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Free Injoy Webinar: Secrets of a Postpartum Doula: Newborn Care and Soothing Techniques

November 14th, 2012 by avatar



Injoy Birth and Parenting Education is offering a free webinar titled “Secrets of a Postpartum Doula: Newborn Care and Soothing Techniques” taught by  Kimberly Bepler, IBCLC.

This webinar is scheduled for December 6, 2012, 1:30 pm (EST).  Some of the objectives of this webinar are to present:

  • The latest evidence in newborn care
  • Tips on teaching parents how to keep their babies happy and fulfill their innate needs
  • Ways educators can become more baby-friendly and promote breastfeeding, while still supporting parents and giving them the competence (and confidence) to do their best
  • New options for the care of infants

If you are a professional who works with expecting and new parents and their newborns in the classroom, or one on one, you may want to consider registering for this webinar event.  Learning effective methods of presenting evidence based information and interesting learning techniques is something that we all can brush oup on, no matter how long we have been working with new families.

Please consider joining the webinar and hearing what Kimberly will be sharing.

Click to to register and for more information. Please contact Injoy for all questions about this webinar.  Thank you.

Babies, Childbirth Education, Continuing Education, Infant Attachment, Newborns, Parenting an Infant, Webinars , , , , ,

Giveaway: DVD of Lamaze/InJoy Healthy Birth Your Way Videos

March 15th, 2010 by avatar

Last year, Lamaze International and InJoy Birth & Parenting Videos collaborated on the launch of InJoy’s new Mother’s Advocate site. The site offers free video clips and print materials that inform women on how to be active participants in their care to achieve safe, healthy, and satisfying birth experiences.

I’ve met many childbirth educators who love the videos and use them in their educational offerings. But educators who teach in settings without WiFi access (including many hospitals), cannot show web-based videos.

InJoy heard the feedback and now offers all seven videos on DVD. They’re charging customers only for the cost of packaging and shipment, $9.95.  (Remember, the videos themselves can be accessed freely at MothersAdvocate.org, Lamaze.org, or directly from YouTube.) You can see the product details and purchase a copy of the DVD at InJoyVideos.com.

This week we’re giving away a copy of the Healthy Birth Your Way DVD. There are three ways to enter:

1. leave a comment below, sharing something you like about the videos or tell us about how you have used them in your teaching.

2. Tweet or retweet a link to this giveaway (then leave a comment saying you did)

3. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook (then leave a comment saying you did)

Please leave separate comments for each of your entries.

You do not have to be a childbirth educator to enter. Leave all comments by Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 11:59pm. The winner will be announced by Tuesday, March 23.

Full Disclosure: I was paid a one-time consulting fee by InJoy to draft the content of the videos and accompanying print materials.

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Series: Welcoming All Families; Working with Women of Color – Educator Information

February 27th, 2014 by avatar

By Tamara Hawkins, RN, MSN, FNP, IBCLC, CHHC, LCCE

Today, contributor Tamara Hawkins, RN, MSN, FNP, IBCLC, CHHC, LCCE finishes her two part post series “Welcoming All Families; Working With Families of Color” with a fantastic post on evaluating how well your classes are meeting the needs of Women of Color and tips and information to create a space that welcomes and celebrates WOC and their families.  While, February is Black History Month, educators have a responsibility to offer classes that are inviting and appropriate for WOC all year long. Find Tamara’s first post here. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility. 

black mother and newborn

© David Blumenkrantz

Are your classes inviting and supportive for Women of Color? Or are WOC not your “target market”? I received a comment after sharing my post about Tuesday’s Welcoming All Families; Working with Women of Color blog post; “Sadly many of my (as you say) ‘women of color’ friends, associates and even just casual acquaintances have told me straight up ‘you don’t need to do all that!’,” referring to the belief that taking a childbirth class is not really a valuable or important part of preparing to have a baby for African American women. I believe that it will take more than a few focus groups to get to the bottom of why some WOC do not feel the need to take childbirth education. In today’s post, I would like to focus on childbirth educators! How can childbirth educators be sure their classes are appropriate and inviting to Women of Color?

Prior education experiences

The first thing childbirth educators have to be aware of is that people are more likely to connect with people of their own culture. An example of this; a vegan may be more likely to seek out health care from a provider who blogs about a vegan lifestyle. WOC and other ethnic communities will seek out education from a provider they can relate to culturally. At the least, the educator will have proven to be sensitive to their needs whether those needs are cultural, ethnic or economic. Vontress writes in the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, “Members of minority groups bring an experience of consciously having to negotiate and even survive educational treatment of invisibility or negative ultra-visibility,[ultra-visibility; being singled out or made to be the “token” Black person], lower expectations, stereotyping, hostility and even abuse.” If an expectant mother or her partner has ever had this type of experience, why would they want to sit in yet another class and perhaps have those same feelings brought up all over again? What if they are presently feeling dismissed, their concerns ignored and rushed with their health care provider? Childbirth educators have the responsibility to understand this and make our classes welcoming by using language and images that subconsciously allude to our support and equal treatment and understanding of families of color.

I am guilty of saying “the baby’s mouth and lips should look pink to indicate great oxygenation.” A WOC in class raised her hand and said, “Even brown babies?” I responded “Well, yes, especially a newborn.” Be mindful that WOC have babies of all color hues. Some babies may be dark when born and others may be very light. Darker hued mothers who have not been around newborns may not know to expect their newborn to look light skinned.  A culturally sensitive childbirth educator should mention this fact, so that all families can be prepared. During early pregnancy class, talk about how WOC may experience expansion of the areola and that yes even though they may have dark areolas to start, the areolas can get darker. In discussions about nutrition, talk about soul food cooked in a healthy flair. Remember that the standard American diet is not a one size fit all solution. The Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine mentions 70 percent of African Americans are lactose intolerant (compared with only 25 percent of whites) and may suffer from cramping, diarrhea, and bloating after eating dairy products. Encouraging a WOC to have cheese and yogurt to get calcium and added protein may not be the best advice. Offer alternatives that are appropriate for everyone.

Marketing and teaching materials

Next, evaluate your marketing materials. Have you placed images of women of color on your website, brochures, and social media pages? Do you keep up with the health disparities and concerns for women of color? Do the images on your classroom walls or your teaching posters represent a wide variety of ethnicities?

Review your teaching materials. Do you show birth and breastfeeding images of WOC? Are there images of WOC exercising, eating well, and asking questions of their care providers? In order to effect behaviorial change, one has to be able to envision oneself doing something similar. A great example is a commercial from fatherhood.gov. This videos features an African American dad learning cheerleading moves with his daughter with the grandmother listening and approving of the interaction in the background. AA women love this commercial because we remember performing the same type of cheers when we were young. This type of imaging will promote interest in fatherhood and also plant a seed in the minds of some men that it’s okay to spend daddy-daughter time, maybe even doing something fun or a little silly. The commercial would not be as effective if it showed a Caucasian father doing the same thing. There would be no connection. And if there is no connection, there is no assimilation, and therefore no change in behavior. When expecting parents can see themselves in the “role models” then they can see themselves emulating this behavior with their own children, or their own birth or breastfeeding experience.

Be ready to make change

Once your evaluation is complete, make some changes. There are not many sources to purchase ready made childbirth class images of women and families of color. Don’t hesitate to create your own. Look for images of AA couples on sites such as Shutterstock, Corbis Images , iStockphoto, or Fotosearch. Then use some creativity to create posters and images you can use! Or better yet, have a contest in your classes, asking them to create a poster. Invest in videos that show women of color birthing and breastfeeding. I use Injoy’s products in my classes as I find their videos do a good job representing multicultural families.

In Injoy’s “Miracle of Birth 4″ video, Natasha’s birth shows a biracial couple experiencing a birth supported with analgesia. In “Understanding Labor 2″ and the “Miracle of Birth 3,” Chelsea’s birth follows a young African American couple as they have an epidural birth with augmentation. Daniela’s birth follows a bi-lingual Spanish speaking couple as they have a cesarean birth. Injoy offers an option to purchase these videos individually which is great for a limited budget. The Baby Center has a video of Samiyyah‘s birth center birth which can be imbedded in PowerPoint presentations or played on a monitor. Unlike the well edited and discreet videos Injoy offers, this Baby Center video feels raw and uncut. Be prepared with Kleenex. This birth is a great lead in into discussing orgasmic birth, normal birth emotions, vocalization for pain relief and the fetal ejection reflex during pushing.

Language used when addressing health concerns of African American women is important. As an instructor, you don’t want to talk about pre-eclampsia and preterm birth in a manner that assumes that AA women should already know they are at higher risk for these diseases, but rather frame it as health care workers and researchers are uncovering higher rates of pre-term birth, diabetes, cesareans and lower rates of breastfeeding in the AA community. Presenting these subjects in this fashion, as an awareness among health care providers, may remove any feelings of guilt or negative self-consciousness for those who may not know the information ahead of attending class. Sources to find information related to women of color include Office of Minority Health, March of Dimes, Womenshealth.gov and Women’s Health Guide to Breastfeeding.

Create an event

Consider bringing in guest speakers to your class. Is there a WOC birth advocate in your area that has a large following? Collaborate with her to spread the word. Can you host a Twitter chat or Facebook party discussing your intent to serve the needs of WOC and clarifying the wants and needs of your birth community. Have WHO code compliant corporations donate products for a baby shower or a baby fair. Ideas for a fair may include a pediatric dentist who discusses the important of infant oral care. Bring in a safety expert who will discuss and demonstrate car seat safety and installation. Have a prenatal fitness expert and/or nutritional counselor to discuss food and the connection to gestational diabetes. A community midwife or OB can discuss the impact of lifestyle choices on the risks of developing pre-eclampsia, diabetes related to induction and cesarean births and low birth weight babies. Conclude the event with a game show set up like Family Feud with topics covering medical options, comfort techniques and support strategies for breastfeeding families. Having a fun event always draw crowds.

Offer tiered pricing

Are your classes accessible on an economic level? Do you accept insurance or have a sliding scale for families. The National Health Service Corp has a great resource on how to set-up a discount fee schedule. Is your practice set up to accept social service coupons or Medicaid for childbirth class subsidies such as what Washington State offers? The Kaiser Family Foundation reports 27 states out of 44 that responded to their Medicaid Coverage of Prenatal Services Survey offer coverage for childbirth education. Independent instructors will have to research their own state Medicaid offices for specific information on provider eligibility and reimbursement rates. When receiving reduced fees or subsidies, it may be tempted to schedule classes during the day. Please remember even people on Medicaid or WIC have jobs. Let’s respect that and offer flexible schedules for classes in the evening and on weekends.

Can you set up scholarships? Human Resources and Services Administration has several large grants available to serve the maternal child health community. The March of Dimes has scholarships available for grants reducing disparities in birth outcomes. The What to Expect Foundation has a new program to teach practices that build a healthy pregnancy. The wonderful Kellogg Foundation is another resource to tap into for help building a program to be inclusive and inviting to women of color.

Community connections

Do you have local resources so you can connect AA women to WOC birth workers that share their ethnicity and culture? Sista Midwife Productions has a resource list by state of birth workers of color. If we have to refer out to help a mother feel more comfortable and get what she needs rather than what we have to offer, that’s a win-win situation.

Educators need to learn from the clients they serve. We have to ask the community what information is important to WOC. The Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association can serve as a template to build networks that educate and support pregnant WOC. Invite mothers and fathers of color to lead groups for expectant parents. Groups can cover topics such as how to have conversations about birth options, cultural expectations of birthing mothers and parenting styles and ethnic cooking with a healthy spin and specific topics related to controlling or preventing gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, reducing cesarean birth and increasing breastfeeding success.

In order to attract WOC to our classes, educators need to become culturally sensitive and appropriate. Evaluations of our marketing and teaching materials are in order to ensure inclusion of AA women. Educators have to be up to date on the statistics and health facts and challenges facing AA families. Our hospitals, birthing centers, birth support groups and networks should brainstorm ways to fund and provide scholarships and/or grants to make classes economically feasible. Lastly, if we are serious about supporting all mothers and helping them to have a safe and healthy birth, let’s build and support local birth support groups.

Change can be challenging. Start with small goals. The first step is self-evaluation. What had been working and what can be improved? Share your resources? Where do you find images and videos that are welcoming to women of color and all ethnicities? After you have evaluated your program, come back and let me know what worked and did not work. If you need some help, please contact me. I’m excited to try some of these resources myself. I’ll keep you posted on my Facebook page.


Vontress, C. “A Personal Retrospective on Cross Cultural Counseling.” Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 1996, 24, 156-166

About Tamara Hawkins

tamara hawkins head shotTamara Hawkins, RN, MSN, FNP, IBCLC, CHHC, LCCE is the director of Stork and Cradle, Inc offering Prenatal Education and Breastfeeding Support. She graduated with a BSN from New York University and a MSN from SUNY Downstate Medical Center. She is a Family Nurse Practitioner and has worked with mothers and babies for the past 16 years at various NYC medical centers and the Elizabeth Seton Childbearing Center. Tamara has been certified to teach childbirth classes since 1999 and in 2004 became a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.  Follow Tamara on Twitter: @TamaraFNP_IBCLC

Babies, Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Infant Attachment, Newborns, Parenting an Infant, Series: Welcoming All Families , , , , ,

Review: Stages of Labor Third Edition: A Visual Guide DVD

January 7th, 2014 by avatar

SOL3_DVD-SThe Stages of Labor Third Edition: A Visual Guide has been a perennial favorite of childbirth educators for many, many years.  In fact, I clearly remember watching the Injoy precursor to this video in my own childbirth classes with my first daughter and she is almost 17 years old now.  The Stages of Labor video, first released in 1999, has always offered great animated visuals of what the mother’s body and her baby are doing during each phase and stage of labor.  I have been showing the second edition of this film to childbirth class families and doula trainees since it came out in 2006. Sidenote: I was probably not the only one happy to say good bye to funny first edition phrases  like “Roger, Roger, it doesn’t look like a baby!” and “We were interested in seeing what was coming down the pike.”

I was excited to be able to review the changes in this new third edition to see what had been updated and the information it contained.  My colleague, Penny Simkin, mentioned that she was delighted with some new material included on third and fourth stage information and I was very curious to see the updates.

Included with the 34 minute DVD is a downloadable Facilitator’s guide (that includes handouts appropriate for families) and a collection of digital posters.


As in previous editions, the DVD is divided up into sections that cover anatomy of pregnancy, pre-labor signs, onset of labor, as well as sections on the four (yes four!) stages of labor and birth.

At the beginning of the film, we meet four families who are ethnically diverse and include a partner-less mother who is supported by her family. One partner does not speak English, and his comments are translated into English sub-titles.  For the most part, the families look contemporary and current, one partner even has ear plugs/tunnels (some hip earring term that I am not sure of the name of!) in his ears and a hipster haircut!  The families share how excited they are to meet their babies.

The anatomy for pregnancy section quickly covers the organs and parts most likely to be discussed in childbirth classes.  I wish that the animated visuals included women with heads attached.  I find it disconcerting when images used in childbirth classes belong to faceless women.


Pre-labor is covered thoroughly and in a very positive way.  We are told that these contractions are warm up contractions, or pre-labor contractions and while a woman may not be in labor, they are normal and are helping to prepare her body and her baby for labor and may last for several weeks.  Women are told what to look out for in the case of preterm labor and advised, as they should be, to contact their health care provider if Braxton-Hicks contractions are frequent, or other warning signs appear.  I like that the film doesn’t specify doctor or midwife, but uses the term health care provider.

Onset of labor

Onset of labor is covered, from both the emotional and physical side, and families learn that normally it is the baby that starts labor when it is ready to breathe.  37 to 42 weeks is perfectly normal for most families, we are told.  One of the things that Injoy always does well in their Stages of Labor films, as they cover many topics, is they let people know that there is always a wide range of normal, no one feels excluded and each woman’s experience might be different.  I believe that families will be very reassured by this and the educator can reinforce this point.

First stage of labor

The film moves into the first stage of labor, which is divided into early, active and transition.  I love that Injoy has acknowledged the recent change to identify active labor as beginning at 6 centimeters and states that in early labor the cervix effaces and dilates to 4-5 centimeters.  I also loved that viewers are told that early labor can take many hours or even a day or longer!  Families are told what to look for when their water breaks, and this edition goes into more detail about the acronym “COAT” so families know what they are looking for, for example; “color may be either clear or brown.”  Families are reassured that fluid may continue to leak after breaking.

More than once in the film, we see the families using a smart phone to time contractions, as I believe happens very frequently with today’s families.

Easy to follow graphics showing the length, frequency and intensity of contractions in each phase are included, and a family will easily be able to understand how to time contractions.

Women are shown in early labor resting, eating, drinking, walking, showering and being supported by partners and family at home. One mother appears to be admitted to a hospital already in early labor but she looks relaxed and upbeat, and is seen walking and changing positions frequently.

It is suggested that women move to the hospital or birth center when they appear to be in active labor, and the women share how they knew that their labor was changing into active labor.  One family appears to arrive at what looks like a birth center when they hit active labor, where they stay through transition, with a large log bed, in what looks like a cozy bedroom, but later we see her deliver in a standard hospital bed/room in a hospital gown, so I became a bit confused as to how she got there.  Another mother arrives at the hospital in active labor and has a cervical exam and is determined to be 4 centimeters dilated, which earlier had been stated to be early labor. The 4-1-1 or 5-1-1 rule is used as a suggested guide on when to go to the birth location.

Women are seen changing positions frequently, receiving lots of verbal and physical support from partners and families and are using the tub, laboring on their hands and knees and using a birth ball.  All the things we want to encourage for our families.

Transition pulls no punches and it is clear that this is an intense and often difficult phase of labor.  I liked the scene of the single mother’s support person holding a large basin nearby for her in case she vomits.  Those tiny emesis basins are useless and this woman has the right tool for the job!  The level of support is stepped up for all the mothers, to help them through this challenging part of labor.

I really liked how the animated sections during the first stage frequently showed the baby’s head and body moving back and forth as if trying to find their way.  I like to tell my families that babies are not passive passengers, but rather active participants in the birth process, and this animated movement supports my statement that baby is trying to find the best way out too!  I must confess that I found the little scattered pieces of hair drawn on the baby’s head to be rather distracting to me, and wished for a full head of hair or a bald little baby!

Second stage – pushing and birth

While there are some parts of this section that I really liked, I think the second stage section was the segment that I was most disappointed in. Second stage seems a little bit “cleaner” in this third edition of Stages of Labor.  The animation and drawings of crowning show a sterile looking perineum (the drawing has no pubic hair) and we cannot see an anus in the drawing, which makes it look a bit unnatural and out of context.  Overall, the entire film is very modest, the women are clothed and any shots of cervical exams or babies being born are very tastefully staged for privacy.

The possible length of the pushing phase is accurate though no woman in class will be happy to hear that she might push for 3 plus hours, women should recognize that it is indeed a possibility.  All the women are shown pushing on their backs, with the support people holding the mother’s legs for her (do they have epidurals?) and there are just a very few brief shots of a woman using a squat bar, as she discusses how pushing on your back closes the pelvic outlet.  Unfortunately, this theme is not carried over to most of the second stage segment.  Even the animated graphics have baby being born while mother is on her back. Each baby is seen being delivered to a woman who is flat on her back.  It would have been lovely to have even one baby born to an upright mother.

I missed the use of the mirror or touching the head of the baby as the mother is birthing as is seen in the second edition.  I believe those are good tools for women to use during pushing.  We also don’t see the mother pushing on her hands and knees or even side-lying, as in previous films.

None of the babies are suctioned and all are passed up to the mother’s gowned chest immediately.  Most of the women have their family close by, but one poor father gets all teared up, but seems far away from his partner and their baby. Even during the delivery of the placenta, he was still standing alone,  I wanted to gently lead him to the head of the bed to be reunited with them.

Third stage – delivery of the placenta

This part of the process was presented very briefly but adequately.  The babies are all seen skin to skin with mom, and viewers are told that this helps calm baby and helps her to adapt to life on the outside.  We are told that the cord is cut a few minutes after birth, but no mention is made of the benefits to the baby of delaying the clamping or cutting of the umbilical cord.

Fourth stage – recovery

This section of the film is an absolutely lovely new addition! I was thrilled to see it being included in this third edition of Stages of Labor.  The physical changes (uterus shrinking, afterpains, and bleeding) are mentioned and viewers are told that both mother and baby will be monitored to make sure the transitions after birth are occurring normally for both.  Families learn about hormones that are present to help mother and baby bond in these first hours and in what I believe to be my favorite part of the film,  viewers are told “in the hours and weeks after birth, think of mom and baby as one unit that stays together just like it was during pregnancy…keeping mom and baby together with regular skin to skin contact helps the whole family bond.”  I think this is very significant and am so happy hear this.  It would have been nice to see more of the laid back breastfeeding positions, but babies are skin to skin and happy to be nursing and connecting with their mothers.  Perfect!


This third edition of the well loved and long running childbirth education film “Stages of Labor” offers some of the same great qualities of previous versions; great animation, a diverse group of families and clearly presented information that is easy to understand.  Showing this film in class can be a very effective way of covering a lot of ground and sharing accurate information.  There are many discussions that can be had after watching this film it and it has easy stopping and starting points if you want to break it into segments.  The addition of the importance of the fourth stage of labor and birth – keeping mother and baby together was long overdue and makes this video even more valuable to childbirth educators and others who work with birthing families.  It is suitable to show to all ages and is a very modest film, in terms of nudity or potentially “disturbing” scenes.  I recall the first edition as being the most “revealing” of all three films.

The animations really do a wonderful job of showing what is happening to the mother and the baby during the labor and birth process that static pictures could never do.  I would have preferred seeing women push in upright positions.  This DVD is an expensive purchase at $289.95 for the independent educator (or even for some hospital programs) but I believe it is well worth it.  You will use it over and over, it feels very much updated and reflects the new thoughts around active labor and the new fourth stage segment is very well done.  Much of the text and language is very similar to previous versions, but after watching it many times for this review, I find that it will be a nice change of pace and will feel very contemporary in my classroom.  The Spanish version of this DVD will be released in February, 2014.

Injoy Videos has asked me to extend a special offer to Science & Sensibility readers who would like to make a purchase of this DVD.  Receive free shipping on the purchase of Stages of Labor Third Edition: A Visual Guide by using code BSOL3SM14 at checkout.  This code expires on 1/31/14.

Have you seen this new edition yet?  Are you already using it in your classes?  Please share your thoughts in our comments section, I would love to know your opinion.

Please note that I did receive a review copy of the film for the purpose of writing this review.


Childbirth Education, Films about Childbirth, Films about Pregnancy , , , , , ,

Series: Welcoming All Families; An LCCE Shares Tips & Resources For Your Childbirth Practice

June 8th, 2012 by avatar

A Guest Post by Anna Deligio, MSW, LCCE, CD(DONA)

Today’s post is the second in an occasional series on welcoming all families to your childbirth class and honoring the diversity that different family models bring to pregnancy, birth and parenting.  You can read the first part in this series here, to learn about the non-biological mom’s experience in a childbirth class from Anna’s partner, Cathy Busha.  Look for more on this topic of diversity in future months. – SM


“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

There have been variations on the definition of family for as long as there has been a definition of family. It is not news that there are women creating families without partners – either by choice or because the male involved is not involved. Nor is it news that lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgendered folk have been quietly having and raising children for generations.

What is news is the increase in the number of women choosing to parent without partners and the increase in LGBT (lesbian, gay bisexual, transgendered) families in the last couple of decades. According to the New York Times article, “For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage” from February of 2012, now more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside of marriage[i]. Studies done by the Family Equality Council, a non-profit that works to connect, support and represent LGBT families, show that there are currently an estimated 1 million LGBT parents in the United States raising an estimated 2 million children[ii].

Are these increases evident in the students and clients you serve as a birth professional? Do you see more women choosing friends or family members as their labor support people rather than the male who supplied the sperm? Have you worked with any LGBT couples as they prepared for and experienced the birth of their child?

If your answer to the above questions is “no”, there might be an opportunity for you to examine how welcoming and affirming of diverse family structures your materials and teachings are. We know these families are out there, so why aren’t they in our classes (if they are not)?

My partner Cathy and I recently had the opportunity to attend a two-part childbirth preparation class offered through our insurance. We are pregnant (I am carrying) for the first time and expect a birth sometime around the end of July. Like many pregnant people, we chose the class that was offered through our insurance and attached to the hospital where we will be birthing.

As a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator in a hospital setting, I came to the class open to learning strategies I could take back to my classes. As a pregnant lesbian, I came curious if the materials would reflect our family and wondering how inclusive the language would be.

© Marco Santi Amantini - Fotolia.com

© Marco Santi Amantini - Fotolia.com

As expected, the materials lacked diversity because diverse materials don’t exist. I have searched for posters and videos that include diverse families and have come up with a few that involve young, single mothers but none that show LGBT families or more mature women who chose from the start to parent without a partner. This is a real problem to me. You can be as inclusive as possible in your use of language, but if the materials you use show only female-male dyads, you continue to give the message that they are really your intended audience.

Lack of materials would be an insurmountable challenge if birth professionals weren’t such a crafty and persistent lot. Make your own. Search online for images of diverse family structures and use them (with permission) on your websites and in your handouts. (See notes below.) Make your own posters with these images. Use your persistence and advocacy skills to lobby InJoy and other video manufacturers to include diverse families. Let them know you want films with diverse families – LGBT families, families of women who choose to parent without partners (not just pregnant adolescents who are forced into single parenting). If you’re super-crafty, create your own birth films with these families (and then please link them far and wide so we all can benefit from your wild talents).

As for language, our instructors, like a lot of professionals, used the term “partner” rather than “husband” or “father”. Partner creates a little more space for diversity, but maintains with a couple of problems: if the subsequent pronouns are all male, it suggests that partner doesn’t include females, but just men who aren’t legally married to the pregnant woman; partner continues to exclude women who are not parenting with an intimate partner, regardless of that partner’s gender.

To that end, I believe that “support person” is the most inclusive term available. Some might think that it diminishes the role of the father. Fathers have a lot of privilege in the birth world, so the impact on them is minimal. More than that, their role during the labor and birth is about being a support person. It does not matter if they supplied the sperm or if they will be parenting the child – those actions address their past and future relationships with the baby, not their relationship to the birthing person during labor.

During labor, their relationship is as support person to the birthing person. This applies to any who will be supporting – female partners, mothers, best friends, husbands, etc. Once the baby is born, they can go on to be mother, father, grandmother, aunt, etc., but during the labor their role is support to the birthing person. (Their potential inability to separate those roles during labor speaks, always, to the value of having a Labor Doula).

Just as with any language that challenges the mainstream, it is important to be explicit. Take a moment at the start of your class and in your materials to explain why you are using the term “support person” rather than “father” or “partner”. Demonstrate your dedication to inclusivity and create a space that is affirming to all the stories in the room. Spread your educating beyond the stages and phases of labor to teachings on the importance of honoring all families. Do this whether or not you think you have any diverse families in your class – it’s dangerous to assume another’s story and, at the very least, you’re educating a new batch of allies to diverse families.

Top 10 Ways to Create an Inclusive Childbirth Education Practice 

  1. Remember that Pictures Say A 1,000 Words – make sure that your website, flyers, handouts, posters, and other promotional materials show diverse family structures. Include images of LGBT families and women who chose to parent without partners. If you don’t have these images from your own client interactions, utilize stock photos and magazine images to create these materials until you can use your own client images, with permission, of course. (See Copyright Information.)
  2. Use Inclusive Language – change all of the places that say “father” or “partner” to “support person.” Explicitly explain that, while you honor all of the other roles in your clients’ lives that their loved one (husband, female partner, mother, sister, best friend, etc.) plays, you will focus on their role during labor – that of support person. Explain that you use this term to make sure that all families feel welcome in your work.
  3. Advocate and Advocate Some More – regularly contact manufacturers of childbirth educational materials and videos and tell them that you want materials that include all families, and celebrate diversity.  Use your purchasing power to create change.
  4. Use the Power of Stories – make sure that the stories you share in class include the stories of diverse families. If you don’t personally have any of these stories yet, change the pronouns in some of your stock stories to make the families more diverse. Change the fathers to lesbian partners. Omit the partners altogether and make the story about a professional woman who chose to parent without a partner.
  5. Put Yourself in a Place to Learn – find where these diverse families are in your neighborhoods. Join their groups, attend their meetings, show up with the intent to listen and learn. Build bridges with these communities and learn how to be an ally to them. Join the email list of the Family Equality Council and learn from the work they do with LGBT families.
  6. Don’t Guess the Stories of Your Students – take the time at the start of class to learn the stories of your students. Don’t assume because everyone there is in a male-female pair that the male provided the sperm and is planning on co-parenting. Even if everyone in your class falls under that model, use your inclusive language and materials. Explain why you do. Spread your educating past the stages and phases of labor to the importance of honoring all family structures, whether or not they are currently reflected in that cohort of students.
  7. Stop Assuming Everyone Has Access to Sperm – when talking about ways to naturally bring on labor, avoid the saying, “What got the baby in will get the baby out”, as some women have become pregnant in a very clinical way, and clearly that does not apply in this situation. When talking about sex as an induction tool, talk about orgasm (achieved with or without a partner) and the release of oxytocin.
  8. Blow Up the Gender Boxes – when talking about parenting, leave out stories and examples that are overly reliant on limiting gender roles.  Keep your information to the tasks at hand and assume that everyone in the room is fully capable of equal parenting. Make sure you also speak to women who will parent without a partner and emphasize the need for everyone – regardless of relationship status – to have a community of supporters willing to help out with the raising of the child.
  9. Be a Good Ally – interrupt limiting language when you hear it from colleagues. Teach them the phrase “support person” and explain why you choose to use it instead of “father” or “partner”. Challenge speakers at conferences to be more inclusive in their presentations. Thank those who are.
  10. Give Yourself Some Grace – unlearning unhelpful paradigms takes a lot of energy and work. Give yourself some grace as you do the work of unlearning limiting language. Like all good things, it’s a process and takes time to truly integrate.
Diverse family structures aren’t new, but they are growing. If we broaden our eyesight, we will see these families in our communities. The more we create space for them through inclusive language and materials, the more we honor our work to educate and support all families on their paths to parenthood. By welcoming, working with, and learning from these diverse families, we grow our ability to truly be the birth professionals we intend to be.
There are not a lot of books on the subject of lesbian pregnancy/parenting.  Here are some that you may find helpful:


What have your experiences been as a birth professional?  Have you had lesbian couples in your class?  What have you done to make them feel welcome and valued along with other participants.  Do you have a great resource to share with our blog readers?  Do you have a question or comment that other readers may be able to answer or relate to?  Please share your personal stories in our comments section.- SM


[i] DeParle, J., & Tavernise, S. (2012).“For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage”. New York Times. February 17, 2012.

[ii] Family Equality Council. (2012). “All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families”.

About Anna

Anna Deligio is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and Labor Doula through her business Nourishing Roots, work that is greatly informed by her previous experiences as an MSW working with families in crisis and babies in foster care, a Special Education teacher of high school students with learning and emotional challenges, a marketing writer, and a waitress at a French restaurant. She loves working with pregnant people and their support people during the transformative time that is pregnancy and birth. When not enjoying the company of pregnant people, she enjoys relaxing with her partner Cathy at their home in Salem, OR and preparing for their upcoming birth.


Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Series: Welcoming All Families