After teaching childbirth education classes for 30 years, Elizabeth Ash has learned two essential things: Labor can be a pain. And pain management is better than ever.
Ash is the childbirth educator for UCHealth Memorial Hospital, where nearly 4,500 babies are born every year. Most of her students – 98 percent, she guesses – are first-time parents.
In the classes, “they learn the Lamaze skills of relaxation and breathing techniques. They learn the terminology used in the hospital. They learn what options are available to them and the pros and cons of each,” she said.”When their time to deliver
Besides learning basic skills such as breathing, positioning and relaxation to help labor progress rapidly, the students also learn how to be comfortable during early labor, especially at home.
“It’s perfectly safe to be at home in early labor,” Ash said, “and also to know when to go to the hospital.”
In class, they also talk about what typically goes on during labor and delivery, what techniques might be used, how they’re being used and how it benefits them and their health and their baby’s health, she said.
Many mothers-to-be – especially first-timers – are afraid.
“A lot of fear is based on lack of knowledge. I want to make sure that when they’re in labor, there are no surprises,” Ash said.
“One of my major goals is that they understand the process – although when you do enter the process, you never know exactly how it’s going to unfold.”
She believes the hospital labor-and-delivery staff excel at explaining to the patient what is happening, “but when you’re in labor, and if you have no knowledge beforehand, and if you’re frightened,” you don’t always hear or understand what you’re being told, she added.
“It’s better to get the information ahead of time. So if something does present itself, you are hearing it with understanding,” Ash said.
The process of childbirth is as old as time, but the most remarkable change in the process in recent years has been in pain management.
“It’s still not an easy process, but a little preparation and good pain management makes it less frightening and more rewarding,” Ash said.
As far as Ash can tell, the class “really helps the dads understand what is going on, too.”
The hospital staff has told her that they can always tell which patients have been in her classes.
Lauren and James Frohman took Ash’s class in April 2015 and it was so helpful, they took a private class from her again in April of this year to help them through back-to-back babies.
“I thought that she really gave us a lot of knowledge, and she gave me so much confidence. She was so calming and reassuring.”
When she had her first child, now 9, Frohman took a Lamaze class elsewhere “and it was horrible. It didn’t prepare me at all. But this class really, really helped. “
Ash’s guidance “made it much more manageable.”
Two successful deliveries with no complications later, she and husband James have two baby girls.
“I could have done it without the class,” she said, “but I wouldn’t want to.”
She encourages first-time moms and their partners to take the course, because “it helps you make good choices.”
And that’s what it’s all about, Ash said.
Ash started her career as a childbirth educator with an undergraduate degree in health science. She was teaching a prenatal exercise class at the hospital and the director at that time said he wanted to start teaching Lamaze classes at Memorial. He asked her if she would become certified to do that. She did, and she doesn’t plan to quit any time soon.
“I enjoy it. It’s a happy time in people’s lives. It’s adults, so they’re motivated. I’m now at the point where I’m getting a second generation. A patient told me the other day that her mom took classes from me.”
Childbirth classes taught by Ash are offered at Memorial Hospital Central in the rehabilitation gym and at Memorial Hospital North in the Pine Creek room. One-day classes are held Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at MHC and from 3 to 9:30 p.m. at MHN. Patients can take three consecutive evening classes from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Memorial Central on Mondays or Tuesdays. Classes cost $70 per couple. Participants can register online at HealthLink or call 444-CARE (2273), option 3, to register over the phone.