There's no "sure thing" in life -- or in birth. But planning, preparing, learning, and knowing which questions to ask can help make the birth you want more likely to happen.
There are so many variables that exist when a person goes into labor and gives birth; it's impossible to control them all. What you can control (for the most part) is how you participate in the process, which includes getting needed information at the right time. The following five questions can help you do just that. Be sure to share these questions with your birth support team, including your partner/spouse, support people, and doula.
The Five Best Questions to Ask During Labor and Birth
Can you tell me more about the procedure you're doing or recommending?
Hospital personnel sometimes forget that patients may be experiencing something for the first time and so they don't always explain what they're doing. You have the right to ask for complete information about a procedure before it's being done to you, whether it's routine or a major medical intervention. Knowing about a procedure helps you understand the risks and benefits, and allows you to be able to make the decision to agree to or refuse. If you determine that something is not ok, you have the right to say no!
What you're suggesting or doing isn't on my birth plan. Can you tell me why it needs to be done and what the alternatives are?
Labor and birth almost never go completely as planned, and you may end up doing or needing things that weren't on your birth plan. But that doesn't mean it's all or nothing, or that you have to say yes to whatever comes your way. If a procedure is being suggested, find out why and what the alternatives are. An alternatives may allow you to keep some of the other preferences on your birth plan the same. If you need to choose an intervention, find out what else can stay the same. For example, if you get an epidural, but moving around in labor is important to you, ask your partner, support people, and nurse to help you stay as mobile as possible by changing positions frequently in bed.
What's the risk in not choosing that procedure or, what would happen if I wait?
Asking these questions lets you know just how urgent a procedure is that's being recommended. For example, if a doctor/midwife/nurse is suggesting using Pitocin to speed up or strengthen your contractions, you can ask what would happen if you don't use Pitocin, waiting longer to use it, and/or trying alternatives like position changes, walking, nipple stimulation.
What alternatives can I try?
Except in the case of an emergency, there is almost always an alternative option in labor and birth. This includes pain relief, positions for pushing, and a slowly progressing labor.
Can you please explain what that word means?
Most people don't know all of the medical terminology that's thrown around in a hospital, nor do they understand all the numbers on a machine or what the different lines mean on a fetal monitor, all of which can make the process of giving birth feel more intimidating and foreign. Asking questions about words, machines, numbers, etc. allows you to better understand what's happening and be an active participant in your birth.
Nurses, midwives, and doctors don't always remember to explain things, which means it's up to you and your birth support team to speak up and ask questions. Asking the right kinds of questions at the right times can help you get the information you need to have the kind of birth you want. When you are informed and made to feel like you are heard, involved, and respected, you are more likely to look back on your birth experience as a positive one, even if it didn't go as planned.
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