Sunday, November 19, 2006

Labour Epidurals and Childbirth Education Classes

(Originally posted 6 September 2000 on About Anesthesiology)


As an anesthesiologist, much of my involvement with pregnant and laboring women involves the placement of epidurals for the relief of pain during labor. I believe that epidurals and other anesthetic techniques provide effective methods of pain control for labor and that they are relatively safe for most people. However, I also believe in two other important concepts:

1. Everyone is different: As a result, I don't think that everyone should have an epidural. There are many, many options for pain relief that exist. Each person will have to decide which of these is the one that will be best for them. Some of these methods involve medications, some do not. Some involve procedures such as an epidural placed by an anesthesiologist, some do not. As with anything, there are risks and benefits to every choice. There is certainly an appropriate role for epidurals in labor - but it is important to identify them as only one option.

2. Informed consent is important:

What this means is that a fully informed patient is better than an uninformed one. Someone who has had a chance to think about all the options, risks, benefits, etc. and to make an informed choice will be more satisfied with their situation and medical care than someone who has not gone through this process. In addition, I firmly believe that this is the proper way to practice medicine.


A direct result of my experience and my beliefs expressed above is that I feel Childbirth Education (CBE) Classes are of great value to every pregnant woman. I participate in teaching these classes at the hospital where I work because of how important I believe they are. I recommend that every woman who is pregnant take the opportunity to attend a CBE class.
There are many different types of classes with many different philosophies of teaching and focus. I'll leave the details of how to choose the right class to the people who do Childbirth Education professionally. However, for those of you that don't know what Childbirth Education is, let me briefly summarize common themes of what you'll learn:

You'll learn about the normal birth process including the physical changes that will occur to your body as well as what to expect during labor.

You'll learn coping mechanisms for discomfort, pain, etc. These might include breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, distraction techniques, and more.

You and your partner will learn about labor coaching.

You'll learn about nutrition and exercise during pregnancy.

You'll get answers to a lot of questions that you might never have even thought about!

In addition to these things, the process of childbirth education acknowledges and affirms that the mental, emotional and social aspects of pregnancy and birth are just as important as the physical aspects. It helps the father get more involved in the process of pregnancy, gives you a chance to meet other couples that are expecting and allows you a comfortable setting to ask questions that you might be too embarrassed to ask your doctor.

Now, let me address an important issue...
I want an epidural - not a class! >Page 1, 2, 3

email: © 2002-2005 by Paul H. Ting and

To register for Childbirth Classes in Saskatoon contact your local health region or see the Services and Workshops page of our website: and look for Labour Intensive Birth Support Skills Workshop for expectant families.

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