Many people turn to friends, online groups and internet searches when a question pops into their mind—Should I get a doula? What does it mean if I have gestational diabetes? What’s the big deal about C-Sections anyway? Where should I go to have my baby?
While we trust our friends because they are people we know, or online groups, because you’ve got a large number of people to draw information from—these are not always the most knowledgeable people and may not have well researched, nuanced answers to your questions. I find that friends and online groups provide personal experiences—
“I had an induction and it wasn’t that bad.”
“If you’re going to induce get an epidural right away, it’s miserable.”
“My doctor told me my uterus would explode if I didn’t have a repeat C-Section” (yes, I was actually told this by a mother)
“I was traumatized for years by my C-Section, avoid at all costs!”
Not all websites and blogs provide quality information. Remember- anyone (even me) can write a blog and anyone can sound like an authority, particularly if they write well and can make a pretty website.
Know your resources.
Getting a good base of information will help you begin to form useful questions for when you see your care provider. After may years as a birth professional, here are a few resources I trust:
Book: Pregnancy Childbirth and the Newborn by Penny Simkin, et al. Penny and her colleagues have gone to substantial effort to keep this classic, covers-all-your-main-bases resource up to date. There’s also an online guide with additional information.
Lamaze International is an organization that has worked hard to stay up to date with current information, informed by research, and their educators are top notch for having interesting way to present information. There’s a website, an app, a blog and of course in person classes.
Evidence Based Birth is a website with an abundance of well critiqued scientific research in a format that is approachable. I regularly learn about new research and revised guidelines through this site and blog.
Transition to Parenthood is an absolute wealth of information put together by longtime educator and co-author to Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn, Janelle Durham. Most recently I’ve been enthralled with the simplicity, usefulness and accuracy of a video Janelle put together on Newborn Cues.
Want to know which hospitals in Washington State have the best C-Section or VBAC rates? Try Cesarean Rates.com for 2013 data or slog through the Delivery Statistics Report for 2016 from the State(there have been some good improvements in the past few years!).
I highly suggest that you consider taking an in person childbirth education class if at all possible. My previous blog post by guest blogger, Sharon Muza lays out why you need to do this.
In order to avoid overwhelming one blog post with too many different directions to go—I’ll leave a listing of my favorite online resources for postpartum to another day.
Now that you’ve equipped yourself with a clue about the basics, your next stop for information about your pregnancy, birth or newborn should be your medical care provider. Unfortunately, these folks, while highly educated about the topics you are interested in, are often stuck with short appointment times for answering questions—that’s why you did all the basic research in advance. Now you can ask your doc or midwife about the specifics of your situation.
You can learn about pregnancy induced hypertension and you can learn about gestational diabetes—but what if your roll of the dice happens to mean that you’ve got both to deal with? This is where your care provider can give insight specific to you. Here are some good questions for opening up discussion around informed decision making when a medical procedure (like breaking the bag of water for example) is being discussed.
Questions for Informed Decision Making
1. What is the problem we are trying to fix? How serious is this problem?
2. How likely is this solution to fix the problem?
3. How is this done? How long will it take? What other procedures or interventions come along with it (such as continuous monitoring, or restriction to bed)?
4. What are the risks associated with this procedure? How likely are those things to happen? How serious is this risk if it does happen?
5. What other options do we have for resolving this problem?
6. How much time do we have to make a decision?
7. What if we do nothing? What is likely to happen then?
And for you, the parent or pregnant person, what feels like the right course of action here?
This set of questions is often summarized into a simple acronym, BRAIN:
Benefits- What are the benefits of this procedure or treatment?
Risks- What possible risks could happen?
Alternatives- What other choices do we have for treatment?
Intuition- What does my gut tell me is the right decision here?
Nothing- What if we do nothing?
You don’t need to do tons of research about every aspect of your pregnancy and birth. Gather as much information as you need for peace of mind and decision making. But do be sure that the information you are making your decisions on comes from a reputable source.