My baby, my body, my birth preferences!

Baby skin-to-skin Erica Kirby

YOU are the boss of your birth! Not your friend, not your cousin, not your parents, and not even your care provider.

Am I arguing that you shouldn’t listen to their input? No. Am I arguing not to listen to your provider, especially in an urgent situation? Absolutely not! What I am saying is you know you best and your preferences around birth may be rooted in those personal experiences, not in the experience of others.

There is not a “right” way to give birth. When a family knows their options and makes an informed choice, they are advocating for the birth experience that is right for them.

“I do not care what kind of birth you have…a homebirth, scheduled cesarean, epidural hospital birth, or if you birth alone in the woods next to baby deer. I care that you had options, that you were supported in your choices, and that you were respected.”- January Harshe

Will someone have something negative to say about your choices? Yeah, probably. Unfortunately, that is the case no matter what choices you make. Someone will have something to say about your homebirth. Someone will have something to say about your hospital birth.

So, how do we take back our births? The short answer is be informed and be heard.

Does this mean it will all go according to plan? No. It means that you know your options and feel strongly about your preferences. When you know what your options are, you are stacking the cards in favor of your birth going according to your preferences. When you don’t know your options, how are you supposed to know your preferences?


So,  what are your options and what can you do to ensure your care providers respect your preferences?

  1. Spend time envisioning your birth.

    Who is there? What are they doing? What are you doing as you experience contractions? Dancing? Moaning? Soaking in a tub? Holding someone’s hand? Getting a massage? What smells do you want around you? What sights? What do your first minutes with your baby look like?

  2. Consider hiring a doula. 

    It can be a daunting task to figure out what your options are in labor and birth. Talk to an expert! Birth doulas are birth professionals that specialize in emotional, physical, and informational support for labor, birth, and postpartum. You can find one near you, check their availability, and read testimonials of their work HERE. My suggestion is to interview multiple doulas and find one you connect to and one who shares a similar philosophy about birth.

    If you are in the Boston area, contact me for a free consultation!

  3. Choose a care provider that respects your preferences and has experience supporting them. 

    Whether birthing at home, birth center, or hospital, your provider works for you. Their job is to make sure that you and baby are safe. If your provider suggests an intervention that you are not certain of, talk to them about the evidence behind their suggestion. Ask them what the benefits, risks, and alternatives are. Ask them if it is even necessary. Ask yourself what your intuition tells you. Make your informed consent or informed dissent is truly informed. Many experienced doulas may know the names of care providers in the area that may support your wishes, whether you want a planned cesarean or a home birth or anything in between.

  4. Take a class (or more). 

    There are literally hundreds of classes that can be selected based on your birthing vision, personality, and budget. Choose a class that aligns with your vision. If you are birthing a hospital, consider taking the hospital class so that you are familiar with their policies and labor rooms (usually there is a tour at the end of class) AND consider taking a class that aligns with your birth vision. If this isn’t your first baby, there are refresher classes available in many places.

  5. Depending on your provider and preferences, write a birth plan.

    Birth plans are becoming an increasingly popular way of communicating preferences to your provider. Depending on who your providers are and where you are birthing, you may or may not need one. I nearly always recommend a birth plan if you are birthing in a hospital or birthing center and have preferences you want to communicate to your care team. Due to the shift changes of nurses and doctors, having a clearly written, single-page birth plan saves you from having to verbalize your preferences to every new person who walks in. If you are birthing at home, it is most likely that you know which care providers will attend your birth and there is time to talk about your preferences

  6. Advocate for yourself. 

    Your preferences won’t be recognized if no one knows what they are. If you have a partner, encourage them to advocate for you as well so you don’t have to do as much talking. If there is something that you want to try, let it be known. Having a planned cesarean and want to watch? Ask about a clear drape. Want to try the newborn breast crawl? Tell your nurses you want truly uninterrupted skin-to-skin. Want to rub in rather than rub off the vernix? Your baby, your choice! A good care provider will discuss with you if there is a preference that they are uncomfortable with. As long as there isn’t an emergency (and emergencies are rare), there is always time for discussion.

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