That in-depth, out-of-hospital childbirth classes provide a comfortable space for acquiring research based information and for solidifying personal goals and values. And that a doula helps you exercise your self-determination during labor and birth.
I) Determine your personal values about birth
II) Recognize Evidence-Based Maternity Care
III) Assemble a care team that supports your goals
I) Determine your birth values: Decide what you believe about how your body works in relation to birth, what you see as the role of medicine in the birth process and more… Childbirth classes are a great way to help you figure that out. You'll get a deeper understanding of how the labor process works--what happens when it unfolds in a completely uninterrupted way, how your hormones and physiology are designed to support normal labor, and what risks/benefits/effects to expect if you choose medical interventions.
Our out-of-hospital classes are structured to give you the freedom to choose the topics you want to learn, and provide you with the information you need, in a small group setting.
II) Recognize Evidence-Based Maternity Care: Your care provider's and your hospital's “standard practice” during labor and birth may not necessarily be Evidence-Based or “best practice”. How can you tell? Do you know how your care provider typically practices? Do you know what practices/procedures/interventions you are likely to encounter at your birth location? Do you need more information to determine when those practices/procedures/interventions are evidence-based? In addition to helping you parse out what is important to you, classes can also walk you through the research, outline risks and benefits, and give you decision-making tools so you can answer these questions for yourself, and better “Navigate Your Hospital Birth”--even if it is “Beyond Textbook Birth.”
III) Assembling a care team that supports your personal goals. The first two actions can become meaningless if your care-provider doesn't believe in your independence. This brings us to the crux of the matter- who is the ultimate decision maker? To be clear, you ALWAYS have the RIGHT to make decisions regarding your body and your birth. In fact, ACOG issued a recent opinion statement recognizing this right:
“Pregnancy does not lessen or limit the requirement to obtain informed consent or to honor a pregnant woman’s refusal of recommended treatment."
--ACOG Committee Opinion, Number 664, June 2016
Be aware that there are care-providers who see it as their role to make decisions for you. There are many women who are fine with delegating their birth authority to their care provider. If, on the other hand, you want to be the final decision maker in your birth, then it is crucial that you choose a care-provider who believes it is your right to make final decisions, and believes that you have the ability to do so wisely.
A care provider who believes in your ultimate right to make decisions about your birth will:
- Welcome your questions, not subtly shut them down.
- Treat you as an equal.
- Listen during prenatal appointments, not be patronizing or brush you off.
- Will NOT say "Yes, BUT..." when you state your preferences or desires. Instead, they will support your choices, or give detailed explanations of the situation and wait for you to decide.
- Will NOT use the phrase "I/We don't allow that" when speaking to you.
Many of us are acculturated to cede authority to others. If you want to be sure this doesn’t happen to you during your birth, then it is important for you to choose a care-provider who recognizes your right to make decisions about your birth--one who honors your autonomy. Here's our guide for interviewing care providers.
Be sure to ask your care provider about their call schedule and if other providers share their approach and philosophy.
Consider strengthening your care team by choosing a trained labor support professional. A doula’s role is to support you in a variety of ways that help you achieve a satisfying birth as you define it. A doula will never speak for you, make decisions for you, or tell you what to do. Instead she will encourage you to ask for information, help you have space to consider and decide and will empower you to speak for yourself.
In sum: to ensure that your birth will be a celebration of your independence, power and autonomy, exercise your birth rights!
Be informed, be empowered, and find a doula to support you in order to forge a perfect union.
Want to learn more about your rights? Check out these resources:
- Childbirth Connection: Rights of Childbearing Women
- White Ribbon Alliance: Respectful Maternity Care: The Universal Rights of Childbearing Women
- Respectful Maternity Care: The Universal Rights of Childbearing Women poster
- The Joint Commission: Know Your Rights