Advocating for Yourself During Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery: 5 Tips from an L&D Nurse
As a labor and delivery nurse, one of the things I feel MOST passionate about when I’m helping mamas prepare for birth is advocacy and using your voice in the delivery room.
Y’all, women who are educated about how to advocate for themselves during birth are far more likely to have a positive birth experience––and I want that for you!
The main reason I think knowing how to advocate for yourself during labor and delivery is so effective is that you will feel SO much more empowered and educated going into your birth. You will have more confidence, a greater sense of control, and the unknown aspect of birth (which is often where our fear is rooted) is erased.
Sounds pretty amazing, right?! And if you are pregnant during the pandemic, a sense of control and empowerment in the form of using your voice for advocacy during labor may be more important than ever. I’m so excited to share some of my top tips with you today!
1. Advocating for yourself is NOT being pushy
First off, let’s clear something up here: advocating for yourself (whether it’s during pregnancy or any aspect of your life) is NOT the same as being pushy. There’s a difference between being assertive and being confrontational.
Mama, you have a VOICE in the delivery room and your prenatal care. You are not a passive participant. If you don’t like the way something is done, you have questions, or you just don’t feel like you are being treated fairly, speak up! Pregnancy and birth are not the times to be shy or worry that you are bothering someone for putting you (and your baby’s!) wellbeing first.
I can’t tell you how many messages I get from mamas saying they felt they were either unfairly treated, or didn’t know they could refuse something during their prenatal care, labor, or birth. I want you to know you absolutely CAN!
2. Ask, ask, and ask some more!
Asking questions is an excellent way to advocate for yourself, especially when something doesn’t feel right. By learning more about what’s going on, you can make a more informed decision and have a better sense of whether or not you’re comfortable with what’s happening.
Another benefit to asking lots of questions is that it tips off your nurse or provider that you are having some big feelings about what’s going on. It could be fear, confusion, or uncertainty. A good provider or nurse will notice that because of your questions and help you feel more educated.
Lastly, asking lots of questions is always going to help you feel more control and at ease which is the main goal of advocacy, right? So, please, never hesitate to ask more about things, they are only questions!
3. Get educated about childbirth
Childbirth education is an important step toward advocacy and finding your voice in the delivery room. This is because a birth class will help you learn about the process and the details of various procedures and possibilities associated with birth.
By knowing and learning as much as you can ahead of time, you’ll have a greater sense of what you do and don’t want. Clearer birth wishes, and a strong understanding of what you want, will help you find your voice with confidence on the big day.
I think childbirth education and advocacy are so tightly connected that an entire section of my birth course is dedicated to research, prep, and advocacy in the delivery room! It really is at the heart of better birth.
4. Discuss your birth wishes with your provider
While I am all for creating birth plans, with the understanding that things sometimes have to change, one way to make your birth plan more effective is to TALK about it at length with your provider before the big day.
At the end of your pregnancy you will probably be seeing your provider every week (whether that’s in person or virtually). These prenatal visits are the perfect time to discuss your birth wishes in detail. Having a conversation about your birth plan will help them better honor your wishes and bring to light any parts that you are uncomfortable with.
What’s more, you and your provider can also talk about what would happen if the plan HAS to change for your and baby’s safety, and what that would look like, too.
5. Have a support team that can advocate for you, too
Labor is rough, and it can be really hard to advocate for yourself while you are in pain! Make sure your partner or other support people know what you want and how to support you, too. To help with this, be sure to share your birth wishes and talk about signs and signals that may indicate you want to change your plan.
They can help advocate for you if and when an unwanted procedure or intervention is being discussed. They can help ask questions when you are distracted or in pain. Lastly, they can help mediate discussions and ask for more information if you are feeling unsure or anxious about what’s going on at any point during your labor.
Make sure your voice is heard, mama!
As you prepare for birth, I want you to prepare mentally to advocate for yourself and make sure your voice is heard. The last thing I want is for you to feel like a passive participant, or worse, have a birth or prenatal care experience where you were put into a situation that you were uncomfortable with.
Mama, you CAN have a better birth, and advocating for yourself will be at the heart of it
About the Author:
Liesel Teen is a labor and delivery nurse (L&D RN), mama, the face behind the popular pregnancy Instagram page @mommylabornurse and creator of the online childbirth class, Birth It Up. Birth is something she’s been passionate about for as long as she can remember, and she loves sharing her nursing knowledge to help mamas-to-be learn more about pregnancy and birth. She lives in North Carolina and is expecting her second baby in August 2020.