Childbirth educators: those who can’t do, teach

A surprising number of childbirth websites are run or staffed by childbirth educators, which is rather surprising, since they entirely lack the education, training, and experience to provide scientifically accurate, unbiased information. It’s the equivalent of a civil war website run by the Daughters of the Confederacy. They may be passionate, but they are last people who you would expect to be knowledgeable about the details and unbiased in their transmission of information. But why bother any of that, when it is well known cliche that those who can’t do, teach.

Who are childbirth educators, and what makes them think they are qualified to advise other women?

There are no requirements for becoming a childbirth educator. According to prominent childbirth educator Robin Elise Weiss, who dispensse her personal views on childbirth at a variety of websites:

… [A]lmost anyone can become a childbirth educator (CBE). You do not need to be a nurse, a midwife, or a doula. You really need a more than basic level of knowledge of childbirth …

In fact, you only need 16 HOURS of childbirth education, including indoctrination is the ideology of the certifying organization. According to the International Childbirth Education Association, those 16 hours comprise:

Part I – Family-Centered Maternity Care (FCMC) and the Role of the Childbirth Educator
Part II – Anatomy&Physiology of Preconception, Conception and Pregnancy
Part III – Nutrition for the Childbearing Year and Infant Feeding
Part IV – Psychosocial/Emotional Changes in Pregnancy, Abuse Issues
Part V – Labor and Birth
Part VI – Labor Coping Skills
Part VII – Obstetrical Tests and Procedures
Part VIII – Cesarean Birth and Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC)
Part IX – Postpartum and the Newborn
Part X – Teaching Skills

In other words, less than 2 hours apiece are spent on the massive subjects of labor and birth, obstetrical tests, and C-section and VBAC. That would be fine if childbirth educators limited themselves to giving women basic familiarity with what is likely to happen during pregnancy and labor. Unfortunately, childbirth educators do not limit themselves to what they could reasonably do. Instead, they offer medical advice, criticize obstetric procedures, promote ideology above science, and proselytize for their personal preference. And for those tasks, they are entirely unqualified.

Childbirth education organizations are also like the Daughters of the Confederacy in that they make no effort to hide their bias. The ICEA calls its philosophy “Family Centered Care” which is a misnomer for the biological essentialism at the heart of their philosophy.

Family-centered care consists of an attitude rather than a protocol. It recognizes a vital life event rather than a medical procedure… It realizes that the decisions she may make are based on many influences of which the expertise of the professional is only one…

So childbirth educators promote a specific “attitude,” refuse to acknowledge the inherent dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, and seek to undermine the patient’s trust in her care providers. And all without any real education in anything!

That’s just generic childbirth educators. Women who are certified by specific organizations like Lamaze must subscribe to the beliefs of the Lamaze organization. Lamaze requires:

Competency 1: Promotes the childbearing experience as a normal, natural, and healthy process which profoundly affects women and their families.
Competency 2: Assists women and their families to discover and to use strategies to facilitate normal, natural, and healthy pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting.
Competency 3: Helps women and their families to understand how complications and interventions influence the normal course of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and early postpartum.
Competency 4: Provides information and support that encourages attachment between babies and their families.
Competency 5: Assists women and their families to make informed decisions for childbearing.
Competency 6: Acts as an advocate to promote, support, and protect natural, safe, and healthy birth.
Competency 7: Designs, teaches, and evaluates a course in Lamaze preparation that increases a woman’s confidence and ability to give birth.

No one could accuse them of keeping their biases secret, either. In addition to promoting “natural” birth (i.e. biological essentialism), they think they are supposed to promote breastfeeding and attachment parenting, and act in opposition to actual care providers when their personal view of childbirth is threatened.

We would be outraged if a school system in in the South insisted that as a a requirement for certification, history teachers promote state’s rights, and protect the belief that slavery wasn’t that bad. We should be equally outraged that the field of childbirth education has been hijacked by women who have no intention of providing unbiased information and view their job as explicitly favoring certain childbirth and mothering choices above others.

Childbirth educators seek to change obstetrical care to reflect their personal preferences, but they can’t do (change it from within by becoming a midwife or obstetrician), so they teach.