We want to promote positive birth regardless of mode. Our antenatal class, The Real Birth Workshop, can help to empower pregnant women and their birth partners during the time leading up to birth and dramatically reduce the fear that women can feel at the prospect of having a baby. We help women and their partners, understand the physiology of birth, this understanding can lead to feeling more relaxed about birth overall.

Feeling more relaxed in labour can help women have a more comfortable birth. Evidence shows that women who feel knowledgeable about the process of birth and have a calm labour, reports a positive birth experience.

It can though, have a lot to do with the way this information is discussed. Lots of antenatal classes are based on a foundation of information sharing about labour, that reconfirms our negative thoughts.

Like a Rainbow cake.

The baser layer, the first and important layer, this layer forms the foundation of which all the other layers sit on. This is deep in our subconscious. It’s the layer that we grew up hearing about, the layer in which the rest of our opinions have the opportunity to be moulded into.

The next layers, our schooling and college years. The years that we took those early stories and started to build on them in various ways. Watching TV, reading magazines, sex education in class, personal experiences of all varieties as we start to explore our world. Here we work in laying the foundation that continues to support the structure. Our subconscious soaking in all the details and strengthening our beliefs.

We continue to construct our cake, layering up more negative stories about birth, more births portrayed as manic and stressful, leaving their imprint in our minds. Perhaps we had some bad experiences of our own, perhaps our friends did. Building a taller and stronger cake, not really thinking anything of it at the time as it may not be relevant. But, always taking it in.

The next layer, our own pregnancy. Here in this layer, we may start off feeling excited with a mixed sense of insecurity or nervousness. We may also not feel that way at all. None of these are wrong. Our brains, the problem-solving organs that they are, starts to look for what it knows about pregnancy, what it can do to prepare. It does not have to go far! This pregnancy is built right on top of lots of information about pregnancy and birth.

Leaving us with the final layer, antenatal information. Information that for many people will be reconfirming all the information that women and their partners have collected over the years. Have you ever heard a lady say, that class just told me what I already knew?

Conversations about pain, or coping mechanisms. Confirming information that is passed across by an expert. Evidence based information that has mainly derived from the medical model of birth. Interesting thoughts!

So how do we address this! We address this by considering the psychological factors that can affect the way we feel about birth. We help our teachers do the same with the women and partners that they teach. We simplify the mechanism of labour, surely if we know how birth unfolds, then women should too. We explain the why. When we know ‘why’, we can let our brains figure out ‘how’. With new information, positive information.

This information DOES and HAS helped so many women in birth. An antenatal class is not going to prevent a true reason for needing assistance in birth, but it WILL help women make choices and be present in their own births. Helping them in the postnatal period to, which is another conversation.

Zoe Wright, Midwife and Founder, The Real Birth Company