Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Ottawa Hospital Cancels Prenatal Classes

So as you may have already heard from Facebook and other social media, The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) has announced plans to cancel their entire prenatal education program:

The Ottawa Citizen
CBC Ottawa

For months, rumours have been circulating throughout the community that the classes would be cancelled by September 2012. A group of community organizations with a keen interest in childbirth education got together, with the intent to draft a letter of inquiry to TOH.

Before we could send our letter, prenatal instructors at TOH received a curt letter from hospital staff, informing them that classes were indeed to be cancelled, and that their services were no longer required. Our group quickly realized we needed to do something other than just a letter, and we sent out a press release first thing Monday morning. Which resulted in my phone ringing off the hook for about 5 hours.

But this was good! We now had people's attention, and would hopefully get an official response out of TOH.

Despite the helpfulness of the media, there are still a number of issues that need to be addressed and things that the community needs to understand. Please keep in mind, any opinions I give here are my own. I'm not writing this on behalf of any community partners. So don't blame them if I say something stupid.

1) Get Your Stats Right: several of our (extremely smart, talented) doulas/educators have pointed out that TOH's stats are flawed (or rather, they have been reported in a way to sway the public to see their side of the argument). They claim that about 10% of couples - 600 or so - take prenatal classes. However, they didn't point out that over 40% of birthing women at the hospital are first-time mothers, and that the classes are geared to these women - about 2560 or so. Therefore, 600/2560 is actually 23% - this is close to the Ontario average of 28% of couples who partake in prenatal classes.

2) Duplication: Ann Mitchell claims they are cancelling classes because they "did not want to duplicate a service that was already being provided in the community." How, exactly, are our classes a duplication? We offer education from a wide variety of perspectives. Yes, some of our classes are very similar in content to those at TOH, but not all. And many women want to take classes at the hospital - where they will be giving birth, and where they feel safest. 

3) Books and YouTube are acceptable forms of education: um, NO!! If you think reading some books and watching a few videos on youtube will prepare you for birth, you are in a sad state. I would love to be the fly on the wall at the hospital when you show up at triage - chances are, you will be sent home multiple times (because you don't recognize the signs of active labour), you will receive more interventions (because you don't know about the alternatives or the risks/benefits of these procedures), you will have trouble breastfeeding (because, ya know, apparently this just comes naturally to us), and you may have a higher risk of postpartum depression (because your expectations of parenthood are being shaped by popular movies and television)

4) The City of Ottawa provides great classes (ahem): I almost choked on my coffee this morning when I saw a comment from someone describing these classes as "great." First of all, the City classes are run by Ottawa Public Health. Their primary goal is to spout all the health and safety information they live and breathe by - don't smoke, don't drink, don't do drugs, don't sleep with multiple partners during pregnancy (what???), and don't, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, sleep in the same bed with your baby. You might as well just throw your bundle of joy out the window if you plan to do that!! [My apologies to Public Health Nurses - you truly did help me out by doing home visits after I had my daughter. But in terms of preparing couples for labour and birth? I think they'd be best to stick to public health issues].

5) People are losing their jobs: In the Ottawa Citizen article, Mitchell claimed that "the program...[is] taught by nurses and social workers outside of their regular hospital duties. For that reason, no staff would lose their jobs once the program ended..." This is false information. Most of the prenatal educators at TOH are private instructors, and WILL be losing their jobs. The coordinator of the program, who has been there for 20 years, is also losing her job.

I'm sure there were other claims made that require clarification, but these are the few that have been brought to my attention.

My wish is for ALL expectant parents in the Ottawa area to have access to classes they want and need. The City of Ottawa classes may be beneficial to you if you are looking for more of a "prenatal health" program.

For couples hoping to get a comprehensive class that encourages women/partners to learn about all the options and make informed choices, check out the Ottawa Childbirth Education Association or Mothercraft Ottawa. Strapped for time? No worries, Birthcare offers a 1-day condensed course! Need all the help you can get because you're hoping for a natural or home birth? Try some of the alternatives, such as Birthing from Within, Nesting in Ottawa or Lamaze.

Have I missed any? Who did you take your classes with, and what was your experience?


  1. Yes, Birth to Breastfeeding has been offering excellent quality classes in the Ottawa area since 2009, and parents & midwives continue to give them a huge thumbs up. Taught by an experienced educator and mother of seven naturally-birthed and breastfed babies.

    1. Thanks Lorraine! What would you say your "philosophy" is for your classes?

    2. I am professionally trained through CAPPA Canada with separate training in childbirth education and lactation education, and their philosophy is publicly available on their website. I also have additional training from Mohawk College's RN program in breastfeeding challenges, and leadership training specifically in women's health, plus an assortment of continuing, current education on a regular basis (midwifery conferences, etc).

      I support women in however they choose to birth by providing them with evidence-based information and resources to help them make informed choices about their care and options. I personally believe in the birth process and effectively convey this to parents and help them to build confidence in their skills, with lots of hands-on tools. With a background in healthcare, biochemistry, and several high-risk pregnancies myself (home & hospital births), I also express a great deal of respect for the medical community who is there to help when rare, true emergencies arise. Although I may be perceived as "new" in the community with my new location at Maternity Essentials (.ca), I have in fact been teaching privately for a few years in Ottawa (and group classes at The Early Years Centre, Cornwall), as well as having birth-related care personally in the General campus over 17 years ago, to my most recent birth of my youngest child 2 years ago at the Civic campus. Beginning over 18 years ago, I have also supported other women through natural, medicated and caesarean birth on occasion. I am very proud of the excellent feedback I consistently receive on class evaluations and later postpartum responses from parents, and always strive to improve the product I deliver. You may also have heard of the Ottawa mother who recently had her fourth baby, a VBA3C (vaginal birth after 3 caesareans). I am thrilled to say that I provided the prenatal education in her journey to success.

      Sorry it's so long, but it seemed necessary to fill in some gaps. Thanks :)

    3. I support women & families in their birth choices by providing evidence-based information and resources, hands-on, useful skills for labour, birth and breastfeeding. Thanks :)

  2. I would have to agree with you regarding the comments about Ottawa Public Health's prenatal classes. I found the classes to be a bit boring and had little to no focus on the whole birthing process/what happens after. As you said it was very much "don't do this, don't do that". Now, because I'm interested in this stuff, I felt like I didn't need lots more info - but my husband sure did! I had to explain so many more things about labour and delivery (I still do actually)

    1. I think their classes do have a place, and are suitable for certain people. However, I wonder whether they should even be advertised as childbirth classes, as they don't really cover much at all when it comes to labour/birth. Perhaps reframing their classes as "prenatal health program" would be better.

    2. No, I don't think that those classes were 'childbirth' classes at all. Prenatal Health Program would definitely be a better title! The childbirth portion of the class was only half of one class (and there were 6 classes I believe?)

  3. Great post and great info Misty! A coiple more courses - Healthy Beginnings teaches the Bradley method and Journey Into Life teaches the Hypnobirthing method.

    1. thank you!! I'm going to highlight the ones I've missed in my next post :)

  4. I don't see how not offering as many educational opportunities for parents-to-be will lower c-section rates, which is supposed to be what all the hospitals are focusing on. How can parents avoid unnecessary medical intervention if they aren't taught about all their choices.

  5. Thanks a lot for the link to our Birthing From Within classes. We love teaching and look forward to working with many more wonderful moms and dads!

    I am sorry that expectant parents who want to have classes at the hospital where they will give birth will not have that option. I hope that all parents find the classes that suit their needs!


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