Choose Your Healthcare Provider

After you have done some thorough research, select a health care provider that meets your standards and aligns with your philosophy for birth. Write down your questions so that at each visit you are able to have your questions answered. Ask how many practitioners are in the practice, and if they may be on call to attend your baby’s birth.

Choose Your Birth Place

Most hospitals offer childbirth classes and tours to provide information on their practices and birth options. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many facilities transitioned their prenatal education to online classes and virtual tours. Ask your healthcare providers at your next visit what educational opportunities they may have prepared just for you.

Ask your friends and family, people you have met on social media, and others for their reviews of the facility you’re choosing for birth. Do they have good customer service scores and a reputation for excellence in serving the community you represent? Remember the more you know, and the more you ask questions, the  more you can be an active participant in your care!

Patient Autonomy

You have a right to make your own choices about your birth. Birth planning should be based on shared decision making between you and your pregnancy care team. You always have the right to ask for several options when it comes to labor positions, with movement (getting out of the bed, walking, laboring in the bathroom, birthing or using a peanut ball).

Any healthcare professional who gets upset when you ask questions or ask for alternative options during your birthing experience is not OK! Be sure to discuss what is most important to you with your support person and doula so they can participate in advocating for a positive healthcare experience for you.

Are they Listening?

It’s been well documented in science that patients don’t feel “heard” by their healthcare providers. Is this  happening to you? How can you ensure that your voice matters?

For example, if you’re taking a new medication and you’re having side effects that make it difficult for you to drive, sleep or function in any way, your medication may need to be adjusted: either the dose or type. Call your healthcare provider to speak with the nurse, midwife, or doctor; or call your local pharmacist to describe your symptoms and ask questions.

You are your BEST advocate. Keep asking questions and calling your healthcare team until you feel that you have received a good resolution to your concerns. If you are admitted to a healthcare facility and feel as though you’re not being heard, ask for the charge nurse, manager, or director of that unit.

Your voice counts, you matter, and your healthcare concerns should be taken seriously by everyone caring for you! If you feel your concerns aren’t being addressed, or that information is not being explained in a way you can understand, you have a right to ask for the leadership team to escalate any concerns you have about your stay.

Privacy & Confidentiality

Your privacy is important. Your healthcare provider shouldn’t ask personal questions of you in front of your family members and friends without your permission. Also, you have a right to ask if any of your personal information will be reported to any outside agencies or organizations.

Healthcare providers want what is best for you and your baby. As healthcare workers there are certain types of information they are required to report, but you have a right to know to whom and where that information will go. Ask questions!

Racism and bias are real and can impact your health

If you feel you have experienced discrimination based on your race, ethnicity, primary language, or any
other reason, SPEAK UP! It is OK to tell someone when they have offended you and respectfully explain why that comment was hurtful or inappropriate. These conversations may not be easy, but they are necessary to improve communication between you and your healthcare team.

The healthcare team you have selected to take care of you should feel honored and excited about being a part of your birthing experience. If you don’t feel that the care you’re receiving makes you and your family feel that way, it’s OK to SPEAK UP about that!

Respectful Care

Respectful care means you’re treated with dignity, empathy, and compassion, regardless of your race, gender, socioeconomic status, or reproductive history (pregnancies, miscarriages, abortions). Your life is valuable and so is the life of your unborn baby. The words and actions of everyone taking care of you should demonstrate they feel the same way.

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LaShea Haynes MEd, MSN, APRN, AGCNS-BC, RNC, C-EFM, is Editor of Healthy Mom&Baby magazine, and a leader in obstetric nursing for more than 26 years. She is also a staff nurse, certified doula and founder & owner of her own nurse mentoring, education and consulting company.

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