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Many women do not feel empowered during childbirth; they feel helpless, confused, fearful, and traumatized by what is being done to their body. Unfortunately, our healthcare system thrives off of making us feel this way. If we feel weak, then they can justify that they are coming in to “save the day” by utilizing interventions that cost money. We have given our power over to the system for too long and what breaks my heart the most is that many women, especially black women, do not realize that they are being taken advantage of, mistreated, and preyed upon. If you believe that healthcare is not a business and that everyone has pure intentions, you are mistaken. As someone who has worked in the industry for 5 years, I was harassed about increasing my volume and bringing in more money. How many times have I ever been asked about how I helped a patient or brought value to their life? That answer is a horrifying zero. We have to stop blindly placing our bodies and lives into the hands of those who don’t care about us. I’m speaking up because quite frankly I’m sick of it. I did not become a Midwife to contribute to the mistreatment of women. I became a Midwife to empower and educate, which is what I always have and will continue to do. Here are 5 ways to have an empowering birth.
1. Learn as Much as You Can
Congratulations! Just by reading this, you have taken the first step to empowering yourself for childbirth. When you find out you are pregnant and make that first appointment with your OB, you are rightfully expecting your provider to provide thorough education about what to expect, things to avoid, and how to have a healthy pregnancy. We actually call this “New OB Education,” and all expectant moms should receive it, whether its their first child or 10th. In a perfect world, your provider will also provide you with an educational packet providing even more details about the conversation that was had. Was this your experience? Or were you rushed through your visit (I’ve had doctors tell me that I need to do a New OB visit in 15 minutes, which is ridiculous!)? If you are not given the education or tools you need to thrive, it is your healthcare provider’s fault. However, If they fail you, there are options for getting the information yourself.
If possible, find another provider who genuinely cares about providing education and answering your questions. Read reviews, ask around, see how you are treated by the front desk staff when you attempt to make an appointment. Your insurance plan does dictate where you can go, but even if you are restricted to one office, ask to see another provider in that office who you feel could serve you better.
Online information from reputable websites, such as the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and March of Dimes.
Book a health education consult through my “Ask the Midwife” service. These sessions are completely dedicated to your questions and concerns. We can discuss warning signs in the 1st trimester, round ligament pain, comfort measures, nutrition during pregnancy, exercise during pregnancy, sex during pregnancy, common tests during pregnancy, safe over the counter medications to take, preterm labor signs, options for pain management during labor, breastfeeding preparation, and/or childbirth preparation. It is completely tailored to what is most important to you!
Take a group childbirth preparation or breastfeeding class at your local hospital or community center.
The more you know about pregnancy and childbirth, the more you can advocate for yourself and be aware of what is going on, rather than just having things done to you. Whenever your provider recommends a procedure, test, or intervention, ask them why it is being recommended, what the risks are, and if there are any alternatives.
2. Make a Birth Plan
A birth plan is a written document that details your vision for your individual birth experience. You can put whatever you want in there, but common items would be whether or not you want an epidural or medicine for pain, whether you want delayed cord clamping, whether you would like to be able to get up and walk during labor, who you want in the delivery room, whether you want to bond with the baby first before any procedures or tests are done, whether you want to initiate breastfeeding in the first hour, and more. This is why education is so important because if you aren’t aware of these options, then you wouldn’t think to put it in a birth plan or even create a birth plan. There are numerous templates that you can find through a quick Google search. It’s always best to bring your birth plan during one of your visits in the last trimester and review it with your healthcare provider. Ideally, your provider should embrace your plan and reassure you that your plan will be respected as long as you and the baby remain healthy during labor/childbirth. If your provider responds negatively to your birth plan or refuses to review it or brushes it off, this is a red flag! Also, be sure to bring your birth plan to the hospital or birth center so that the staff who may have never met you before, are aware of your wishes.
3. Hire a Doula
A doula is a labor coach who provides emotional support during the duration of labor, physical comfort, and advocacy. A lot of people will ask what is the difference between a Midwife or Doula or if you need both. You absolutely need both because they serve two completely different roles. Your Midwife is a healthcare professional who is responsible for ensuring that you and your baby are remaining healthy during childbirth. Your Midwife will evaluate your vital signs, baby’s heart tones, cervical dilation, and how the labor is progressing. She is also watching closely for any deviations from normal and warning signs. On the other hand, your doula is not a healthcare professional and does not engage in clinical duties. However, she is a valuable asset that keeps you committed to your birth plan and can speak up for you when you find it difficult to speak up for yourself. Your doula is also present with you during the total duration of labor, which can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Research has shown that women who have doulas are less likely to receive an epidural, interventions, or a C-section. Find a black doula HERE and all doulas HERE.
It’s time to stop viewing childbirth as something that happens to you, but instead see it as something you are an active participant in. Women were not created to simply laid down, be strapped to a bed, and have things done to their body while people towered over them and gave orders. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Now imagine you walking, moving, and working with gravity to guide your baby down the birth canal. You ride the wave of each contraction with confidence and when your body tells you that you are ready, you get into the position that is most comfortable for you and birth your baby. Doesn’t this sound more empowering, peaceful, and quite frankly, logical? Your labor can be like this, but you must prepare. Would you go and run a marathon if you’ve never even walked 5 miles before? Absolutely not because you would tire easily and worst case scenario, injure yourself. You have to think of birth in the same way. It can often feel like a marathon because unlike the movies, labor lasts for hours or even days. You have to build up determination, stamina, and confidence. You have to learn breathing techniques and coping mechanisms, then practice with your support person at home. If you go into labor blindly with no plan of how you will deal with contractions, then you will be overwhelmed, caught off guard, and feel like you have no option but to do what someone else is telling you. During your “Ask the Midwife” session, I will give you real techniques, resources, and ways to practice.
5. Believe in Yourself
If you do not believe that you are capable of having an empowering birth, then none of these other components will matter. It first starts with you looking in the mirror and realizing that you are a real life goddess whose body knows exactly what to do. Think about it, women have been having babies from the beginning of time and our bodies are literally created to give birth. You already have all the tools you need, but over time, society has tricked your mind into believing that you don’t. It’s time to reclaim your power and trust your body. Start to meditate and visualize the type of childbirth you would like. Surround yourself with those who are supportive and stay far away from those who speak negatively. You absolutely can birth your baby exactly how you would like!
xoxo, Global Midwife
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, only education. Always check with your healthcare provider.