Birth Options: How to be Supported and Feel Empowered

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know it comes pre-wrapped with unsolicited advice and horror stories about endless labors and difficult births. 

Friends sometimes wave off your birth plan saying, “you might as well throw that in the trash because it never happens the way you want anyway.”

Family might remind you of the cousin who endured 72 hours in labor only to need a cesarean. And as your tummy expands, it all makes you feel...well...deflated. 

As a doula, it’s my job to help women overcome the negative stigma of birth. 

How? Doulas help new parents become educated, empowered, active participants in the care they receive prenatally and while in labor.  For me, there are three crucial steps: Selecting a health provider, finding reliable sources of information, and writing an educated birth plan are essential.

Step 1: Choosing a provider and hospital

This is the most critical step.  The provider you choose will determine the care you receive, the quality of the relationship, the choices/options you have, as well as the hospital in which you’ll deliver your baby.  You’ll also be able to  choose between midwives or obstetricians in your care. Each has a unique skill set and approach to birth.  You can read more about the differences here.  ‘The Birth Hour’ podcast and website also has a wonderful episode on finding an evidence-based care provider, linked here.

If you’re choosing to give birth at a hospital, one wonderful way to make an educated decision about which hospital is to understand the maternity outcomes, such as cesarean birth rates.  You can search for a hospital’s rating for maternity care at this link.  The image below is an example of the report you can view.

Step 2: Finding evidence-based information

The internet is certainly a confusing place to begin your search for childbirth options.  Finding sources for unbiased, evidence-based information can be tough.  Instead of trying to sway you, websites with evidence-based information allow pregnant women to choose the options right for them.  One of my all-time favorite websites for understanding your options is ‘Evidence Based Birth.’  This website contains summarization articles of research-based evidence on topics of interest such as, “Evidence on: Inducing for Due Dates” , “Evidence on: Doulas”, and “Evidence on: Group B Strep”.  ‘Evidence Based Birth’ also has a podcast!

Other websites, podcasts, and books can provide great information, as well, but be sure to vet them properly. Be wary of media that has a clear bias in any direction or uses fear to sway the reader/listener.  A few questions to ask yourself before investing your time:

  •  Is the information provided backed by research and evidence?  
  • Is the website sponsored or funded by a company?  
  • Is the author qualified about the subject?  
  • Is the overall tone “pushy” or a little too one-sided?
  • Is there a hidden, organizational agenda?

Step 3: Creating an educated birth plan

Once you have your health providers selected and knowledge under your (rather loosened) belt, it’s time to piece together your birth plan. Creating a birth plan may seem like an overwhelming, or even a futile, task because unexpected events do occur in birth.  The goal is to help you to explore your many options, set priorities for the things you desire, and help you investigate your feelings about interventions before you’re actually in labor.  When you’re prepared, supported, and educated, you’re more likely to feel like an active participant in your care when presented with an event or choice that falls outside of the original plan.  A link to a sample birth plan is here


All in all, surrounding yourself with providers and people that will uphold and support you will never be more important than during pregnancy and birth.  As a doula, I believe it is imperative that you are be able to look back at your birth and see that you were an active participant. And we can help you do this!  When you know your options, you can navigate the unpredictable nature of birth with the confidence and information you need.

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information presented above is not inclusive of all proper treatment or methods of care, nor is it intended to substitute for the independent professional judgment of the treating caregiver.. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Kudos.

About the author

Chelsea Johnson is a birth doula and certified breastfeeding specialist living in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. After graduating college and spending 8 years in a corporate gig, Chelsea left to pursue her passion for helping new moms and babies navigate the joy, and often uncertainty, that accompanies pregnancy, breastfeeding, and postpartum recovery. Birth aside, Chelsea’s recipe for a perfect day includes hockey watching, bread baking and coffee drinking. To learn more about Chelsea, visit Birth Doulas of Pittsburgh: http://www.birthdoulasofpittsburgh.com/chelsea-johnson.html

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