Frequently asked questions
*A big thank you to mindful birthing.org for allowing us to publish this here.
In addition to teaching mindfulness practice, what topics are covered for childbirth education?
The topics are the same as those usually covered in childbirth preparation classes, such as the physiology of labor, positions for birthing, and breastfeeding. We also spend considerable time learning to engage the mind to work with pain, so that participants are prepared to use all their inner resources in labor, regardless of how their particular birth experience unfolds.
How much meditation do we do?
We learn a number of meditation practices, including yoga, and practice them at each class meeting. This childbirth preparation course is unique in that people who choose to enroll make a commitment to practice at home with meditation CDs. The true learning comes through one’s own experiences with the meditation practices. Taking this course is challenging–but not as challenging as birthing and raising a child! Learning to rise to challenges is good preparation for birthing and parenting.
Does my partner learn the meditation practices too?
Yes. Partners are invited to learn the practice of mindfulness too. Partners are going through their own stresses in the process of becoming a parent and the practice of mindfulness can be of great benefit for them. Partners learn ways to be supportive of the mothers during labor and also discover how living in the present moment can help them in many aspects of work and family life. Many partners say that though their original purpose in taking the course was to learn how to support their partner, they also learned something extremely valuable for themselves. Often they are surprised and delighted to find themselves quite calm during labor and feel deeply satisfied that they were able to be truly helpful and present at their baby’s’ birth.
What if my partner or I have to miss a class?
Occasionally someone has to miss a class because of travel, illness or unexpected circumstances. As long as participants continue to practice at home, learning whatever the rest of the class is learning that week, there is no problem. We often talk by phone with people who miss a class so we can discuss how their practice is going and review what was covered in the class they missed.
I have to miss the all-day session. Should I not take the course?
Even if you are unable to come to the all-day session, or can only come for half of the day, we would still encourage you to take the course. The all-day session is a wonderful opportunity to deepen your mindfulness practice but even if you can’t come you can still get much benefit from coming to the weekly classes.
Can I come to the course by myself?
Absolutely. Pregnant women are very welcome to take the course on their own; those who do have done so have found it very helpful. If you have a partner and they are unable to attend the full course, I encourage them to attend the Introductory Session if possible. This session provides some understanding of what we will be learning and what you will be practicing at home.
Can I come with someone other than my partner, such as a friend or family member?
Yes. Mindfulness can be of benefit to everyone. As long as the friend or family member wants to participate fully in the course and will practice at home with the CDs, they are most welcome. Pregnant women have attended the course with a doula, a sister or a close friend.
Is this class mainly for people who want a “natural” childbirth?
No. This is a course for people interested in learning mindfulness for childbirth and parenting. Mindfulness offers benefits to everyone, regardless of one’s intentions regarding pain medication during childbirth. The truth is, no one can know ahead of time how the childbirth experience will unfold. It may very well be that using pain medication is a totally appropriate choice for a particular individual in a particular situation at a particular time. There is no one “right” way to birth a baby. Each of us must find our own way to birth, in the moment, according to the situation as it is. However, course participants often say that they experience a tremendous increase in confidence in their capacity to give birth. This confidence deeply impacts their choices around the use of pain medication.
I plan on birthing in a hospital. Is this the class for me?
People who take this course choose a variety of birth settings—hospitals, homes and birth centers. Although where you choose to have your baby is very important, knowing how to access deep inner resources to work with the experience of childbirth moment-by-moment is a skill that can truly bring great benefit, regardless of where you are choosing to birth.
Because of my situation I know I am going to have a Cesarean birth. Would this class still be appropriate for me?
Yes. A Cesarean birth is your experience of giving birth to your baby. It is an experience that you can be very much present for, fully welcoming your baby into this world. It is not unusual for women to have some post surgical pain after a Cesarean birth. The mindfulness practices can be very helpful for working with the pain, for enhancing your healing process postpartum, for breastfeeding and for the challenges of parenting.
When in my pregnancy should I take the class?
Most people take the course toward the end of their pregnancy. However, some people may want to start their meditation practice much earlier. These include people who simply seek the benefits of a meditation practice throughout their pregnancy, or who have a meditation practice and find it easier to maintain it in a group context, or who have lot of fear around childbirth, or who are experiencing a pregnancy complicated by other health factors, or are challenged by other stresses in their lives at home or at work. As many studies show, stress can be a contributing factor in a number of difficult pregnancy conditions, such as preterm labor or low birth weight. Those who want to begin mindfulness practice earlier are welcome to start the course at any point in their pregnancy.
How is this course different from Hypnobirthing and other mind-body approaches?
There are many ways to use the mind in childbirth, and hypnosis is certainly one of them. Throughout the 1980’s, Nancy taught couples self-hypnosis for working with the pain of childbirth and knows it has a certain effectiveness. Although the practices we learn in the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting course definitely teach us how to work with pain during birth, we can learn so much more. Mindfulness is about learning how to live fully in each moment. Through mindfulness we wake up to our lives as we live them, becoming more aware of our automatic reactions to life around us. We learn how we might make different choices, responding to the moments of our lives with greater clarity, kindness, patience and wisdom rather than automatically reacting to how things are. This is a life skill, one that we can call on not only for birth but as we parent. So much of parenting requires us to work with our children in the present moment, just as they are. The course prepares us for parenting and for living the birthing experience and life right now in all its fullness. As Nancy often says, “When your two year old is having a melt-down in the supermarket because you won’t buy him/her the candy bar at the check-out stand, you don’t need hypnosis, you need mindfulness!”
I took a childbirth class for my first birth experience and the birth was fine. Won’t this course just be a repeat of things I already know?
Unless you already have a mindfulness practice, this course will not be a repeat of what you already learned. Rather, you probably will learn something quite new and helpful in the challenges of parenting two children. For those who already have a mindfulness practice, it is an opportunity to deepen an understanding of living with awareness and discover how to bring mindfulness practice to pregnancy and childbirth.
Another benefit for those who have previously given birth is that the course provides a way for a couple to spend time together as a couple learning something new, and focusing on the birth of their next child. Often we are so busy with our lives, taking care of our other child or children that we barely have time to focus on the miracle of the new child that is about to enter our family. Having a once a week “date” is often just what a couple needs to prepare for their expanding family. Another unexpected benefit commonly reported by couples who have other children is that the mindfulness practice greatly improves their relationship with each other and with their other child or children.
I had a very difficult birth experience with my first baby. I am looking for something that will help me have a different kind of experience with my next baby. Do you think the course will help me?
Those who have taken the class for a second (or third) birth experience have reported very positive results. By learning how to be in the present moment as it is happening, it becomes increasingly clear that the previous birth experience is simply a memory. Through practice, we are able to recognize memories as they arise, and come back to this moment, to this birth experience, right now. In fact, every moment is new; every experience is different. It is impossible to have a repeat of a previous birth experience. While we may understand this intellectually, it is only through practice that we can understand it experientially. The course can help us to be fully present for a totally new birth experience—and a totally new baby!
Why do you have a class after the birth?
The class after the birth is a time to meet each other again, to meet the new babies, and to share birth experiences. The after-birth or reunion class also gives participants an opportunity to reflect on what their birth experience taught them and how they are continuing to use their mindfulness practice to meet the joys and challenges of parenting their newborn.
In addition, people often feel quite connected and caring about one another as a result of sharing time and learning and practicing mindfulness together. They have formed friendships that last well beyond the childbirth course. Some mothers have formed new mother’s groups from the women they met in the course. Others have continued to meet as a parent group, providing support, friendship and community as they move through their parenting journey together.
What if I can’t find an MBCP class nearby?
If no one offers an MBCP course in your area, we recommend signing up for an MBSR course and using Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond as well as the accompanying 2-disc CD set as your course materials. If MBSR is not available in your area, consider hosting your own practice group with other expectant parents in your community.