Beyond Lamaze

The Prague Post

Women’s center takes holistic approach to birth preparation

In a large room, women lay on the floor working their stomach muscles and breathing deeply: a typical Pilates class. In a second room, the floor is covered with infants laying on blankets, their exercise limited to grasping at toys and cooing. Such is a day in Prague 1’s Studio pro žený.

“We prepare them for birth in a hospital,” says Daša Karbulková, a midwife, doula (assistant who provides emotional and physical support during the birthing process) and course lecturer in Pilates, pregnancy and postnatal classes. “Many women are afraid. In the hospital, doctors don’t have time to be relaxed. This is a special situation, and [the mother] may be scared, especially if it’s her first time.”

Studio manager and pediatric nurse Simona Lazzari says their most popular course is a 25-week module for expectant mothers. She says the class is split roughly half-and-half between exercise and lectures.

“It covers everything in 25 weeks. We start at the beginning and then move on to the birth, breastfeeding and baby care,” she explains. “It’s a fantastic system. If you miss a class, [you can] find out the theme and take it at a different time.”

Owner Magdalena Mikulandová founded her first Studio pro žený in Karlovy Vary in 1993, and she admits it was a tough sell in the beginning.

“I had been working as a midwife since 1987 in a hospital in Karlovy Vary,” she says. “I began to realize there were things missing and needed for women in the hospital, like an individual approach, communication, empathy and so on.”

Once she realized that “all gynecology and birth problems are strongly connected to a woman’s psychology,” she began making plans for her own studio.

“I have to admit that, in the beginning, there was a bigger supply of services than demand from women,” she says. “In the ’90s, women in the Czech Republic were not used to caring about themselves in this way.”

But the notion caught on, and, in 2000, she opened her studio in Prague, which now offers about 35 classes and sees more than 250 clients a week. The program schedule is stuffed with courses for both pregnant women and those who already have a baby in tow. Exercise classes include yoga and Pilates, both pre- and postnatal, and babysitting is always available. Postpartum classes range from swimming with the baby to belly dancing. In addition, a large number of birth-preparation courses are available.

Breastfeeding is given a priority at the studio. Karbulková says a hospital staff doesn’t often have time to properly explain it and work with the women. So, at Studio pro žený, they make sure moms are prepared beforehand. They are also available after the birth in case of any problems. Nearly every class is available privately, and the staff makes home visits, as well.

Neither Lazzari nor Karbulková recommend any one course over another, saying it is up to the individual.

“Some just want exercise; some have special needs; but the psychological preparation is very important,” Lazzari says. “We want to make sure a woman is prepared both physically and psychologically for the birth.”

But you don’t have to be pregnant or toting a baby to utilize Studio pro žený’s services. Exercise classes are open to all, and Lazzari says their newest program is focused on weight loss.

“It’s a metabolic balance program focused on eating and choosing the right foods,” she explains. “Blood tests are first taken, and then, based on the results, an individual program is designed.”

The studio also offers an individual program for women who, for no apparent health reason, are having trouble getting pregnant. And don’t feel left out, men – you can visit classes on how to help during the birth and how to care for the little one once he or she comes home.

Non-Czech speakers can participate in the exercise classes and work one-on-one with staff on individual programs. The staff speaks English, German and Italian. All eight employees are hospital-accredited in some way, as nurses, midwives, physical therapists, etc.

“Because of the high quality of courses from the beginning and our strong belief in our ideas, we are proud to have offered services to women for 16 years,” says Mikulandová. “Our approach to clients is holistic, and all the services we deliver to women are during a very sensitive part of their lives.”