Informed choice and evidence based information for a positive experience

I have a strong woman-centred midwifery philosophy that is at the centre of everything I do. I believe that your journey to becoming a parent is unique. Every expectant and new parent has different hopes, fears, values and beliefs. My job is to help you decide what’s important to you and give you the best chance of achieving it. I hope to help you feel confident in your choices, your body and parenting your new baby. This involves you feeling informed and supported to make the decisions that are best for you, with practical help when you need it.

Informed choice

There’s a huge amount of information out there about pregnancy, birth and parenting. It can be overwhelming trying to decide what’s right for you, especially when well-meaning family and friends offer advice based on their own experiences, rather than considering that what’s right for you may be quite different to what was right for them. You might feel that you are being encouraged to follow a certain path as it’s what a hospital guideline recommends. But does that mean it’s best for you? After all guidelines aim to recommend a pathway that’s most suitable for most women. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what’s right for you as an individual.

I think it’s important that you can access unbiased information together with non-judgemental support. That way you can decide what seems best for you. There’s no ‘right’ way to do any of this, only what’s right for you. Whatever your decisions are, it’s important that you are supported in them.

Evidence based information

In recent years there has been a lot of research into all aspects of pregnancy, birth and parenting. It can be helpful to know what the odds of something happening are, but it isn’t always that straightforward. Evidence may be of poor quality, open to bias, or contradictory. So trying to decide what to trust can be tricky. It might focus on issues across the population as a whole, considering the ‘average’ women. But none of us are the average woman! So the research may be more, or less, applicable to any of us as individuals.

I think it’s important to know what the research is telling us, but to appraise it critically. Identify it’s strengths and weaknesses. There is a focus on ‘risk’ in research, on how to reduce risk. But perception of risk is an individual thing and there are usually two or more risks that need to be balanced against each other. So it’s important that research is the starting point for consideration and discussion when helping you come to decisions. But it may or may not be the most important factor.

Practical suggestions

Making choices that are right for you is only part of what matters. You also need a good chance of actually doing the things you have decided you want to do! Pregnancy and birth can be unpredictable. Sometimes the best laid plans go awry because situations develop that are outside of your control. But there is a lot you can do to give yourself the best possible chance of achieving the experiences that you want.

For many women, labour is intense.This may be difficult to deal with, unless you have strategies in place to help you cope. Simply saying you want to avoid using pain relief isn’t very likely to be achievable on its own. But if you come up with a list of options that you’ll use to help get through your contractions, you’ll be less likely to find that you can’t cope. Whether it’s labouring in a birth pool, using breathing techniques, deep relaxation, hypnobirthing, aromatherapy, massage, positions to help reduce pain, staying at home where you feel safe and comfortable, having those you love around you and supporting you, using a TENs machine…..the list goes on.

There are often lots of options. But you need to know what they are, consider whether they suit you and try them out. So practical suggestions alongside support to make the choices that are right for you will give you the best chance of having the birth (and early parenting experiences) that you want.

Positive experiences

Pregnancy, birth and early parenting are a life-changing time. So a positive experience is really important, but sadly many women experience birth trauma and postnatal depression. It’s not enough for maternity services to focus only on having a healthy baby. The aim must always be that mum and baby are both well, physically and psychologically. But also dad, mum’s partner and anyone else who is involved is important and matters in all of this too.

Women remember the births of their babies for the rest of their lives. That’s a heavy burden to carry if it was a difficult time. Or potentially the most wonderful, amazing memory you’ll ever have, when it goes well. So a positive birth matters (and the same goes for breastfeeding).

A positive birth is usually one where the woman feels valued, respected and listened to. She is in control, even when things don’t go according to plan and decisions have to be taken quickly. That’s why communication, trust and respect are so important.

For more information about why I feel strongly about the importance of having a woman-centred midwifery philosophy see Making decisions, informed choice and risk.

Find out more by clicking on the links below or contact me if you’ve got any questions.