Birth Blog

Wingin’ It

by Julia West on October 23, 2015

I have been really loving my job lately. This year I’ve met some of the sweetest couples and I’m excited for the babies who will join these happy homes. I get to see these couples really bond while they plan and prepare together for the arrival of their baby. Not every one has had the natural birth they hoped for, but all of them seemed to use the knowledge they gained in class to be an active participant in their births and to be part of the decisions made for them and their babies during pregnancy, birth and beyond. That is exactly why I teach. Not to shame anyone for the choices they make, but to make sure women know their options, fully aware of the risks and benefits, before they make those decisions. And because I believe the birth experience matters. The way a woman is made to feel on the day she gives birth can have lasting effects on her emotions, her health, her bond with her baby and her outlook on motherhood, in general. Every woman deserves to know her options, to be involved and to be supported and respected during the birth of her baby.

IMG_8315

 

That is why I feel compelled to address a common phrase I’ve heard from expectant mamas. Occasionally, in passing, I will hear a mom say something like,

 

“I think I’m just going to keep an open mind. We’ll just go in and wing it and see what happens. You can’t control everything, right?”

 

If you ask any pregnant woman, I think she would say she does not want to be subjected to unnecessary interventions and does not want birth over complicated, but most women do not realize how hard it may be to avoid unnecessary interventions. I understand not every woman is interested in natural birth (though, I did write a post about the reasons women want a natural birth.) But I’m not just talking about unmedicated birth, I’m talking about being satisfied with the birth experience.

A dear friend recently told me, “With my first baby, I was scared and just didn’t want to know what was going to happen with my body. So I was like, “Whatever, I just want a healthy baby.” But then I actually cared what happened and it had the reverse effect on me because it DID matter to me what happened to my body… The more you are informed, you are better prepared for whatever the outcome is with your birth. The less you know, the more chance you will be caught off guard with something and it could be really shocking. The less informed you are, the less solutions you will know for issues that may arise.” You can read about her births here.

I will admit that occasionally a mother will not prepare for labor, not question her care provider and still be satisfied with her birth experience.  A mother could possibly be satisfied with her experience using the “wing it” approach if:

  1. Her pregnancy is textbook and goes along as expected.
  2. She has a super fast labor and/or arrives at the hospital at the very end of it.
  3. She is one of the few people who is comfortable sitting in one position during labor and/or delivering on her back.
  4. She is already familiar with hospital policy and is comfortable and relaxed in a hospital setting.
  5. Her body responds well to interruptions, chemical or environmental.
  6. The on-call staff are supportive and respectful.

 

However, here are a few reasons why the “wait and see” approach may not result in a satisfactory birth experience:

 

  1. Many care providers and birth places are not mother-friendly.

 

Meaning, they have many policies in place that reduce their risk of litigation or that are convenient for the staff but that do not benefit the mother or baby. Did you know that US ranks at the bottom of the list of industrialized countries in terms of maternity healthcare outcomes? The system overall is not set up to suit the needs of individual families, but rather for families to conform to it. There are exceptions to this rule, but they are not the norm.

Women are their own best advocates. It is important to know your doctor’s philosophy, moral foundation and experience practicing evidence-based medicine. As my brother-in-law so astutely points out, 50% of all doctors are in the bottom half of their profession. And just because someone is licensed, educated or a professional, does not mean they are the right fit for you.

Keep in mind that you need to know the same information about your care provider’s backups as well as the likelihood that your doctor or midwife will actually be able to attend your birth. In class, we talk every week about good questions to ask care providers so that couples can feel confident they are in good hands. A woman’s care provider and birth place have a HUGE impact on her birth experience.

 

  1. Interventions tend to snowball.

 

A mother may be perfectly happy with getting an epidural. But she may not be aware that she will be required to have a catheter and electronic fetal monitor. Or that she may need oxygen if her blood pressure drops, she may have her water broken early in labor or be given pitocin to speed labor if the epidural slows it down. A friend of mine said her care provider told her during a prenatal appointment that she could have an internal fetal monitor so that she could still move around during labor. The OB did not mention that her water would have to be broken and the probe would be inserted under the skin on the baby’s scalp. These are the things women need to know before giving consent for these interventions.

 

  1. Feeling confused, unsure and unprepared can actually hinder labor.

 

Cervixes are shy. Sometimes if a woman feels embarrassed or distracted from the work of labor, labor will stall or even reverse! A woman must feel safe and respected in order to relax and allow her body to progress through labor. The right care provider and birth place are going to be different for every woman. Some may not be able to relax outside of a hospital, so the best option will be mother-friendly OB or midwife in a mother-friendly hospital. Other women are fearful of the hospital setting, after either having bad experiences or never spending much time in a hospital, and so her labor may progress best outside of a hospital with a skilled midwife whom she trusts. When a mother is informed, supported and confident, she and her baby experience less stress during labor and her body is able to focus on progressing.

I totally agree with part of the statement above: “We can’t control everything.” That is so true and I believe there is value in recognizing that. However, that does not mean we can control nothing. Mothers have rights. Mothers even have rights to opinions, preferences and respect. It is not unrealistic to want to be satisfied with a birth experience or to want a smooth recovery.

Here are a few books that I’ve read and believe are excellent resources to help mothers navigate the maternity healthcare system:

The Birth Book by Dr. Sears
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer
The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger

 

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post: