Expecting parents as team

Advocating for Yourself at Birth

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Last updated on 25 January 2024

Giving birth can be such an empowering experience: bringing a new life into the world is a true miracle. Independently from the kind of birth, whether it is vaginal or cesarean, with an epidural or unmedicated, what seems to influence the satisfaction of the person giving birth is the sense of agency: feeling that they (together with their baby) are the main actor in the process, and that their wishes and preferences are respected.

In this article, doula Marta Palombo shares with us her tips on how to prepare to advocate for yourself as well as for the birthing partner during labor.

Marta is a doula, yoga teacher and facilitator in circles for parents and babies. Originally from Italy, Marta has been living in Berlin for 7 years. 

How can you prepare to advocate for yourself?

Information

Learning about the various stages of labor, pain management options, and possible interventions can help you understand what is happening, and also make informed decisions and advocate for yourself.

Preferences

A birth plan is a document that outlines your preferences for labour and birth, and can include pain management options, position preferences, and postpartum care. The process of outlining these preferences often makes our priorities much clearer to ourselves. You can also discuss your plan with healthcare providers and bring it to the place where you will give birth, as a tool to facilitate communication with those around you.

Communication

Questions, needs, concerns and preferences during labour and birth can be communicated to healthcare providers. Having a trusted support person, such as a partner, family member, friend or doula, can help you advocate for yourself.

Knowing your rights

Remember that, as a patient, you have the right to informed consent and refusal, access to your medical records, and the ability to ask for a second opinion or transfer of care. 

How can you support a person giving birth and advocate for them?

Listening

Understanding their needs, preferences, and concerns is key to respecting the person who is giving birth and making them feel supported and empowered. This can start in advance, preparing together with research and resources to make informed decisions.

Voice

The person giving birth needs as little distraction as possible. You can communicate and actively ensure that healthcare providers understand and respect their choices.

Support

Your presence and encouragement can make a world of difference. Birth is regulated by hormones that respond to the environment through all senses, and you can make support by creating calm. You can also help the person giving birth to maintain an active role: this could be creating space for them to follow their instinct, and reminding them of any position or technique that they know from birth preparation.

Decisions

You can ensure that the person giving birth is fully informed about any interventions or procedures, and provides informed consent. Asking questions, providing information and discussing options with the person giving birth can help prevent undesired interventions when they are not necessary.

What is important to know is that:

A birth experience can be perceived as positive even when the outcome is not what was originally planned, as long as the person giving birth feels heard, respected and able to participate in decisions.

Preparation can empower and strengthen the sense of agency both for the person giving birth and for those who support them.

Thanks, Marta!

Learn more about how to prepare for birth with Marta via 1-on-1 consultations, workshops and prenatal retreats at https://every-body.berlin

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