It can be hard to stand up for what you want, and even for things you need. This is especially true when you're in the middle of labor -- a time when most of your concentration is focused on coping with contractions. And yet, for a lot of people and in many hospitals and birthing centers, labor is the time when knowing how to advocate for yourself is particularly important. To get the most of what you want and need in labor and birth, consider the following tips.
How to Advocate for Yourself in Labor
1. Know your options. If you know, before going into labor, that intermittent fetal monitoring (as opposed to continuous fetal monitoring) is a safe and healthy option, then you will know to ask for monitors to be removed after the required monitoring time, allowing you to be more comfortable and move around freely. This is just one example, of course, but the idea is that when you know your options, you know what to ask for -- and what to decline. Knowing your options allows you to make informed decisions. The best way to learn your options in labor is by taking a childbirth class that teaches informed decision making. Books, like Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn, can also be a great resource when learning options and benefits and risks.
2. Ask questions. If advocating for yourself intimidates you, try starting out with simply asking questions. Things like, "Can you tell me more about...?" or "I don't understand what you just said, can you explain...?" or "What are the benefits of... / What about risks?" Even if advocating for yourself feels easy, asking questions is a good place to start.
3. Practice/role play. Yes, I'm serious. There's a reason why actors practice their lines before the big day. Involve your partner, friend, or family member (ideally the person(s) who will also be present with you in labor), and practice asking for/speaking up for what you want/need or don't want.
4. Be polite -- to a point. Manners, niceties, and a kind tone of voice go a long way when working with staff and care providers. But when it's time to be direct, do so without apology. At the end of the day, this is your body, your baby, your birth -- it's your right to speak out directly for what you want.
5. Bring along a knowledgeable support person. A doula can be an excellent way to make sure you're able to advocate for what you want in labor. In the absence of hiring a doula, make sure that one of your support persons is capable and willing to help you advocate for yourself. This person should, like yourself, know about options and choices, and know how to speak to staff and providers. Ideally, this person will have attended a childbirth class with you and/or have read at least one book with the relevant information. In advance of your birth, be sure to review your birth preferences with your support persons.
Speaking up for yourself isn't always easy, but it almost always pays off. When you feel respected, listened to, and "heard" in labor and birth, you are more likely to look back on your birth experience -- no matter how it played out -- as a more satisfying and positive one.
TagsLabor Partners Doula Labor Support Advocating for yourself Support person