“Well, you are the expert; we will just do what you tell us.” Admittedly it is nice to be regarded as an expert, but these are dangerous words. There is something about wearing a white coat and a stethoscope that grants healthcare professionals great power over their patients. Intelligent women and men come to the hospital and abdicate their decision making power at the door.
Your perinatal team has varied knowledge, training, experience, bias, fear, and motivation. They are experts, but they are not perfect! They have seen a lot, but they haven’t seen everything. Some have not read a new research article in years, some haven’t slept in 2 days, and some had a maternal death patient with similar risk factors as yours. Sometimes they just want to go home on time and your labor is taking too long. Some of them are biased towards low intervention, others have never met a patient they didn’t want to take to the operating room.
When you are admitted to the hospital you will not know what is behind the smiling faces and monitoring machines. In most cases what you see is what you get. Doctors and nurses that are working hard to make ensure you and your baby make it safely through labor and delivery. There are many paths to that outcome. You need to be a part of the decision making.
The first step is to get educated prior to the delivery. Taking a prenatal class is an excellent way to prepare for childbirth. I personally recommend the Hypnobabies course, but there are many other programs available. Check with your local hospitals. They often offer low/no cost courses and you will be able to learn more about how labor is approached where you will be delivering. If you do not have time to attend a traditional class, there are self study options or online courses available. AWHONN, INJOY, and Evidence Based Birth are websites that have great information.
The second step is to make a birth plan. If a written birth plan is not appealing, you can still take time to discuss with your support person and your doctor/midwife your thoughts, goals and wishes for your labor and delivery. Having a mutual understanding can help make decisions during labor easier.
Third: Use your BRAIN! Every decision you make should be collaborative between you and your healthcare team. The most important person in the equation is you. Each time a decision is required, use the simple decision making tool BRAIN.
Benefits: What are the benefits of the intervention?brain
Risks: What are the risks involved? It is important to explore this and get the full list of risks. Many times healthcare providers will mention the most common or the most devastating risks. You need to be told all the risks to be able to make an informed decision.
Alternatives: Are there alternatives? Sometimes there are no alternatives, but in many situations there are alternative interventions that can be attempted. Find out your options and if you have an alternative in mind, suggest it.
Intuition: Take a minute to think and discuss with your support person. What is your gut telling you? Doctors and nurses use intuition to care for their patients too.
Nothing/not now: What if you did nothing? What if you waited an hour or three? Time can clarify most situations. In other situations doing nothing may cause a bad outcome for you or baby. How does doing nothing affect this particular situation?
Being empowered and educated will help you have the birth experience that is best for you and your baby.
Remember to use your BRAIN!