Local experts collaborate to offer virtual childbirth classes
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A group of local childbirth experts are collaborating to offer a four-week session of virtual classes, covering everything from “bump to birth to bringing home baby,” according to Wallie Morris, a doctor of physical therapy and pelvic floor physical therapist.
And a lot of the content is mom-focused, Morris said, including how to help moms feel more confident and more empowered.
The first class will be available May 11 and will start with a recording by one or more of the four participating instructors. Later in the week, a Zoom session will be held for participants to ask questions and connect with other pregnant families.
Morris said the classes were launched after in-person childbirth classes at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs were canceled because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“A lot of us made our first mom friends in childbirth education classes,” Morris noted.
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The classes also give mothers a chance to connect to additional resources and expertise amid the environment of isolation.
“We are not at all trying to replace medical advice,” emphasized Alethea Stone, a labor and delivery nurse with nearly two decades of experience.
But they are hoping to replace the sense of community and access to evidence-based educational material, Stone said.
At the hosptial, the UCHealth Birth Center continues to deliver babies in a safe environment, noted UCHealth Communications Specialist Lindsey Reznicek.
“The hospital continues to provide expectant mothers with educational materials related to childbirth,” Reznicek said, with some virtual classes available.
One of the biggest challenges has been the limitation of visitors, she said, as only one support person is allowed per laboring mother. But, like in everything else right now, they’ve been utilizing a multitude of digital connectivity options, Reznicek said, which allow extended family members to meet their newest family members in a safe manner.
And the hospital has recently created a midwifery program, with two new certified nurse midwifes on the staff.
The virtual childbirth classes are not associated with UCHealth.
Morris’s area of expertise — the anatomy of pregnancy and the pelvic floor — will be presented in the first class.
She helps expecting mothers understand what happens to the body during pregnancy and how to prepare the pelvic floor for labor and delivery.
The goal is to empower women, so they know what to expect, Morris said, and to teach women to have a better connection to the parts of their body involved in labor and delivery.
“It can make a physical difference for the mom,” she said, in terms of things like reducing tearing and speeding up the recovery process.
Morris helps women understand what it feels like when those muscles are contracted and when they are relaxed.
“It can make a big difference in how the baby is delivered and the postpartum healing,” she said.
Stone’s expertise combines medical content on the stages of labor with helping women emotionally prepare for birth.
Her goal, Stone said, is to help women develop coping strategies so fear and anxiety don’t get in the way of the physical process of labor.
“If you enter labor from a place of anxiety and fear, your own body is working against what you physiologically need to accomplish,” Stone said.
She gives moms and their partners knowledge and tools on how to get out of the way and let the body do what it needs to do.
For partners, Stone gives the example of telling dads not to ask their laboring wives if they want a sip of water but rather to put a pitcher up to their partner’s mouth and offer the water.
The more language used, Stone said, the more moms can get stuck in their head when they need to let go of the prefrontal cortex and be fully immersed in labor land.
Simple things like that, she said, that can make a big difference.
Coping skills also make a big difference when things don’t go as planned. Stone helps women understand what questions to ask, their power of consent and choice, the next best options when things don’t go as planned and how to stay actively involved in the decision-making process.
Stone draws on her own experience — from a vaginal, unmedicated birth with her first child to a caesarean section with her twins — that she said has given her a well rounded perspective in helping mothers navigate the unique pathways of birth.
“We have to be prepared for many difference outcomes,” she said.
Teaching with certified birth doula Lauren Janoski, the second and third sessions cover the stages of labor, comfort measures and coping practices, partner support, preparing emotionally for birth, possible interventions, cesarean and vaginal birth options, among other topics.
The fourth session is taught by doula and lactation counselor Michelle Dockins and covers breastfeeding and early postpartum care.
Morris said she hopes the virtual offerings continue well past the pandemic as an option for mothers who aren’t always able to make it childbirth classes, depending on their schedules and where they live. The cost of the four sessions is $80, and moms can register at eventbrite.com/e/virtual-childbirth-education-tickets-103713413612.
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There is also flexibility in the schedule, Morris said, in that if someone joins after the first class, they can go back and access the videos.
For more information from the UCHealth birth center, expectant mothers can call 970-871-2412.
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