…The difference between information and knowledge…
When you become pregnant, you also become the pinboard for everybody else’s flyers.
You get given pieces of information, lots of it without context and even more of it without relevance to your personal needs.
Have you ever watched a spelling bee competition? Even the youngest competitor knows, if they want to have the best chance of getting the word correct, they need to repeat the word back to the pronouncer, then know the origin and meaning of the word. When accepting information, you need the origin, the meaning and correct way to apply that information in your own story.
So how do you turn yourself from a community pinboard into a personal library?
You ask and keep on asking.
You are not sick (ok well maybe you are morning sick and if you have hyperemesis you really are sick..) but pregnancy isn’t a disease. When you attend your appointments at your chosen place of care for your pregnancy and birth, it’s important you understand what you are being told about your pregnancy, the anticipated plan for your birth and why.
Imagine you meet a doctor for the first time, and you are wearing your new reading glasses, you notice the doctor starts to focus on the possibilities of you going blind even though your glasses are working well for you. Every appointment after that, they remind you of the possibility of blindness, glaucoma, retina detachment and sties and then suggests you use medicated eye drops every day “just in case” and strongly encourage you to think about laser surgery; you would likely wonder why the intensity in their approach to your eye health has escalated so quickly.
Similarly, this can happen when you are expecting a baby.
Instead of the focus being on all the ways you can have a natural instinctive birth, how that feels, what It looks like and how the body works to get you there; we end up being tested for all the ‘maybe’s and get given all the ‘just in case’ scenarios and slowly but surely the focus moves away from your ability to give birth and on to your need to be in a medical environment to accept ‘help’.
Now let me make this exceptionally clear; There is a time and a place for everything and every test and every precaution, so I am not suggesting for a second that you outright ignore all recommendations or decline every offer. I am not anti-hospitals or doctors or intervention or medication or pharmaceutical support. If you want an epidural: get it, if you want a c-section: have one, if you want a test, an ultrasound, antibiotics, monitoring: you go right ahead, I’m not here to stop you.
What I am, is pro knowing what you are saying yes or no to, and I am pro understanding how and why any one thing is relevant to your body, your emotional health, your core beliefs and what benefit it will offer you immediately and in your post partum experience.
If you want a natural labour or if you want to keep all intervention far far away from you, cool, I got your back, just know why. Why are you against or for something? Is it because you have researched the “thing” and you are making an informed decision or is it because you heard someone else’s story? Is it because you know your own physical abilities and limitations or are you having a strong emotional reaction because of a past event?
Know your own whys.
Are you comfortable with the options explained to you? Do you understand the alternatives?
If you understand how the information is relevant and useful to you; if you understand how the information can be used to support your preferences and if you understand how you will be impacted after proceeding one way or another, that’s when the information turns to knowledge.
A knowledgeable decision makes all the difference when it comes to your future reflection on your experience.
Not sure what to ask; You can find a kickstart list of questions here to take along to your appointments with you to help get the ball rolling. Once you start asking questions you will soon add your own. Don’t forget to take a notepad with you to write down all the answers so you can reference them later.
Most hospitals offer some sort of antenatal class. Here is a list of wonderful local resources (most of them offering online alternatives too) to enrich the antenatal support available at your chosen hospital. Lets fill up your information toolkit:
- Geelongborn.com.au (Rosie)
- Villagebirth.com.au (Talia)
- Innerbirth.com.au (Kath)
Perinatal Hub (Jan Juc)
- Shebirths.com (Kelly)
Doula support is a wonderful addition to these options to give you really specific information about your personal needs and preferences. Doula support amplifies your physical and emotional care through pregnancy, birth and your post natal space.
When you get to the core reason of why you are being given information it becomes easier to know whether or not you want to hold on to it tightly or pop it in the filing cabinet for a moment it feels more relevant.
Now remember, we are talking about information here, not opinions – that my friends is a whole different blog which in fact I wrote about a while ago, you can check it out here if you want to know how to spot the difference between opinions, advice and support.
If you have followed me for a while, you will notice a common theme of passion here about understanding your choices. Why is this so important for me to make clear all the time? Because I see so many mums, months or even years after their birth, who feel really frustrated that they just took everybody at their word and didn’t question why they should proceed one way or another and now they are a little (or a lot) sad when they reflect on their experience. There is also a surge of birth related trauma within our hospital systems and if I can support you to avoid that trauma, I’d like to. Now I don’t want to paint the hospitals or their staff as a big nasty beast, they are not. There are thousands of wonderfully skilled obstetricians and midwives that work tirelessly everyday to support you to have the best outcome you can; what the hospitals can offer you are careful options for life threatening circumstances, it’s just that not every circumstance is life threatening. They can also offer you medicalised help to ease or eliminate your labour pains if that becomes the best option for you (and there lots of women who will propose marriage to the anaesthetist once their epidural kicks into action), it’s just that medicalised help is not always the best option for you.
Statistics are often given when talking about your options. Sometimes these statistics sound really dramatic and the concern or shock of those can lead us to a decision that we didn’t really want to take. When given stats, ask for the full picture. Let me give you one example; a Mama desiring a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) is often told her chances of a uterine rupture double after she has had a c-section and uterine rupture can be fatal, so because of this danger it is preferred they schedule another cesarean. It’s true it does double, but what is often left out are the other numbers that make up this picture.
Uterine rupture in a woman with an unscarred uterus occurs once in every 10000-25000 births worldwide (higher in developing countries) *
Uterine rupture in a woman who has had a previous c-section happens once in every 5000 – 7000* births.
Uterine rupture in a woman who has had multiple c-sections increases from 1%-3.9% (that’s a 96.1% chance of it not happening)*
There are other conditions that can also increase that likelihood such as trauma to the uterus, hereditary conditions, synthetic hormones used for induction etc
So it is absolutely true that the chance of this happening is double, it’s also true that the chance of it happening are relatively rare.
This doesn’t mean we ignore the information, the risks and warnings, but knowing the full picture offers you a chance to make a decision that stems from understanding instead of shock.
When options are presented, you can absolutely be grateful that we live in a country that gives you access to medical assistance so readily. Take a moment or two and talk through how beneficial they are for you in this moment. Accept if you want them, decline if you don’t. Confidence and flexibility are two wonderful and helpful approaches when aiming for a positive birth experience.
A positive birth experience means that no matter how and where you gave birth, you feel at peace with the choices you made and the care you received regardless of whether they were part of your original birth preferences. A positive birth experience is an emotional reaction not necessarily a logical one and your feelings about your experience matter.
When gathering your information, prepare for a positive post natal experience too. Our poor post birth selves often get thought about a little too late, take some time in your pregnancy to find out what services are available to enhance your experience and support you as you discover the newest version of yourself and your partner.
Here’s a few post natal focus services to get you started:
Babies are born every day but your baby is only born once so your needs and desires are valid. Never feel shy of asking as many things, as many times as you need to until you feel completely confident with your birth team.
*information understood to be the most relevant numbers according to research at time of this blogs publication as stated by multiple different medical resources.