The common thread in every birth story I hear – whether triumphant, traumatic or ecstatic – is information. The promotion of empowerment during birth is only possible through the simultaneous promotion of informed consent. It is far easier to accept the way a birth unfolds if you feel you were able to remain autonomous and at the centre of the decision-making with regards to what happens to your body and your baby. Part of ‘taking back your birth’ involves you taking responsibility for the choices you make; becoming better informed about birth and birth choices is one such way to become empowered as a consumer.
So, where and how does one get this information? I personally love sharing information, swapping ideas and hearing stories from other mums – this is one way to get a feel for what sorts of things happen locally with particular care providers, models of care and birth settings, for example. Organisations like CARES and some local doulas hold coffee mornings which offer an opportunity to chat, ask questions and gather resources (CARES has a fabulous library of such material!). There are also thousands of forums, articles and birth stories to be read (or viewed!) on the internet.
But, on the issue of informed consent, what all women really need to know are these three things:
1) If you feel you can’t say ‘No’ because it hasn’t been presented to you as an option, or you are too scared to say ‘No’ even if you want to, chances are you are not giving informed consent. This is, in fact, true of many decisions in life.
2) Planning to make informed decisions as part of an empowered birth plan is easy when the decisions are foreseeable and you have ample time to conduct your research. A situation may arise, however, during labour or birth when a decision needs to be made quickly and you are unlikely to be in a position to be thinking rationally, logically or deeply about the options you have.
The quickest way for you to (with the support of your trusty birth team) make an ‘express’ informed decision is to use your BRAIN:
Benefits: what are they?
Risks: what are they?
Alternatives: are there any?
Information: do I have it all?
Nothing: what if I do nothing?
3) Sometimes you don’t know what you need to know. This is where it is highly advantageous to call upon the services of a professional birth attendant (such as a doula), seek support from local networks like CARES and/or to consider attending an independent childbirth workshop. Drawing upon the experience and knowledge of another mother who has ‘been there, done that’ can be a way to fast-track your ‘Ah ha!’ moments.
To this end, I offer a range of workshops designed to support women (and their partners!) to quickly acquaint themselves with the ‘lay of the land’. Please take a look at my ‘Services’ tab, and email me if you think I might be able to assist you in your journey towards informed decision making.