International Women’s Day - Women’s choices in maternity care

International Women’s Day is celebrated on the 8th March each year to celebrate the achievements of women, but also to highlight the fact that we still live in a male dominated society, and as such, women continue to strive for gender equality. Maternity care is certainly still a place where women’s choices can be decided for them and where we can still lack aspects of control over our reproductive rights.

This blog will explain how you can start to negotiate the maternity system when you are faced with difficult decisions, so you can make the right choices for you and your baby.

Interventions in pregnancy and induction of labour

Pregnancy and birth in the UK have gradually become more medicalised over the last few decades. This means that women are inevitably faced with a growing amount of different care pathways and choices to deal with.

More pregnancies than ever are now induced, often these labours then require medication to speed them up, drugs to take away the pain and instruments to help babies to be born. Interventions can be necessary, even lifesaving, for you or your baby, however many can be offered based on lower risk factors for you and your baby than you might think.

As interventions in pregnancy can increase your chances of needing help to labour effectively and then as a result, often needing help to birth your baby- such as forceps, ventouse or caesarean section, it is worth taking time to consider them and whether they are the right choice for you.

Remember that interventions and induction of labour are risk factors in themselves, as they predispose you to potentially needing more procedures and medications.

How to make decisions in your maternity care

Whether you choose to have interventions or not, with plenty of preparation, research and the right decision-making tools, you can take control of your pregnancy, labour and birth.

You do not need to have a natural birth without any pain relief to feel strong and empowered during your pregnancy and labour. It is about choice and feeling as though you have made the decisions that were the right ones for you and that you have been listened to by your care providers, during your journey through the maternity care system.

Weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of what is being offered to you by researching, or by asking your midwife or doctor for the evidence that informs a treatment or procedure you are being offered.

Always make the choice that is right for you, not for anyone else.

An excellent tool that you could find helpful for this decision making process is the BRAIN acronym. By working through the steps below, it can help to inform your decision making.

The BRAIN acronym for decision making:

B is for benefits. What are the benefits for me, my pregnancy and/or labour and for my baby?

R is for risks. What are the risks to me, my pregnancy and/or labour and to my baby? What could the risks be for me and my baby by having this procedure? Remember that pregnancy and labour is a life process that should, generally, be healthy and straightforward, needing little intervention for a successful outcome.

A is for alternatives. What are the alternative options or treatments being offered to me, for my pregnancy/labour/baby?

I is for intuition. What does my intuition and instinct tell me? Search deep for this as we are not used to trusting this part, but it should be given consideration.

N is for nothing. What would happen if I decided to do nothing? If I decided not to go ahead with a procedure what could happen to me in my pregnancy or to my baby?

Ultimately, always know that it is your body, your baby and your choice.

Summary

In summary, every pregnant woman is an individual and what is right or acceptable for one woman may be wrong or unacceptable to another. It is for you to consider your options and any attached risk factors and decide which is the right pathway for you and your baby.

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