University of Minnesota
Driven to Discover

Pregnancy and Birth: An Emerging Perspective on Children's Development

(formerly Prenatal Development and Its Influence on Children's Development)

EDHD 5300
Earn a Continuing Education Certificate (42 clock hours) or 1 Academic Credit

This online course is grounded in the belief that pregnancy, regardless of the outcome, begins the parent-infant relationship. It is designed for family educators, social workers, health care providers, and others working with families to facilitate positive parent-baby interactions that begin in the prenatal period.

The ways in which children develop and interact with their parents and environment is unique for each child. Seldom do people consider that many of children’s behaviors observed in the preschool years may be influenced during the prenatal period. What happens during pregnancy, birth, and early postpartum not only sets the stage for parents but may influence the way children develop and interact with their environment throughout life.

The course is divided into eight learning modules:

Module 1: Overview and Background of the Course

Module 2: Reframing Pregnancy to a Parenting Experience

Module 3: Fetal Competencies

Module 4: Review Cycles in Regard to Prenatal Testing

Module 5: Review Cycles in Regard to Unexpected Outcomes--Premature Birth and Loss

Module 6: Complementary Therapies

Module 7: Understanding the Birth Story: Supporting Birth Trauma and Early Postpartum Parenting

Module 8: Cultural Differences and Prenatal Resources

Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to: 

  • Identify and explore cultural values about pregnancy, the unborn child, and the father’s role
  • Examine prenatal attachment from the historical perspective to the current understanding of the unborn baby’s prenatal life
  • Identify a relationship-based model of prenatal education and specific interventions to support parents’ awareness of the emotional needs of their unborn baby from pregnancy into the first three months of life
  • Recognize and support the role of fathers during pregnancy
  • Explore professional boundaries around differences between support, therapeutic education, and therapy
  • Describe ways that guided imagery, art, and journaling can be used to support parents’ awareness of the unborn child
  • Identify issues during pregnancy and birth that may cause trauma for the parents and/or baby and how this can alter postpartum adjustment
  • Explore using the prenatal attachment model with different cultures, adolescents, adoption, pre-term birth, and infant loss

This online course is approved by the Minnesota Center for Professional Development to count toward career lattice steps and approved by the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) for their members (ICEA accepts a maximum of 24 clock hours per course).

Next session: June 9 to August 11, 2014


For 42 clock hours: $290 registration fee

For 1 academic credit: $350


To register for clock hours:

  1. Please read important information in About Online Courses.
  2. Register and pay online. You will receive a confirmation of registration.
  3. You will be emailed getting started instructions, including how to access the course site, on the Friday before the session begins.

NOTE: If you desire a certificate for administrative clock hours, you must email a request to Karen Anderson at PRIOR to the start of the session. We must submit administrative clock hour requests to the Minnesota Department of Education and they will not accept requests after the course has begun.


To register for academic credit:

There is a two-step registration process. You must complete both steps in order to fully and completely register for this course. You will be emailed getting started instructions, including how to access the course site, on the Friday before the session begins.

  • Degree-seeking students currently enrolled at the University of Minnesota may not use our for-credit courses toward their degree program. Should a currently enrolled student choose to register for academic credit, the student may be subjected to additional University fees.
  • Degree-seeking students enrolled in schools other than the University of Minnesota wishing to use our course as an elective must directly seek prior approval from their degree program.
  1. Please read important information in About Online Courses.
  2. Register online.
  3. Complete and submit the Registration Request for Graduate Credit form. Closely follow the instructions on page 1 since they differ from what is listed on the form and the instructions on page 1 streamline the process for you (e.g., do NOT register via OneStop; send your Grad Credit Request form to CEED, not the University). This form must be received in CEED's office no later than May 26, 2014. CEED will obtain the appropriate approval signatures and forward your form to One Stop Student Services.
  4. When the University processes your request form, you will receive a confirmation mailing (via USPS) from One Stop Student Services with information regarding your student account and payment. You must activate your student account for both payment and to use in logging into the course site.
  5. On the Friday before the session begins, you will be emailed getting started instructions, including how to access the course site.

Required Materials

The required materials packet can be ordered online at on the A Place to Remember website.

  • Book: Bonding with Your Baby Before Birth, by Maria Carella, M.Ed., LPC. Item #BW0527.
  • Booklet: How Can I Help?, by Martha Wegner Hay. Item #HC0261.
  • Audio CD: Parenting Your Baby Before Birth, by J.M. O'Leary and L. Parker. Item #PY0452.
  • Manual: Parenting Your Baby Before Birth, by J.M. O'Leary and L. Parker. Item #PY0521.
  • Booklet: What is Written on the Heart: Primal Issues in Adoption, by Marcy Axness. Item #WI0567.

Joann O'Leary, Instructor

Joann O'LearyJoann O'Leary, Ph.D., MPH, MS, IMH-E ® (IV). Joann holds a B.E.S. and a Masters in Maternal-Child Health from the University of MN.  She also has a Masters in Psychology through research from Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland which was funded through a Rotary Scholarship. Her thesis title was: Psychosocial factors influencing maternal adaptation in Primiparas and the effect of the Brazelton Neonatal Assessment Intervention. Her Ph.D. is in Work, Community and Family Education and from the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation was The Meaning of Parenting During Pregnancy After the Loss of a Baby: A Descriptive Phenomenological Study of Parenting a Subsequent Baby Following a Perinatal Loss.

Her first career as an LPN in Pediatric NICU led into her second career as a birth to five preschool Special Education Infant Teacher in the inner city of St. Paul.  She became certified as Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale examiner during her MPH course and moved into a hospital setting working within a High Risk Perinatal Center.

Dr. O'Leary's Ph.D. research was funded by the Bush Foundation. She does research and writing on prenatal parenting; pregnancy and parenting after the loss of a baby, including its impact on fathers and siblings, including adults who were the child in their family born after the loss of a baby.

Joann teaches the CEED online courses Pregnancy and Birth: An Emerging Perspective on Children's Development and Pregnancy's Unexpected Outcomes: Death, Disabilities, and the Impact on Parents and Children--A Guide for Practitioners.

Comments from Participants

  • "In recent years, there has been greater interest and emphasis on development during the early years. Offering a course like “Pregnancy and Birth: An Emerging Perspective in Children’s Development” seems to be perfectly timed. The course provides practitioners in a wide variety of fields with information and methods of providing support and intervention to women and men who are experiencing the transition to parenthood and to their developing babies."
  • "I have learned to sit in a more meaningful way with the developmental histories of children seen at our child clinics. I hope I can now embrace the stories of pregnancy, labor, and birth as a story that may have echoes in current stories. The prenatal work is not restricted to prenatal interventions. I see how I am growing in my clinical work with toddlers, preschool children, adolescents, and adults from all walks of life." 
  • "The fact that the fetus hears, tastes, practices breathing, moves about and stretches is established knowledge. To consider the significance of these competencies as impacting postnatal areas such as attachment, breastfeeding, language development (and possibly many more areas) is astounding."
  • "This course has been interesting, enlightening, and a wonderful step in taking us deeper into understanding the intrinsic nature of prenatal development and the value of quality care, physically, emotionally, spiritually. It offers a holistic approach to prenatal care."
  • "I have come to have a fuller understanding of prenatal development and the relationship between the parents and their unborn baby." 
  • "The articles support the evidence of the inner connectedness of mother, father and baby, giving a broader perspective to consider in working with the parenting tasks of the family during and after pregnancy."
  • "I gained new understanding about how my children's birth explained some characteristics I could never understand in their development today."

Upcoming Sessions

  • Summer 2014: June 9 to August 11, 2014
  • Fall 2014: September 22 to November 24, 2014



If you have further questions or would like a sample syllabus, please contact Karen Anderson, CEED Online Course Manager, at 612-625-6617 or

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Last modified on February 21, 2013.