Meet Katie Allen – Lamaze Childbirth Education
Who is Katie Allen?
Katie Allen is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and she teaches independent childbirth classes to expectant parents, whether it is their first child or fourth!
What to know more about Katie?
Enjoy the full interview that we had with Katie!
I work with parents to give them evidence-based information about pregnancy, labour, birth and the postpartum period so they can go and make the best decisions for them. Usually, I teach classes in the comfort and privacy of expectant parents homes and I come to them but I am now teaching classes via ZOOM, which is a lot of fun.
How did you get here?
I became a childbirth educator as a result of my kids. My two older children were birthed at the Mackay Birth Centre and the care that I received in my pregnancy, lit a fire inside of me for maternity care and ensuring that expectant parents had the information about pregnancy, labour, birth and newborn life like I did.
It took me a while to find how I wanted to do it but when I found Lamaze I knew it was the right fit. All Lamaze educators have to do a 4-day workshop, sit and pass a 3-hour exam and every three years we have to re-certify to ensure we are up to date with the latest research and developments in all things birth. It’s a great way to ensure that what we are teaching is evidence-based. For example, I am now watching the videos from the Beyond Sleep Conference and learning about all things baby sleep and breastfeeding related.
For me I feel like becoming a childbirth educator is coming home. At University I studied health promotion and education and at the time I never thought this is the area of health I would end up in but I’ve always wanted to help people and I get to do this.
What is your favourite part of being a childbirth educator?
My favourite part is helping expectant parents, whether it is their first pregnancy or a subsequent one. Working with parents to help them find out what they want their birth or postpartum to look like and giving them the skills to set them up for this special time in their life.
The postpartum period is my jam and a time that I feel like I’ve learnt so much from my own kids and especially after the birth of James. I learnt to finally accept and ask for help. It was a powerful realisation and that has influenced me a lot, so much so that in the next few months I am going to start offering Postpartum Doula services. This will be a small toe in the water, as I wait to complete my DONA training (COVID-19 got in the way).
I have three workshops
- One that covers pregnancy, labour, birth and postpartum – 12 hours
- Birth Planning workshop – which is all about getting informed about pain relief options (non-pharmacological and pharmacological), common hospital interventions (pros and cons and how they can affect a physiological birth) and then the second week is about developing your birth plans (A, B and C) so all options are covered.
- Navigating the 4th Trimester – all things life after baby and looking at what life looks like when you bring your baby home. We talk about breastfeeding, normal infant sleep, bathing, changes to your body (emotional and physical), local support resources and developing postpartum plans that get you thinking of who you can ask for help, what you can ask for help and what are some things you can let go of. If this is your subsequent child we talk about including your other children and the balancing act.
Katie, tell us about your family
I have three children, Sophie 7, Harry 4.5 and James 17 months and my husband Chris. We live in Brookwater and love it. We moved to Brisbane 4 years ago from Mackay but originally my husband and I are from Wollongong, 1.5 hours south of Sydney on the beach in NSW. At the state of Origin time, it makes for an interesting time as we go for the blues and since all the kids were born in QLD they go for QLD. At least this year we don’t have to worry about that.
What do you like to so in your spare time?
I love to sew, read books, cook, camp and be with friends.
Sewing has been something that I have always wanted to learn to do properly and in the past three years I have been able too. I go to sewing lessons with a teacher in Ripley and have made the most amazing friends, I’ve sewn clothes for myself and many outfits for the kids, which is why I wanted to learn.
When I was pregnant with James our third child, I was insistent that I made the kids their Christmas outfits (James’s due date was 21st December) so was making one for the baby but since he was a surprise I was making a dress for Sophie, shorts for Harry and a newborn sized pair of shorts and skirt. When I finally finished them I can remember saying now I am ready for this baby to be born.
Current sewing project is sewing all our Scout and Guide badges on our camp blanket. Some of these badges I have been carrying around for 19 – 30 years so very excited to see them on.
Love cooking sweets, am learning new recipes as this year I was diagnosed with ceoliac disease. So if you have any GF sweet recipes send the link my way.
Now let’s get out the clients questions
1.Prenatal… is it worth attending the prenatal class?
I see this question getting asked a lot in various different pregnancy groups that I’m in on Facebook about is it worth attending the prenatal class? As a childbirth educator, I’m always going to say yes, but my answer was yes before I became one.
Prenatal classes especially those that are taught independently of the hospital, are always going to be more in-depth and will cover all pain relief methods and not just what is offered at the hospital. Yes, they are usually more expensive but when you are providing evidence-based information that is in-depth and delivered over a longer time frame. I know during pregnancy funds can be tight but if you talk to childbirth educators they can work with you to create a payment plan.
I think prenatal classes are important because;
- It starts getting you to think about what you want your birth to look like (pain relief options, how you view pain)
- It gets you to think about what is important to you and your partner in birth
- It gets you thinking about what support you want from your partner and how you would like them to support you (touch, massage, different support positions)
- It provides you with a tool bag of tools to help navigate the rest of pregnancy, labour birth and postpartum
- It helps you get educated about changes in the postpartum period (signs of perinatal anxiety and depression. With 1 in 5 new mums experiencing this and 1 in 10 dad we need to know the signs to recognise it in each other because sometimes we can’t see it in ourselves
- Like everything else in our lives, this is new and we need to learn. Just like when we are planning a wedding we gather all information, the same should be said for when we are having a baby, gather all the information, filter out what we don’t agree with and then make our decisions.
- When done in a group situation it is a great way to meet people!
- The research highlights the importance too;
- Australian research from 2016 found that women who were low risk and participated in classes that covered acupressure, massage, yoga techniques and facilitated partner support had a reduced rate of induction, cesarean section, length of second stage and labour, perineal trauma and resuscitation of the newborn.
- US study from 2010 of over 1300 first time mums found that 63% of those mums who attended childbirth education classes decided to not have a cesarean section and that attending childbirth educators gave them helpful information to make this decision.
- Brazilain study of first-time parents found that women who participated in a systematic childbirth education class (like I mentioned before) we more likely to report feeling in control during labour, used breathing exercises, exercised on the ball, used massage and changing positions (vertical) to control pain, reported satisfaction with their birthing experience.
- So it can have a big impact on your birth outcomes and that in itself is the main reason for me.
- Like everything in life, we have to prepare for birth and put the work in. When we put the work in and prepare we are more likely to be prepared.
2.Birth memories and birth plans
- Birth memories are a big part of birth, the research shows that no matter how much time has passed we still remember how we felt, were treated and the words said to us when we birthed our babies. That is incredible and it is why when you ask mothers about their birth they can recall this and it works for both positive and negative experiences.
- Birth memories can be a big part of why expectant parents will come and have prenatal classes for subsequent pregnancies as they want it to be different this time and they want to take control of the flow.
- A lot of time you will hear people say go with the flow, this is the worst advice to give, whose flow are you going with? The midwife on duty if you haven’t been part of a continuity of care program (if you have an OB they are likely to not be with you throughout labour but just at the birth), the policies of the hospital? The flow of what your OB just routinely does or yours? You need to figure out your flow and know that you’ve made these decisions before you are birthing your baby. This is where birth plans come into effect.
- A birth plan is your way of communicating to your health care providers what is important to you in the birth of your baby, what you want to happen and what you want to happen if things don’t go to plan.
- When I talk to expectant parents I talk about developing birth plans;
- Your ideal birth plan which has what you want to happen (pain relief options, do you want pharmacological pain relief offered, who will be there and who won’t be there, what you want the first hours after birth to look like, birthing the placenta, movement in labour, delayed cord planning,)
- Then you develop plan B, so what happens if Plan A doesn’t happen. An example could be what happens if you end up being induced instead of going into spontaneous labour (where you want the drip inserted, do you want continuous fetal monitoring you can elect for wireless or intermittent, birthing your placenta, what type of induction do you want)
- Then develop plan C so what happens if Plan A, B doesn’t happen then you have thought of this. An example of this could be a cesarean section (thinking about who you want in with you, where do you want your partner, skin to skin, delayed cord clamping if the baby needs to be taken away who goes with baby, who does immediate skin to skin, announcing birth of baby, clear drape etc – this depends if it is an emergency cesarean section or planned)
- The research has shown that expectant parents who have a birth plan are more satisfied with their birth regardless of outcomes and its because they were included in the decision process throughout and their decisions were respected.
- Birth plans also need to be discussed with your care providers prior to birth, have a copy in your file with your care provider and at the hospital, take one with you on the day too. But don’t let when you are birthing be the first time you have discussed it. It’s also a great way to get you and your partner talking about birth and the environment that you want.
3. Preparation for the hospital in these times
- Talk to your healthcare provider and regularly find out what the restrictions are. They are changing all the time. The QLD government has now said that pregnant women can have 2 support people with them for appointments and birth however the restriction that children under 16 cant be there.
- Ask and find out how many visitors you can have, it may just be the two support people you had at birth. Communicate that with everyone so there is no angst when your baby arrives.
- Midwives and new parents are reporting that this is a positive outcome, in that new parents are getting to create that strong bond and dyad, seeing less breastfeeding issues (babies aren’t being passed around like a football to lots of different people who smell different to mum and dad) and mum and bub are really getting to read cues.
- Ask and find out how long can you stay after birth and what does the postpartum support look like?
- Ask what pain relief options are available, am I able to have gas. Some hospitals aren’t offering it.
- If you aren’t happy with the answers you are receiving, ask for the reason why. Why is this happening, what is the evidence to support this decision? Where and how can I find out more?
- For example, if you are being told you can’t have two support people at your birth, then email the head of maternity, CEO showing the directive and asking why they aren’t following the direction and how this impacts you, now and at the birth. Let them know what your support person is willing to do to work with boundaries (to keep everyone safe) and remember to be respectful.
- Most importantly have your birth plans ready, be informed of what you and your partner want birth to look like and what you don’t want it to look like. As I mentioned before, the research shows that those who have a birth plan are more satisfied with their birth outcomes (even if they didn’t go to plan) then those who didn’t because they usually feel they have been able to have a say in their birth and considered.
- This needs to be done before you are in the birth suite. Know what your partner wants so you can be her advocate. On the day she will be concentrating on birthing the baby. So have Plan A, B and C.
- Think about how you deal with pain now and take those tools with you. So if you deal with pain by using a heat pack, standing in a hot shower, using essential oils these need to be packed into your labour bag so they are ready to go. When you are thinking of comfort measures think of your senses:
- What do you want to see? (maybe pictures of the family, place makes you feel relaxed, favourite holiday destination)
- What do you want to hear? (music, affirmations, meditations)
- What do you want to smell? (essential oils, tip to put it on a cotton ball and if you don’t like it, it’s easy to ditch the cotton ball then a diffuser filled with that scent)
- What do you want to taste? (snacks for energy)
- What do you want to touch? (massage, acupressure)
This will also make the birth suite feel more homely as well.
Katie, where can people find you?
Facebook : www.facebook.com/katieallencbe