4 Tips on Being an Active Participant in Childbirth

4 Tips on Navigating Healthcare While Pregnant

My grandmother recently had a stroke. It was relatively mild, and she is now at a temporary rehab facility. Overall, she was treated respectfully, but most of the time she did not understand what was going on. She did not understand the medications that were given to her, the procedures done to her, the reason for the G-tube (a tube surgically placed into the stomach to feed her, since she was unable to swallow) that was placed, or why they were not giving her any food (My grandmother LOVES food; she can out eat anyone! So no food is a big deal!).

At one point, my grandmother said, “I’m lucky I have you and your mother because this is all so confusing!” She’s right, the medical world can be very confusing. My mother and I are nurses, and were there to speak to the doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, and anyone else that was involved with her care. We were able to ask what “pill” they were giving her, or which lab the “little bit of blood” was for, or the risks and benefits of the feeding tube. Then explain this to her. But really, she was not an active participant in this process.

I felt so guilty, knowing that she did not fully understand what was being done to her, and why. It reminded me of how women often say they feel during labor and childbirth. How scary and confusing that must be for them. Medical professionals go to school for many years to have the training, experience, and knowledge that they have to practice medicine. However, you do not need a degree to be an active participant in your healthcare. Here are some tips:

WRITE THINGS DOWN

Pen and paper can be great tools for keeping track of appointments, questions, or your to-do-list. There are many things to consider when planning for your birth; write them down. Write down questions for your OB/Midwife appointments, important advice, words that you don’t understand or topics you need to research. When I was pregnant, I used a binder to keep it all organized.

ASK QUESTIONS

Ask your doctor/midwife questions. If your care provider never has time to answer your questions, this may be a “red flag”. Part of their job is to answer your questions. However, sometimes they are simply overbooked, so tell the clerk you need extra time when scheduling your next appointment; and they will give you a longer block of time.  If you don’t like your care provider’s answer, you can always get a second opinion.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

Hopefully, before you are in labor, you asked a lot of questions and found the birth place and care provider that is right for you. Ideally, you and your care provider will have a mutually respectful relationship. Regardless of your relationship though, it is important to understand the risks and benefits of any procedure that they suggest during your pregnancy and labor. It is equally important to know that you have the right to DECLINE, as well as CONSENT, to procedures.  It is YOUR body and they need YOUR permission!

BRING SUPPORT

Bring support! Many athletes have support personnel to assist them on game day, you should too! In addition to their partner, women often invite close friends, family, or doulas to their birth. Ideally, it should be with someone you are comfortable with (after all, there is a good chance you will be naked and poop in front of them), who is supportive of your birth plan, and who can help facilitate communication (not speak for you) between you and medical staff. It is also helpful if this person is knowledgeable about birth (either from personal experiences, training, or education).

Navigating the medical world can be confusing, but it is possible! You’ve got this!

Have any other suggestions? I would love to read them! Please comment below.

I am a childbirth and parenting educator, as well as a doula. I am also a registered nurse, breastfeeding mom, and active in my local birth community. For more information on me, my comprehensive childbirth classes, and services please visit MY – Birth & Baby.

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