I’m a great supporter of the Positive Birth Movement, co-facilitating the Leeds Positive Birth Group which meets every third Sunday of the month with fellow doula Claire.

At our January meeting we discussed the choices we have in birth and the many questions we need to consider, and find answers for:

What antenatal checks do I want to have?
What scans do I want to have?
Do I want to have vaginal examinations?
Where do I want to give birth?
Do I want to have a water birth?
Do I want to be induced? What are the pro’s and con’s?
Should I have a C-section? How can I make it gentle?
Do I want a birth partner or additional birth support? Who?
What pain relief do I want? Do I want pain relief at all?
Should I have vitamin K? How do I want it administered?
What holistic support do I want? Massage?
What atmosphere do I want to create?
What language and tone do I want to be used in the birthing room?
Should the cord be clamped? What are the benefits?
What should I do and what can I do with my placenta?
What are the benefits of skin-to-skin after birth? How long for?
What about breastfeeding? What support can I get with this?
Should we use a sling or a pushchair?
Should I co-sleep with my baby?

And we concluded that there are many things to think about when it comes to birth and planning for your own birth, but also that everything is a choice. There are many options available when it comes to birth, and there will also be recommendations given by your caregivers. However it is your body, your, baby and your birth and so you get to choose.

It does seem that many women are unaware that there are choices in birth though and often I hear language being used like “I wasn’t allowed”, “they didn’t allow me to.” And I think sometimes the language being used in hospitals and by the healthcare profession can make it appear that it’s a take-it-or-leave-it package with no options, but that isn’t the case. Everything should be ‘allowed’, it’s just a case of women making a choice of what is best for them and their babies.

Obviously in birth things won’t always go as planned however if birthing couples can be given time and space to make informed decisions, even in the fluid birthing environment that can help them feel more empowered and like there is an adult to adult exchange happening where everything is carefully explained and open discussions can take place.

We think that the words “Am I allowed” should be banned from these conversations.

Working with Which? Miranda Dodwell of AIMS (Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services) has been working on the Which? Birth Choice project. Part of this award-winning project was the development of the Birth Choice tool which has been developed to help women to think about the choices in birth that are available to them and their baby and opt for what’s right for them.

Birthrights is an organisation in the UK that works tirelessly to improve women’s experiences of pregnancy and childbirth, believing that all women deserve maternity care that protects their basic human rights to dignity, autonomy, privacy and equality. However, there’s still a long way to go.

Rebecca Schiller of Birthrights, who was shortlisted in the ‘Maternity Innovator of the Year’ category, has withdrawn from the annual midwifery and maternity MaMa Conference and Awards this year due to a lack of diversity in the panel and nominees, especially following recent reports of worryingly high birth mortality rates for ethic and minority groups who appear to not be treated equally in the birthing room.

So, if you’re pregnant, make sure you ask as many questions as you need to and do your research to make sure that your birth is right for you and your baby. Do not just accept the package that appears to be on offer. And remember, you’ll always be welcome at your local Positive Birth Movement Group.

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