We know that a woman's birth experience leaves a lasting impression on her.
We also know that personal control significantly affects a woman's satisfaction with her birth. This is not surprising, right? Even when things don't go as planned, you can still have an empowering experience through education and open communication with your care provider and birth team.
So what is one supposed to do? In my childbirth classes I'm often asked,
"Don't I have to do whatever my Dr/Midwife says?"
If they are telling you it's urgent or an emergency, then of course, yes. But the answer is not always yes. Hopefully you've put a lot of thought into who your practitioner is and hopefully you have built a trusting relationship with them throughout your pregnancy. With that said, they are part of your birth team. Like putting together any other team that you are in charge of, you get to lead it. You don't have to lie there and be told what will happen to you. You get to ask questions, a good practitioner will not see this as you "questioning them", but will see it as you advocating for yourself (or your partner). This should lead to a discussion where you get to learn more about the situation and your options.
An easy way to lead this conversation is by using your B.R.A.I.N.
B - Benefits. What are the benefit to doing this?
R - Risk. What are the risks involved in doing this?
A - Alternatives. Are there any alternatives to doing this?
I - Instincts. (Don't underestimate this one!) What is your instinct telling you to do?
N - Nothing. What if you do nothing right now and wait until later or even another day?
Let's take a look at how this might play out in labor:
Your Dr/Midwife suggests that she break your water. You immediately try hard to remember everything you learned about having your water broken (aka artificial rupture of membranes).
Keep in mind that you are in labor which can make decision making more difficult... but luckily you have your Doula with you (wink, wink)!!
You: I don't know, I'm not sure what to do.
Doula: (to you) Do you have any questions for your Dr/MW about having your water broken? Maybe about the benefits and risks?
You: (to Dr/MW) What are the benefits to breaking my water now?
Dr/MW: Breaking your water at this point while while you are having consistent patterned contractions will probably speed up your labor.
You: (to Dr/MW) What are the risks of breaking my water now?
Dr/MW: Once I break your water your contractions might become more uncomfortable and harder to manage. Also after your water is broken we will want you to deliver the baby within 24 hours, if not then we may want introduce additional forms of labor augmentation (ways to speed speed labor up).
You: What are the alternatives to having my water broken?
Dr/MW: There are no alternatives without using medicine. So the only real alternative is not to have it done.
Doula: Would you like some time alone with <insert birth partner's name> to think about this?
The room clears and your doula will ask you what your gut says to do. She will also respect and support any decision you make about your birth.
There is no power struggle or pressure. It's just you and those you've chosen to be with you in birth, empowered to make the decision that you feel is best for you and your birth!
Learn more about how to have a empowered birth experience, even if it's not your first baby, by taking a childbirth class at Mother Rising Women's Studio. Click here to see our latest class schedule.
Shauna Rich, BS, LCCE, HBCE
Co-Founder & Educator
Mother Rising Women's Studio