Childbirth Education: Being Marginalized, Being Lost, and Making a Comeback

Speaker: Penny Simkin, PT



Continuing Education Units
One (1) ICEA Contact Hour, One (1) R-CERP

At the end of this session, the learner will be able to:

  1. Report findings of an informal survey of 100 plus childbirth educators.
  2. Discuss ACOG's 2017 Committee Opinion, as it may relate to childbirth education.
  3. List evidence-based recommendations in the Committee Opinion that may be more successful in improving obstetric outcomes if knowledgeable parents participate actively.

About the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)

The International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) is a professional organization that supports educators and health care professionals who believe in freedom to make decisions based on knowledge of alternatives in family-centered maternity and newborn care.


Childbirth Education: Being Marginalized, Being Lost, and Making a Comeback

Penny Simkin, PT
This presentation explores the present and potential contributions of childbirth education. Current scientific findings regarding effectiveness of childbirth education indicate little demonstrable benefit in improving obstetric outcomes. Why? First of all, the designs of the studies are inconsistent and too small to give meaningful results. A review of major childbirth education organizations and a survey of childbirth educators raises questions about their commitment to educating parents to deal with the challenges that face them with the new guidelines (i.e., later admission to hospital, less aggressive management of PROM at term, later dilation defining active labor, and more). Are parents really gaining mastery of comfort techniques in their childbirth classes? One might question whether parents are equipped to participate in the practices (such as confidence in laboring at home, employing appropriate  comfort and labor enhancing techniques) that are known to improve outcomes. Without parents’ participation, ACOG’s recommendations are likely to bring far less benefit than with their participation. Ms. Simkin will discuss the essential information and skills that parents must have, along with a study design that would be adequate to demonstrate the usefulness if childbirth education in improving obstetric outcomes.


Penny Simkin, PT

Penny is a physical therapist who has specialized in childbirth education and labor support since 1968. She estimates she has prepared over 12,000 women, couples and siblings for childbirth. She has assisted hundreds of women or couples through childbirth as a doula. She is the producer of several birth-related films and is the author of many books and articles on birth for both parents and professionals. Books include The Labor Progress Handbook (2011) with Ruth Ancheta, The Birth Partner (2008) and When Survivors Give Birth: Understanding and Healing the Effects of Early Sexual Abuse of Childbearing Women (2004) with Phyllis Klaus. Her latest film is “There’s a Baby: A Film for Children about Birth and the New Baby” (2013).

Besides being one of the Founders of DONA International, she currently serves on several boards of consultants, the Editorial Board of the journal, “Birth”, and serves on the senior faculty at the Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations at Bastyr University, which was named in her honor.

Childbirth Education: Being Marginalized, Being Lost, and Making a Comeback

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