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  • Writer's pictureKirstie Broughton

Rights and Choices in Maternity Care

Recently in particular I’m hearing so many stories about cohersion, lack of consent, lack of options and a feeling of going back 80 years in the area of human rights.

So I wanted to let you know a few things that have come up in conversations for me recently. 

If you’ve had a previous caesarean birth you can have a vaginal birth next time round, it’s your choice…you can even have a home birth of you want! This is called VBAC or HBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean or home birth after caesarean).

If you don’t want inducing at 41 weeks or at any time afterwards it’s your choice to say no.

If you want to birth at home, in a midwife led unit, free birth or birth on labour ward, it’s your choice, nobody has the power to stop you from doing this. 

If you don’t want electronic foetal monitoring, scans, vaginal exams or anything else then it’s your choice, you can say NO. 

Everything that happens to you and your baby is your choice. Speaking up for what you want, in order to have a positive birth experience doesn’t make you awkward or difficult, it makes you have that positive experience that you deserve. It will ensure you take away happy and positive memories of the most precious day of your life. 

Cohesion can be tricky to spot. Here’s an example for you. If your care provider says your birth partner can’t join you on the labour ward until you’re 4/5cm dilated, and they say you’ll need a vaginal exam (VE) to check level of dilation. This is cohesive behaviour. You’d only be giving consent to the VE (that you really don’t want) so you could have your partner with you. A good care provider knows what other signs to look out for, other than cervical dilation to check for established labour. Soon I’ll be writing a blog on how to tell if you’re in established labour without performing a VE. 

Sadly during this pandemic there’s a huge amount of birthing people feeling like their rights have been taken away, I’m reading stories on a daily basis about how scared people are to give birth at the moment, that birth trauma and postnatal depression are soaring. I was going to share some stories but I think I’ll save them, they are a worrying read and I don’t want to alarm anyone. It doesn’t have to be this way and there are also may positive stories out there. 

Above all else every birthing person deserves safe care, individualised care plans, continuity of care, to be able to make informed choices, to have more care in the community and to have their needs met and have a positive, empowering birth experience. You can achieve all of these things with a bit of knowledge and planning.

If you stand your ground, ask for what you want and accept nothing less than what you’re entitled to, then you can still have a positive birth experience. Midwives do an incredible job but they are busy, but this doesn’t take away from your needs. If you’re stuck in bed struggling to breastfeed your crying baby, then please know it’s ok to ring the bell to get some help. It’s ok to ask for some water when you’ve not had a drink in hours. It’s ok to ask for help to the shower or for anything else you might need. A good midwife knows you’re in that hospital on your own and they do want to help you. Please don’t suffer in silence, like I’m hearing so many people are doing. 

If you’re struggling with all of this then think about hiring a doula, you can read more about my birth services here but I’d tailor a package specifically to your needs Birth Doula – Breathe Birth Yoga. Even if you just have the antenatal sessions you will feel empowered and confident to advocate for yourself. You could have the doula come to your home until you plan on going to the hospital, or if you’re having a home birth they should be able to stay with you throughout your birthing experience. I know a lot of hospitals aren’t letting doulas support clients in the hospitals still, even though they are part of the care team, rather than a visitor, but we can still make a huge difference and prepare you for what’s to come. I’ve recently been booked to teach some Active Birth Preparation Workshops, and for early birth support by people who have had terrible experiences with their antenatal maternity care recently. 

We often think our wedding day is the most important day of our lives or maybe a graduation or similar. This might be the case but only until we have a baby. Make it count, make it empowered, make it a positive memorable experience! 

There are some hospitals that have been amazing through the pandemic and really thinking outside of the box and finding ways for human rights to be respected and partners to still be included. A few of those hospitals in my neck of the woods are, The Whittington hospital trust, Homerton hospital, The Royal Surrey. The hospitals near me and at many other locations around the country could do with following the glowing example that these hospitals have set.

So you can have a positive birth experience, know your rights, speak up for yourself, have a birth plan and prepare for birth in advance.

If you’d like to share I’d love to hear about your positive birth experiences, and I’m equally happy to listen if you’d like to discuss less positive experiences.

Much love everyone and happy birthing


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