We are not the first people or the first birth professionals to declare that the birth experience matters. In her article "A Healthy Baby Isn’t All That Matters" at Improving Birth, Cristin addresses many important points in the conversation.
Many birth professionals have heard that a “healthy baby, healthy mom” is the primary goal for birth. Often, mothers are told that that is the only thing that matters. While we agree that a healthy baby and a healthy mother is absolutely the primary goal, we believe that respect for the mother is a critical piece of achieving this objective. There are a few key elements that are often missing in the wider conversation about birth today:
A healthy mother needs to mean more than simply a body that makes it through labor alive and breathing. A healthy mother needs to include every part of her: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. A mother who has gone through her pregnancy, labor and birth surrounded by people who have shown her support, respect, encouragement, patience and gentleness will most likely have positive feelings about herself, her baby and her birth, regardless of the birth experience. At such a pivotal time in her life (beginning the journey of motherhood), being given respect, choices and information can help give her confidence in parenting, in herself and potentially lower her risk of developing postpartum depression.
Showing respect is not difficult, time-consuming, or ever too much to for a mother to ask. It may simply be a matter of a doctor, midwife or nurse taking an extra few minutes to explain a procedure, asking the mother if she feels ready and comfortable with it and supporting her in her decision. Showing respect for a mother means giving her all the relevant information regarding her choices, refraining from any use of fear tactics, and including her as an equal partner at every step in her care.
Take this story of a woman who had several interventions and procedures done without her knowledge and imagine the difference it might have made if her doctor had simply taken 30 seconds to explain what was going on, why he felt the procedures were necessary, and asked her for consent or respected her decision to decline. Consider for a moment what other areas of medicine involve cutting into a person’s body without consent and without an explanation beforehand.
If, as a culture and as the professionals who walk alongside and care for women having babies, we always keep in mind that there is a living, breathing, feeling human being giving birth, we will come one step closer to ideal care. Humanizing birth for every mother by showing her respect is essential.
The good health of mother and baby is not mutually exclusive to respect and choices for the mother. In fact the opposite is true: a mother who is not stressed, anxious or fearful will likely have a healthier birth. Of course, it is also important for the mother to show respect for the members of the team caring for her. This respect does not necessarily equal turning over all decisions to the team without asking questions, but it does mean choosing the right birth team and then listening carefully, weighing factors and making thoughtful decisions together in a spirit of mutual respect. Ideally, mothers and care providers work together as a united team.
What do you think? How important is respect for women giving birth? Leave a comment below. If you like this article, please pin it or share!
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