Use Your B.R.A.I.N.S.
We've all heard about the importance of informed decision making, but what does that really mean? How can we be sure that we're making the best decisions for ourselves, our babies, and our families? We walk into our doctors office and have language thrown around that may or may not go over our heads, maybe it seems like we don't have a choice in what our doctor is recommending, and things can happen so fast when you're in labor.
It's so important that we are still in charge of our decisions regardless of the circumstances. If you've made a birth plan, you probably know that it might not be possible to have the exact birth of your dreams, but you still want to be in charge of the decisions being made if things can't go according to your plan. Let's walk through the acronym that can help you make sure you do just that: B.R.A.I.N.S.
Keep in mind that these steps are extremely useful during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period, but can be applied to any setting! Let's make it a habit to always use our B.R.A.I.N.S.
The first thing you should ask is what is the benefit to me and my family? How will this positively affect my labor/delivery?
There are certain things that you may not have wished for in your original birth plan, that become more beneficial in certain circumstances. By knowing exactly how your family will benefit from this new choice, you can start the process of making an informed decision.
Now is the time to ask what the risks are, to both mom and the baby. Are we in danger if we don't do as you advise? You might be surprised by your healthcare professional's response. Sometimes there are real risks to not listening to your doctor. And other times, they may be recommending something out of convenience or normal practice.
Now that you know both the benefits and the risks, you can make a better decision for your family. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
You know the benefits and risks of the choice, but what are the alternatives? Is there anything else you could try before needing to commit to this option? Your healthcare professional might be able to recommend a different option that is less invasive to try first. Whether or not you decide to use an alternative first, you still knew all of your options before making your decision. THIS is informed decision making.
What do my instincts tell me? One thing I hate to see overlooked is a person's ability to know their own body, to listen to it, and to instinctively know what is best for them. Once your baby is here, you'll learn to trust your baby in this way, too. Repeat after me: I trust my body and my baby to take control. As much as some people might like decision making to be 100% black and white, it's not. It's important to listen to your gut and trust your instincts. What are they telling you?
What happens if we do nothing? Remember, even if you are told this is your only choice, you still have a choice: to accept this option and proceed, or to do nothing. It's important to ask what happens if you do nothing? Are there additional risks that haven't already been discussed? Bringing this up with your doctor can add important information that will help you make your best decision.
Ask your healthcare professional to give you space to make your decision. You might need time to talk through your decision with a partner or family member before committing. Even if your doctor is pressuring you to make a decision right now, you still have the option to ask for a few minutes, if not more. Don't let anyone pressure you into a decision that you aren't comfortable with.
Once you know the risks, benefits, alternatives, listen to your instincts, know what happens if you do nothing, and have time and space to make your choice, you can feel comfortable in knowing that whatever choice is made was informed. Even if this isn't something you would've chosen in your original birth plan, you can take comfort in the fact that you were still in control of the decision and trust that you made the very best decision for you and your family.