You Have the Power – by Jaelin Stickels, CNM, WHNP
What to expect when you are expecting!
As some of you may know, I am a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) who does home births primarily in the North Houston, TX area. When my business partner Andie Wyrick and I meet with potential clients, we never know what will come up in these initial discussions. One question we get often is about what to expect during the birth experience. I never want to “sell” people on having an out-of-hospital birth. I want to impart information to help people make a decision that is best for them. Both Andie and I have worked Labor & Delivery in hospitals, free-standing birth centers, and home birth; so, we are an excellent position to let you know what to expect in any of those childbirth environments.
What we want all women to understand is that they have ALL the power no matter where they birth their baby. Often, women give up their decision-making power to the obstetricians or nurses in the hospital. The “doctor knows best” mentality is not valid. Physicians are trained to handle sick people, disease processes, and pharmaceutical therapies. They are not trained in what is normal. Obstetricians (OB) are surgeons. This is how many OB’s describe themselves. It sounds so much more prestigious than an obstetrician. Have you ever heard the saying “to a man with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” Does this help explain why the US has a 33% C-Section rate? (Most of the rest of the world is at 10 to 15%). One more quick statistic, even with all of these trained surgeons attending the vast majority (90%+) of all births in the US, the US has the highest (by far!) maternal mortality rate of all industrialized countries (and growing…). If you don’t believe me, look it up.
Women, you have the power to say no to anything they suggest. You know your body and your baby better than anyone else does. Trust your instincts.
Partners (you are not off the hook), go to the classes, do your research, and get a complete understanding of what’s going on. You are her protector and defender. Labor is a vulnerable moment, and she needs you to support and understand the options. I remember, once there was a father who felt so empowered by their childbirth class. He had cards with all different situations that could happen and a plan for what he and his wife wanted. He knew what questions to ask and what answers he was looking for to make informed decisions.
When you have a hospital birth, the institutional policies & procedures will attempt to take away so much power from women. When you are admitted, you are told you have to have an IV, they have to take blood samples, and they have to take a urine sample. You need to be hooked to a fetal and contraction monitor; which confines you to the bed. They say you can’t eat or drink anything—ice chips only. Because of the monitor, you are often asked to stay in bed. You are given many consent forms to sign, and no one really goes over the details of these forms with you. During pushing, many doctors do an episiotomy (they cut you), without true consent. The physician may say, “The heart rate is dropping, and we need to get this baby out now.” Did you know it’s normal for the baby’s heart rate to drop during pushing? Completely normal.
Here’s the secret many women don’t know—they have ALL the power.
They can say no to anything. It is their body! Women, if you have a good understanding of the process of birth, then you have the power to say no.
- You don’t have to get an IV.
- You don’t have to give blood samples; however, hospitals work with a lot of people and medical records may not be accurate, but you can still say no
- You can say no to being hooked up to continuous monitoring. It is reasonable to listen to your baby’s heart rate intermittently through labor. Research shows continuous monitoring does not save babies lives.
- You can eat and drink during labor according to all current research. Research also shows, moving in labor with frequent position changes helps with rotation of the baby and makes dealing with contractions more tolerable.
If you choose to have an epidural, and I am not judging this, then…
- You will need an IV for fluids and continuous monitoring. An epidural puts you at risk for needing Pitocin to augment labor because the IV fluids dilute your own natural oxytocin that causes contractions.
- You are also at an increased risk of getting an episiotomy because pushing is less effective with an epidural.
- You are at increased risk for the baby getting into the wrong position with an epidural due to being in one position. If you have a great nurse, she will make sure you are rotating positions. This is a big if, so this means it is up to women to request help with position changes.
It is still okay to eat and drink, though the hospital will tell you not to.
The biggest sorrow women tell me about having is how they felt so helpless and powerless at their births in the hospital. This is why many women choose an out-of-hospital delivery—so they can have control of their birth experience. We shouldn’t have to fight to make our own decisions. Sadly, this is what happens in most hospital environments.
I urge all women to understand they have ALL the power!!!!
You CAN make all the decisions about, not just your prenatal and birth care, but your total health care.
Do your research! Go to classes! Understand your body! Bring your partners with you, so they understand. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page as far as what you want so your partner can advocate for you. Women, we have taken charge in many areas of our lives; let’s not hand over critical decisions about our bodies to someone else. You know your body and your baby the best!
Jaelin Stickels, CNM, WHNP
Owner, SHEis.com & Holistic Heritage, Spring, TX
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