Giving parents-to-be the best possible start


In this article:

  • Birth and family educators at Swedish equip expectant parents with the tools they need to overcome shifting birth plans and prepare for life after labor.

  • Swedish’s prenatal philosophy focuses on putting birthing parents at the center of their care.

  • Our birth and family educators tailor classes to fit the needs of the people they serve, including providing classes in Spanish and Mandarin.

For Birth and Family Educator at Swedish, Michele Adams, ICCE, it all started during a routine grocery run while pregnant with her first child.

“I was very scared about labor,” she recalls. “I didn’t have any background knowledge. No ‘women of the village’ to guide me.”

Michele ran into a woman at the store who told her about gentle birth choices like water birth. “She gave me a video, and I ended up watching it a few weeks before delivering,” says Michele.

Fast forward to a few months after Michele gave birth to her daughter. Her childcare plans fell through, and she was struggling to figure out what to do for work. With a background in finance, none of the job opportunities she considered offered the flexibility she was looking for as a new mom.

“I was at church and scanning the bulletin board,” she says. “I saw an advertisement for a job as a receptionist in Portland. I decided to call and, lo and behold, the woman who answered was the woman I met in the grocery store.”

What followed was not only a standard 9-to-5 spent answering phones and organizing receipts, but an immersive learning experience in childbirth education — and the ability to bring her daughter to work with her. “It was just incredible how it all worked out,” she says.

Today, Michele has been with Swedish for 18 years and working in the field of childbirth education for 25. In her role, she teaches classes that cover topics ranging from childbirth and breastfeeding to discharge planning, newborn care, and infant safety and CPR.

“I love my job because I get to give people tools to help them feel more comfortable and secure during childbirth,” says Michele. “I think of it as adding tools to their tool bag.” Some of these include mindset practices to help manage pain perception during labor, as well as coping skills to handle a changing birth plan — from a vaginal delivery to a C-section, for example. She also highlights how to manage discomfort using motion and movement.

The most important thing Michele stresses to expectant parents is to put themselves at the center of their care. “That’s when planning plays a big role,” she says. “When you plan for all the eventualities, you can adapt and still somehow feel at the center of your care even if things are shifting from your optimal.”

Introducing TeamBirth

The philosophy of putting yourself at the center of your birth plan is what prompted the launch of a new Swedish initiative called TeamBirth, which focuses on helping you understand your preferences and ensures you feel supported during the childbirth experience.

TeamBirth places you in the middle of a team that includes your doctor or midwife, nurses and support partner. It features “huddles,” which are times for you and your care team to come together to talk. During this time, you’re encouraged to ask questions, express concerns and discuss preferences.

The goal of TeamBirth is to make sure you understand that you have the most important voice in the room. You’re the expert on your body, cultural traditions and faith practice. While you can choose the role you want in the decision-making, you have the power to change your preferences at any time.

“We provide education, resources[RK1]  and empower patients to understand what self-advocacy means,[RK2] ” says Kellie Ryan, Sr. Manager, Institute Strategic Programs at Swedish, who manages the Birth and Family Educators team. “We help them learn that they can say, ‘I need more time to make a decision’ or ‘I need more information.’ Our job is empowering them to be more active members in their healthcare.”

A “professional grandma”

Birth and Family Educator at Swedish, Maria Masvidal Calpe, PCD, worked for years in Barcelona, Spain, as a certified nurse in gynecology and obstetrics before coming to the United States.

At Swedish, Maria draws from that experience to help parents-to-be in the Spanish community. “Most of the expectant parents in my breastfeeding classes are from Central and South America,” she says. “It’s wonderful to be able to help them.”

Maria doesn’t just work with parents before birth, though. As a postpartum doula, she also helps them after they go home with their new baby.

“I say I’m a professional grandma,” she says. “I help parents understand the normal behavior of a newborn baby.” That’s mostly related to breastfeeding, sleep patterns and bowel movements, of course, but Maria also cooks for families, helps siblings learn how to interact with the new baby and organizes the baby’s belongings — whether it be clothing, diapers or wipes.

Maria sums up her job as helping parents learn to trust their gut: “We offer them touchpoints throughout the journey,” she says. “Before delivery, during labor and after the baby is born. But most of it is helping them learn to trust their bodies and trust their instincts. If they’re concerned because the baby isn’t eating, for example, and it’s been three-and-a-half hours, it’s helping them trust that that’s OK, because the baby isn’t upset about it, and the baby will definitely let you know when he’s hungry.”

Going the extra mile

Birth and family educators at Swedish know that questions will arise long after the class or at-home help ends. That’s why they make themselves available afterward, too.

“I really love to be a resource for people if they have questions that come up,” says Michele. “I like making that personal connection with people.”

Educators can also respond to the changing needs of the community by creating tailored classes. This may be offering classes in other languages, like Spanish and Mandarin, or addressing a demand for topics like acupressure or multiple-birth pregnancy.

For her part, Maria wants more people in the Spanish community to learn about the resources Swedish offers.

“We want to get the word out because there is so much families should know about labor and delivery, and so much about postpartum, before they have a baby,” she says. “Plus, they need that connection with other moms-to-be.”


Learn more and find a provider

Every year, more babies are born at Swedish than at any other health system in western Washington. In fact, helping you have your baby your way is one reason so many families choose Swedish.

Swedish has three birth centers — First Hill, Issaquah and Edmonds — making it convenient for people who live or work in the Seattle, Eastside and North End areas. But don’t just choose your birth center based on location. It’s also important to consider factors like the size of your birth center. Do you want a smaller, more boutique-like feel, for example, or a bustling city hospital with every possible resource available? Or maybe something in between?

All of our Swedish patients can take classes, meet other families, get help with lactation and go for new parents and well-baby checkups at The Lytle Center for Pregnancy & Newborns at our First Hill birth center. You can also get expert advice there and help with wellness.

To learn more about our childbirth and parenting classes — both in-person and online — visit our Childbirth and Parenting Classes at Swedish Medical Center page. To take a take a virtual tour of our birth centers, visit our Birth Center Tours page. If you need to find a provider, use our provider directory.

Also, if you want to provide input on the way we provide care, please join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Related resources

Pregnancy and Childbirth

What Moms and Dads Say (What’s it Really Like to Have a Baby at Swedish?)

Our Doctors and Midwives

Childbirth Classes & Tours

Resource Center

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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About the Author

There's a reason why more babies are born at Swedish every year than any other health system in western Washington - bringing babies into this world is our mission. The Swedish Pregnancy & Childbirth Team is committed to giving you relevant and actionable insights on how to care for yourself and your child as you navigate the trimesters of your pregnancy.

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