Baby Due? Preparedness Classes Can Help You and Baby
New research has shown that prospective parents who take some “expectant parent” classes before baby is born benefit in ways you might expect. But these classes may provide some unexpected benefits, too.
You’d expect that taking a what-to-expect-type class would reduce parental anxiety somewhat, and enable new parents to work better together after baby arrives. Essentially, these classes tend to help reduce anxieties surrounding the challenges of caring for a new life. These classes are about helping parents manage the inevitable stresses of being new parents.
Previous research, conducted by Mark Feinberg, research professor at the Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development, Penn State, have shown that these classes reduce parental stress, depression, and anxiety, while enhancing parenting quality and improving long-term child outcomes.
But even these dedicated professionals were surprised by another unexpected finding: Attending these classes may also lead to better birth outcomes. "We never thought that a class series meant to help the parents manage the stresses of parenthood would have an impact on birth outcomes as well," said Feinberg. Yet, in a recent article in Maternal and Child Health Journal, Feinberg and colleagues show that participation in the program was linked to more optimal birth weight and/or shorter hospital stays after birth.
"We found that the program buffered the negative influence of financial stress and depression on infant birth weight," said Feinberg. "We also found consistent evidence across all three risk indicators measured—financial stress, depression and anxiety—that duration of both mother and infant stay in the hospital was reduced for intervention couples compared to controls at higher levels of risk.”
If you’re facing parenthood for the first time, this research suggests you should welcome the chance to participate in a parenthood-preparation class. After all, it’s not just about your own peace of mind. It could actually lead to a better birth outcome.
Mark E. Feinberg, Damon E. Jones, Michael E. Roettger, Michelle L. Hostetler, Kari-Lyn Sakuma, Ian M. Paul, Deborah B. Ehrenthal. Preventive Effects on Birth Outcomes: Buffering Impact of Maternal Stress, Depression, and Anxiety. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s10995-015-1801-3