first time[3]“Childbirth Education for Parents Experiencing Pregnancy after Perinatal Loss,” Patricia Moyle Wright, MSN, RN, Journal of Perinatal Education, 2005 Fall; 14(4): 9–15. … Continue reading. Many parents also have the desire to meet others who have encountered pregnancy loss, and a focused childbirth education course allows for connection and understanding. Do some online research and consider enrolling in a course specifically for pregnancy and birth after loss.

In addition, this type of focused education offers the potential for a different kind of support than a traditional childbirth course. This is because class members who have gone through similar losses relate to each other’s pain and can develop meaningful friendships. They also have unique needs during pregnancy after loss, including learning to cope with grief and managing stress and anxiety. A targeted program can help address those struggles.

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