This post is part of our ongoing “Five Questions With” series, in which we interview a pregnancy health and wellness expert on their particular area of focus. Is there an individual or topic you’d like to see featured in “Five Questions With”? Send us an e-mail. Today we ask a childbirth educator questions about choosing your birth.
This month we’re focusing on choosing your birth team. Today we’re addressing important steps to take when choosing your ideal birth provider and setting with Cori Gentry, a Birth Boot Camp and Evidenced Based Birth Instructor.
Are you interested in taking a deeper dive on this topic with Whole Mamas Pregnancy Program co-creator Stephanie Greunke? Join our pregnancy program today to get access to our exclusive resources. Click here for more info on our program.
Five Questions With: A Childbirth Educator, Cori Gentry
What steps do you encourage pregnant mamas to take when choosing a provider?
First, ask yourself what you want your birth to look and feel like. Consider watching documentaries on the birthing process (I recommend Orgasmic Birth and the Business of Being Born). Expose yourself to a variety of birthing methods and practices. Then you can identify your own desires for a birth experience.
For example: do you imagine yourself birthing your baby into your own hands in a birth pool? Do you picture yourself birthing on a birth stool with your partner catching the baby? Are you on your back with an epidural for pain relief with nurses supporting your legs? Where are you giving birth? At home, a birth center, or a hospital? How many people are there, what is the atmosphere like? Once born, does your baby go into your arms or into the care of nurses?
Once you have decided what kind of birth you want for you and your baby, you can go about finding the right provider who will help facilitate that kind of birth.
Your provider’s training, experience, and philosophy will shape your birth experience far more than what you want. Your doctor or midwife will likely provide you with the kind of care that they routinely provide to their other patients. For this reason, I recommend you choose a care provider with experience in the kind of birth you want.
To determine this compatibility, ask open ended questions like, “After a cesarean delivery, where does baby usually go?” or “What positions do your patients typically birth in?” Pay careful attention to how they answer. If they dismiss your concerns, move on to a provider that will give you individualized care.
Continue to be open minded about the possibility of switching care providers throughout your pregnancy. This is a simple process (I’ve done it twice, both times after 30 weeks), and it’s very unlikely that your care provider is as attached to you as you may be to them. I’ve returned to my OB that I’ve left during pregnancies for gynecological care and there have been no hard feelings
What steps do you encourage pregnant mamas to take when choosing their birth setting?
Try to look for objective data about your local options. If there is a local Evidence Based Birth Instructor near you, ask them. You can also ask your doula or childbirth educator. If an out-of-hospital birth (such as a home birth or freestanding birth center) appeals to you at all, interview a midwife. Don’t hesitate to ask the midwives you consult with about their experience, training, why a hospital transfer might happen, and their relationship with a local hospital. This consultation is typically free, and if you ultimately decide to birth in the hospital you can be confident in that decision, knowing you explored all your options.
If you do choose to birth in a hospital, you can still research typical practices at hospitals that are local to you, and find the one that alligns with your desires. For example: Are there birthing tubs available? What about the use of birth stools, birth balls, squat bars, and wireless monitors? Is eating and drinking in labor supported? Do they take babies to a nursery? Is the hospital baby-friendly? You can find look up local cesarean rates at cesareanrates.com. Some states may publish other data, like induction and episiotomy rates.
How does a pregnant mama know if she has found the “right fit?”
The “right fit” should line up with your desires without you needing to make a lot of special requests. For my first birth, I had to bring an extensive birth plan with all my wants, which were reasonable and evidence based, but were ultimately ignored and I received the care routinely given in that hospital. For my second birth, I didn’t have to bring a birth plan, because everything I wanted was routinely provided. I don’t believe you should go into a birth space expecting to have to fight for what you want, and while in labor, we rarely have the capacity to negotiate anyway.
Keep an open mind that your ideal birth may not be possible. Birth is unpredictable and your freestanding birth center birth may ultimately result in a cesarean birth or your planned hospital birth with an epidural may end up being a natural birth in the parking lot. Looking for the best fit doesn’t mean you are inflexible, but instead it is about giving yourself the best shot at what you want by matching yourself with a provider and a birth place that supports your desires. If labor throws you a curve ball, you’ll know that whatever unfolds was a natural progression and not the result of routine care inappropriately being applied to your unique birth.
What steps can a pregnant mama take to ensure she receives the best care?
Do your research, don’t make assumptions and ask every question you have. Look for care that lines up with your values. Be willing to switch care providers and birth places. Be willing to travel. Connect with the organizations I’ve mentioned, as well as your local Birth Network. Read up on Mother-Friendly Care, explore Childbirth Connection, and learn your rights in childbirth.
The birth of your baby is a transformational experience. Don’t be afraid to approach your birth experience with the same tenacity as you would approach other big life events like moving to another city, buying a house or planning a wedding.
What final words of wisdom do you have?
You can have a great birth, and no matter what happens, you deserve respectful treatment.
Cori Gentry is the owner of Birth Chemistry Birth Classes and is a certified Birth Boot Camp natural childbirth educator and an Evidence Based Birth instructor. She offers 10 week natural childbirth classes, 6 week home birth preparation classes, and Evidence Based Birth workshops.
Advocating for options and safety in childbirth is something Cori lives daily. She is the President of the Birth Network of Monterey County, Co-Leader of the International Cesarean Awareness Networks (ICAN) of Monterey County, and on the Board of Directors for Improving Birth. Cori’s website is birthchemistry.com.