Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Amber McCann, a keynote speaker for the 2013 Annual Lamaze International Conference. Today, I am delighted to share with you a recent interview with our second keynote speaker, Dr. Richard N. Waldman, an obstetrician and gynecologist at St. Joseph’s in Syracuse, New York, and former past president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Dr. Waldman will be speaking with Lamaze conference attendees in New Orleans, with a presentation titled: Improving Maternity Quality Through the Partnership Between Childbirth Educators and Healthcare Providers. Here is an opportunity to learn more about Dr. Waldman in advance of his presentation in October. Have you registered for the conference yet? Join Lamaze in letting the good times roll for safe and healthy birth in New Orleans in October.
Sharon Muza: Did you and your partner take childbirth classes when you were having children? What do you recall of that experience? Do you feel it prepared you well for what to expect as a partner of a birthing woman?
Dr. Richard Waldman: When I had my first baby in 1972 there were no childbirth classes in my large Northeastern city. My second child was delivered by a repeat cesarean section and again there were no childbirth classes that either of us attended.
My second wife, on the other hand, attended the first set of Lamaze classes ever given in Syracuse. She actually used her Lamaze training to advocate successfully for father attended births in each of the three Syracuse hospitals and her birth that year was the first father attended vaginal birth in our area. In fact, her birth was celebrated in the Syracuse newspaper. She enjoyed the Lamaze classes so much that she later became a Lamaze certified instructor.
SM: What is your relationship like with the local childbirth educators in your community? How do you decide where to refer your patients for childbirth classes?
RW: We had a great relationship with the local childbirth educators. CEAGS (Childbirth Education Association of Greater Syracuse) was a very important organization in our area and the childbirth educators were a constant source of information and debate. The debate was wonderful in those days. Our patients in the early days chose the education of their choice. They went to Bradley or Lamaze or the hospital. We started our own classes after the hospitals started to control the educational content. In the early 1980’s, my partner, a Certified Nurse Midwife and Lamaze Certified instructor started them in her own living room! Soon we moved it over to the office. Our practice style was so different from the community standard that we felt the only way that our families could get unbiased information was if we gave it to them. We started grandparent classes, sibling classes, and exercise classes. The siblings came to our office, made a sock doll for their little brother or sister, toured the hospitals and celebrated their baby’s birthday with a little birthday cake! We had great fun in those days!
SM: What do you feel are the key components of a great childbirth class?
RW: There are some obvious answers, but let’s not go there. Classes are a very important social opportunity for couples to bond, support each other and learn from one another. I have once observed some of “todays” mothers who want to learn by way of listening to a disc instead of going to classes because of time constraints and then had no one to count on for baby information or postpartum support after they gave birth. Families grow close and sometimes start friendships early in pregnancy that can last a lifetime.
One of my wife’s favorite photos of our classes was the one of the postpartum class. Eight couples sitting around the room and every single baby in their father’s arms. Husbands becoming fathers before our eyes! Who could know?
SM: What questions are your patients asking about childbirth classes during their appointments with you and what are your responses to them?
RW: I see patients in early pregnancy and very few are asking about childbirth classes. I am told that interest is waning again.
SM: What do you tell patients about childbirth education options and choices?
RW: I spend most of my time trying to sell the concept of just trying natural birth before they immediately ask or are encouraged to have an epidural anesthetic. So many of our women have no idea how powerful they are, how natural it is to have a baby and that so many can do it without a significant amount of medication let alone an epidural. I encourage them to consider our birthing center (where continuous electronic monitoring and epidurals are not allowed). I long for the old days when we had more detailed discussions with women about their birthing ideas and birthing plans.
SM: What do you want childbirth educators to know about patients who are choosing to birth with OBs?
RW: Some obstetricians make excellent midwives! Some obstetricians like technology too much. Be informed about quality, safety and outcomes.
SM: How has your OB practice changed over the years?
RW: Do you have all day? We started off as a partnership between an obstetrician and a midwife. We are now a ten physician, 6 non- physician professional practice with over 100 employees. We started off as a beacon for natural childbirth and now despite trying our best to promote un-medicated births the vast majority of our patients request epidurals at their first prenatal visit.
SM:What are top three things that you wish women left childbirth class knowing?
RW: That they can trust their bodies, that they can trust their significant others and that they can trust their birth professionals.
SM: Tell us something about yourself that we would be surprised to learn about you?
RW: I have 12 grandchildren!
SM: Can you offer us a sneak peak about some key takeaway points of your upcoming keynote presentation?
RW: My intent is to discuss childbirth practices as I found them in the 1970’s. Childbirth in the past was much worse than childbirth today. I would like to talk about where we are today and how we got there. Perhaps we can talk about how we can use childbirth education to reverse the trends that are not safe for mothers or babies. Collaborative intelligence is the key to our future in childbirth.
About Richard Waldman, MD
Dr. Richard N. Waldman is a diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and is the past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a premier private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of women’s health care through continuing medical education, practice and research. Dr. Waldman is the president-elect of the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse, NY, and a member of the Board of Trustees. Among other things, he established the first hospital-based midwifery practice in central New York. He served as the president of ACOG from 2010-2011. He has lectured extensively on pregnancy and childbirth across the United States and has also lectured internationally. He has published several articles in peer review journals and recently co-edited an issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America dedicated to collaborative practice.