When people are asking me about my role as a doula, I am often asked about how I can help them advocate for their best interests at the hospital. Whether or not you choose to have a doula at your birth, it is important to know how to communicate with the hospital staff or even your home birth midwife.
I first want to point out that advocacy does not need to be confrontational. In fact, in the middle of a labor or delivery, I believe confrontation should be avoided as much as possible. Ninety nine percent of the time you can get your point across without ruffling any feathers. You just need a little bit of thought and preparation and a deep breath.
I have found that most unwanted procedures happen because the medical staff is unaware that the parents to be want more information or are confused about what is going on. The staff is just going through their usual routines, but the combination of the medical terminology, and the emotional nature of having a baby can make all the events at the hospital seem like a whirlwind that is spinning out of control. For most people, what they need is more time to process what is happening, and the best way to buy more time, is with a question.
Sometimes it can be hard to think of something to ask when nurses and doctors are coming in and out of your room with information and options while the contractions keep coming and all you want to do is be left alone to focus on your labor. Many childbirth educators, including myself, give out a wallet size handout of good questions to ask like the one below.
- Is this an emergency, or do we have time to talk?
- What would be the benefits of doing this?
- What would be the risks of doing this?
- What else could we try first or instead?
- What would happen if we waited to do this?
- What would happen if we didn't do this at all?
True emergencies are quite rare in childbirth. Most of the time there is time for further discussion and you can get a bigger picture or your situation in order to make a more informed decision. A simple question, especially if asked politely, can go a long way in breaking the wall between parents and the medical staff. Most nurses, doctors, and midwives are happy to give you more information if you want it, but if you don't speak up they will have no way of knowing that you are feeling left in the dark.
This is only one of many tools that can be used for childbirth advocacy, but I hope that it can give you a sense that with the proper education and preparation, you can voice the things that are most important to you without compromising your relationship with your caregivers. Education and preparation will help you to approach childbirth with less fear and more confidence. It is my hope that through this blog, I can begin to show you how.