There are so many choices when it comes to giving birth, but how do you ensure your voice is heard? Doula, Chantel Kismet, shares her top tips for expectant mums when it comes to communicating your birth choices...
Childbirth is a life-changing experience, and a woman will never forget how she was treated during her labour. No matter how many children she has, each birth experience is deeply etched into her memory. When a woman feels heard and is surrounded by people who have shown her respect, patience, support and gentleness, she is likely to have positive feelings towards her birth and her baby. This can significantly reduce perinatal mood disorders and help her ease into motherhood. Here are some simple tips you can try to boost your confidence towards self-advocacy!
5 TOP TIPS TO HELP YOU ADVOCATE FOR YOUR BIRTH
1. Knowledge is power
Educate yourself! When you understand the birth process, types of medical interventions and possible birth scenarios, you are in a better position to make decisions and advocate for your birth. By learning as much as you can, you gain a clearer perspective of what you want and do not want for your birth. Most importantly, when you know your “stuff”, you (or your partner) can speak up for what you want. Invest your time in taking a childbirth class, read books or listen to podcasts! Being prepared makes the light of uncertainty a little dimmer.
2. Be curious and ask questions!
I encourage you to ask questions, especially at your prenatal appointments. It is a great time to gain more information and get a sense of how your doctor practices – are they aligned with what you are wanting? Find out what are the birth options available to you, ask about the benefits and risks involved. Create a list of questions and pick three or four to ask at each visit. This gives you ample time to process new information and feel less overwhelmed. Never ever hesitate to ask more questions, especially if you need more clarity; after all, they are just questions!
How to ask questions during your birth
Labour can be unpredictable, and there are times where you may not be able to speak up for yourself and advocate for your birth. This is where your partner comes in! Let them know what your expectations are and how you would like to be supported. The BRAIN acronym is a useful communication tool to help you and your partner make the right choice. Should any medical intervention becomes necessary, here are some simple questions to help you navigate:
B – Benefits: What are the benefits of this procedure?
R – Risks: What are the risks involved?
A – Alternatives: Are there any alternatives available?
I – Intuition: Take a moment to check in with your partner and yourself; how do you feel about this suggestion?
N – Nothing: What are the possible scenarios if I did nothing?
3. Write a birth plan
A birth plan helps you identify your birth goals and the issues that concern you the most. It also acts as a communication tool between you and your care providers. Discuss your preferences with your care provider – this is an opportunity for you to express how you would like to be supported and what aspects of the birth experience matters to you most. If you find that your care provider is not aligned with your birth preferences, it is good to know ahead of time and make a switch!
4. Practice role-playing
Yes, you read it right! So imagine this, on your big day, as you are labouring in the room, your care provider comes in and tells you that you are going to need to do a procedure (perhaps that’s not in line with your birth plan) – how are you going to handle it? Once you are clear of your expectations and birth preferences, spend some time role-playing different scenarios. This gives you more confidence in how you can communicate effectively and respectfully with your care providers. Know that you have the right to clarify and ask questions before making a decision. Here are some phrases to bring with you:
“I don’t quite understand what you are saying, please can you explain it again?”
“Can you tell me more about this, please?”
“What do you see that made you suggest this?”
“Are there other options available that we could consider first?”
“Why do you think that this is necessary at this stage?”
“Please could you give us a moment to discuss?”
5. Speaking up for yourself
Listen to your instincts; you know your body best. In labour, if something does not feel or sound right, voice it out! If you feel uncomfortable about something, let the nurses and doctor know. If you are not in the right state to do so, get your birth partner to communicate your needs and mediate discussions in a respectful and assertive manner. You can always seek a second opinion if you have a significant concern.
These are five simple steps towards advocating for your birth. Speaking up for yourself may not always be easy in the face of labour, but never be afraid to let your voice be heard!
Feel confident and empowered; you got this mum-to-be!