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The Basics of Birth Rights
This topic comes up a lot in the birth world, and recently has hit the headlines quite a bit thanks to the strange new world we live in with COVID19.
But what are Birth Rights? And why is it so important for us to be thinking about them?
Recently, the Doula Association of Ireland (DAI) had the incredible opportunity to hold some workshops with maternity care expert Dr. Krysia Lynch. The DAI realised this was an important resource to provide for its members after the #ButNotMaternity and #IrishMaternityLockout campaigns, which helped to highlight how important it was for partners and support people to be able to accompany the pregnant mother through every scan, check-up, and ultimately their labour and birth experience. Not just as their support person, but as their advocates during a time when it can be hard to ask questions and make decisions.
The DAI asked Dr. Krysia Lynch to come on board because there truly is no one who is more up to date and aware of the situation in Ireland. Krysia is the Chair for the Association of Improved Maternity Services in Ireland (AIMS Ireland) which is a voluntary led organisation doing amazing work for the maternity sector of Ireland. If you haven’t had the opportunity to explore the work they do, it is definitely worth the time to take a look at their website and social media to learn more.
Dr Krysia Lynch of AIMS Ireland making a presentation at Leinster House on the effects of the 8th amendment on continuing pregnancy
Our first workshop with Krysia, held virtually in early December 2020, revolved around Birth Rights during Pregnancy and Labour, and was not only a real eye-opener for everyone who attended, but also full of valuable, practical tools each doula could take away with them.
Basics in Maternal Rights
You have the right to make the decision about what happens to you and your baby whilst under medical care.
You have the right to be informed in your choices about your care.
What Might This Look Like?
These are just a selection of what those informed choices might look like:
If you are told you need an induction of labour or caesarean birth you have the right to question why, you can ask for alternative options and ultimately it is your decision whether you decide to be induced.
You have the right to choose an induction of labour or caesarean birth if that is your preference.
You have the right to access the pain relief of your choice during labour.
You have the right to choose what method of feeding your baby receives; breastfed, bottle fed or a mixture of both.
You have the right to know what procedures may be done on your baby post birth and why. You also have the right to decline these.
Why Does It Matter?
You may discover that your care provider has strong feelings about the course of your care that you do not agree with, allowing you to choose to change to a care provider who helps you feel more confident.
Feeling informed and confident about what you choose to happen during your pregnancy, labour, birth and postpartum can go a long way to improving how you feel about the experiences.
Having a support partner who understands your maternal rights is as important so that you can feel confident when asking questions and discussing your options.
Remember, your care provider is an expert on birth, you are the expert on you. Together you should be able to make the best plans going forward, combining both of your specialities! There may be medical considerations that you want to take on board that your care provider can advise you on, and it is important for you and your baby’s safety to understand that part of your care.
And Where Doulas Fit In
Going through pregnancy and giving birth are intense, all consuming events in our lives. You and your birth partner have big things on your mind! Having someone there who is knowledgable about birth rights can be enormously beneficial. Nowadays, though doulas are having to mainly give pregnancy, labour and/or postpartum support virtually, it is worthwhile to know that even then they can still:
Be available virtually during your labour to remind you of any questions you wanted to ask before accepting a course of treatment.
Help you develop a birth plan or preference list that states what you would or wouldn’t like to see happen during your birth experience.
Take time during your pregnancy to discuss your options and understand what interventions may be presented to you during your labour.
Uphold your autonomy and your baby’s during any of our visits, supporting you and your partner as the primary care givers and decision makers.