In the whirlwind of birth, decisions often come thick and fast, leaving us feeling powerless and at the mercy of others’ choices. It’s time to break free from passive decision-making. In this blog, we’ll explore the art of informed decision making – a process built on three dynamic elements: previous understanding, current circumstances, and new information. Understanding the fluid nature of these components is key to reclaiming your agency in the birth space. Let’s unravel the power dynamics and pave the way for empowered decision making.
From Day 1…
From the minute you find out you’re pregnant, you’re bombarded with a lot of dos and don’ts:
You should only sleep on your left side.
Don’t eat runny eggs!
You can swim but don’t do breaststroke legs.
No eating swordfish (I know what you’re thinking – damn it, there goes dinner tonight.)
Then as you get closer to birth, these dos and don’ts shift into decisions you have to make:
Where will you give birth?
What pain relief will you use?
How will you feed?
What contraception will you use after baby is born? (Believe me, after a baby coming out, the last thing on your mind is anything else going in…)
Some of these decisions you can make with ease: You’ve decided you’d like to have your baby in the local birth centre. Your method of contraception will be enormous post-partum pants and a sharp stick.
Control in your birth experience
The trouble is, it’s easy to get used to being told what to do and not do. Then, when you’re confronted with decisions, the tendency to say “okay, whatever you think best,” before taking a moment to properly think about, occurs all too often. The decision you think you’ve just taken, was in fact a submission to someone else’s call.
In their 2013 Dignity Survey, Birthrights found that 31% of individuals did not feel in control of their birth experience, 21% of respondents reported that they were not given adequate information about their birth choices, and 37% didn’t feel that they had the birth they wanted.
Informed decision-making places the power back with the birthing person. It’s key to reclaiming bodily autonomy and agency, and transforms birth from being seen as an event happening to someone, to a profound transformation in which they’re the driving force.
Birthrights Dignity in Childbirth Forum, (16 October 2013) Dignity in Childbirth. The Dignity Survey 2013: Women’s and Midwives’ Experiences of UK Maternity Care.
There is no ‘failure’ at birth
Let’s be clear: there’s no such thing as ‘failing’ at birth. Regardless of outcome or pathway, your body births a baby. Every twist and turn is a part of your unique journey, and there’s no set “right” or “wrong.”
The true power of informed decision making lies in the ability to take control of your choices. This isn’t just about collecting piles of information and screen-shotting Instagram posts; it’s about curating a toolkit that empowers you to make decisions grounded in your truth.
Unique Decision Making
Firstly, know that decisions aren’t a one-size-fits-all; what’s right for you won’t necessarily be what’s right for the person sat next to you in the waiting room. Each journey is unique. Comparing your choices to others only adds unnecessary pressure. If your decisions are informed by relevant, evidence-based, bias-free information, then they’re the right decisions for you.
The Triad of Informed Decisions
Informed decisions are built of three essential elements. Your past experiences, current circumstances and new information come together to ensure that your choices are not only relevant but deeply informed by your individuality.
Your past experiences create the unique being you are. It’s not just the factual knowledge you’ve gathered, but also the stories you’ve heard from friends, influences from the media and TV, and even the myths and stereotypes that may have shaped your perceptions. It’s like a patchwork quilt, each piece contributing to your story.
Consider this: Maybe your best friend had a home birth and raved about it, but you find comfort in the idea of a hospital setting. Your past experiences, including your preferences and fears, play a crucial role in shaping what feels right for you.
Your present situation holds huge power in decision-making. Your work, home life, financial situation, beliefs, values, and physical conditions all contribute to the landscape of choices before you. It’s not just about what worked for someone else; it’s about what works with your life now.
For instance, if your work schedule is demanding, you might lean towards a birthing option that provides flexibility. Your current circumstances are the compass guiding you through the maze of decisions, ensuring they align with the life you’re living, not the one social media says you should have.
In this age of information at our fingertips, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning in a sea of content. The key is to navigate it wisely. New information isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. What works wonders for one person might not be the perfect match for you. That’s why it’s crucial to tailor this influx of knowledge to your specific situation. Say you discover a pain relief option you hadn’t considered. Does it align with your beliefs, values, and current physical condition? The beauty of staying informed is not just in acquiring knowledge but in discerning what suits you.
None of these elements are, nor should be, static. Life is dynamic, and so are the components of informed decisions. Your past understanding evolves, your current circumstances shift, and new information constantly reshapes the landscape. You might come across new information about birth place options, and choose to birth your baby at home. Or you might have a medical condition that means you feel safer closer to a hospital. As Dr Catherine Bell says, there is no one way to birth a baby. There is your way. Embracing this fluidity is key to staying in control and making decisions that align with your ever-changing reality.
Life unfolds, circumstances change, and your toolkit should evolve with it. So, if a piece of information doesn’t fit with your current narrative, it’s not a setback. It’s an opportunity to reassess, adapt, and continue shaping your birth journey in a way that resonates with you.
Empower Your Birth by Mastering the Art of Informed Decision Making
Understand the triad of elements – past understanding, current circumstances, and new information – that shape your choices. Embrace the ever-changing nature of these components, and revel in the uniqueness of your decision-making journey. There’s no failure in this journey—only a continuous process of growth, adaptation, and empowerment. Keep curating that toolkit, and remember, your choices are valid and powerful.
Ready to take the reins? Download my free risk-evaluating tool, MINIBARR, and embark on a path of informed, empowered decisions.
Seize your birth story and rewrite the narrative – it’s time to thrive, not just survive.