Lamaze Prepared Childbirth Classes

Who Needs Lamaze?
I’m getting an epidural!

by Carole M. Novak

More and more expectant mothers choose not to take Lamaze/Prepared Childbirth classes because they plan on epidural anesthesia for labor.

What they may not know is that choosing epidural anesthesia does not mean that it will be immediately available, or that it assures a pain-free birth experience. While epidural anesthesia is often available, there are a variety of situations when you may not get the epidural that you counted on. The baby’s response to the labor process may determine a change in plans or, your labor may proceed more rapidly than expected, making it too late in the labor process to administer an epidural. Also, the anesthesiologist may not be available at the optimal time to perform the procedure due to his/her responsibilities elsewhere in the hospital.

Epidural anesthesia is not given at the first sign of pain or the first contraction. There is some pain/discomfort associated with early labor before an epidural can be administered. For some women, this pain can be very intense and last for several hours. During administration, which usually takes about 20 minutes, you may be having contractions 2-5 minutes apart, yet must remain very still while the epidural catheter is placed in your back. For these reasons it is important to learn alternative coping techniques, such as those taught in Lamaze/Prepared Childbirth classes, to assist you until the epidural can take effect.

If you have chosen epidural anesthesia, hopefully you have made that decision based on all the information — the potential risks and side effects as well as the benefits. And where can you find this information? Childbirth classes!

Many expectant parents think of Lamaze as "that breathing stuff" and associate it with natural childbirth. Breathing and relaxation techniques are just one component of Lamaze/Prepared Childbirth classes. In addition to learning information and skills that will prepare you for your epidural, Lamaze/Prepared Childbirth classes will teach you how to distinguish true labor from false labor, when to come to the hospital, what to do when the water bag breaks, warning signs to watch for, as well as complete information on all medication options.

The classes can also prepare you for many interventions, often unanticipated, such as the use of pitocin, fetal monitoring, episiotomy, assisted delivery, and cesarean birth. Knowing what to expect and preparing for the unexpected reduces fear, increases understanding, and empowers the couple to make informed decisions about their birth experience.

Most life decisions are made carefully, after getting all the facts. Childbirth should be no exception. Lamaze/Prepared Childbirth classes will prepare you for your epidural and birth, and will provide you with tools and techniques you will use for life!

Editorial provided by Carole M. Novak, Manager of Women’s Health Education for Adventist Health System – Midwest Region, Illinois.