Take Control of Your Care During Pregnancy

Be informed

If you wish to avoid unnecessary interventions and risks during your pregnancy and birth, it's important that you learn to seek out facts and information from a variety of trustworthy sources. These sources may include certain organizations, published studies, and publications.

While there are some interventions and procedures that you can research and discuss at the time, you should also have an idea of what you may encounter in the future. For example, you may be able to put off the decision of whether or not to use ultrasound technology during pregnancy, but you'll have less time to weigh the risk and benefits of procedures during labor and birth. This is why you should do your best to be informed about common interventions and procedures in advance.

Some prenatal procedures that you may wish to research include routine ultrasound, fetal Doppler, cervical exams, genetic testing, and amniocentesis. Some interventions and procedures that are commonly used during labor and birth include iv fluids, pitocin, episiotomy, epidural, narcotics, vacuum extraction, forceps delivery, continuous electronic fetal monitoring, and cesarean surgery.

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When researching procedures, interventions, and technologies, ask yourself some of the following questions. What are the benefits and risks of this procedure to me and my baby? Are there any alternatives? Do I need to make a decision now or can I make a decision about this intervention at a later time?

As with the use of any medical interventions or procedures, during pregnancy and birth you are entitled to informed consent based on truthful and objective information. Providers are also required to respect your religious preferences and choices. There will be times when you will need to be firm with your providers about your choices. It is never okay for someone to bully you or make you feel bad about your choices. Having a support person with you can help, but ultimately you should learn to stand up for and take control of your own health care. This is a skill that will serve you for the rest of your life.

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Choose Providers Wisely
It may not seem right or fair, but it's still sometimes hard to get truly objective and truthful information from doctors, midwives, and nurses, about certain procedures and and the use of modern technologies during prenatal care and birth. Remember that these individuals often have their own agendas that they follow, which may skew, however slightly, the information that they pass on to their patients.

You should try to establish early on just how willing your care provider is to offer you full, unbiased information about the use of procedures and technologies during your pregnancy and birth. You can do this by educating yourself first on a few of the known risks and benefits of these interventions. This will better enable you to discuss these issues with your provider, and get a feel for how your provider will present information to you.

Beware of any provider that assures you that each and every procedure or technology they use is “completely safe” for you and your baby. There is no intervention that is without risks. There are also many technologies that are used today without any clear or measurable benefits to either mother or baby. Take time to ask your provider, “How will this procedure or use of technology benefit me and my baby?”

Above all, remember that it's okay to fire your doctor or midwife and find someone who will respect your right to information and alternatives. If you are in the hospital, it's also perfectly acceptable to request the care of another nurse.

Vanessa Pruitt, PLMHP, MS

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