If you have been following my previous posts, you’ll know by now how much of a fan I am of informed decision making during the childbirth process. Being an Edmonton birth doula and Edmonton prenatal class instructor, it should come as no surprise that I believe women should be respected and given the option to make their own choices according to how they want their birth to proceed. I like to think of it as practice for motherhood, where you’re constantly making decisions for your child’s future… and believe me, they sure don’t get easier! Breast or bottle feeding, co-sleeping or bed sharing, cloth diapering or not, decisions decisions decisions! As long as you are educated in the risks and benefits of both, no two decisions are better than the other.
But exactly HOW do we go about becoming educated and making these important decisions in our child’s life, or more specifically, during childbirth? Us Edmonton doulas like to refer to a cool acronym, BRAIN, which is a method of decision-making using a combination of the facts and how you feel. Here’s what all of the letters in BRAIN represent, and how to use BRAIN properly:
B – What are the benefits?
Begin the decision-making process with the positives – what good things will come out of this decision you are about to make? Let’s take, for example, using an epidural. The obvious benefits are the sweet, sweet relief of not feeling contractions as intensely as you did before. Another benefit is the possibility that you are able to relax enough (maybe even get some much-needed shut-eye!) to allow the labour to progress. Like everything else in life, I love looking at the positives first 🙂
R – What are the risks?
Now on to the less-happy portion – what are the potential risks you may face by making this decision? Going back to the epidural example, you could be facing a prolonged labour, difficulty pushing, an increased need in labour augmentation (which could put baby in distress), difficulty breastfeeding, etc. Listing out these risks will help you decide if it is worth the benefits to YOU (not to anyone else).
A – What are the alternatives?
Usually, there isn’t one route to go during labour… hence why educating yourself completely is so important! Now that you’ve established the good and the bad, is there anything you can do other than this particular path you are deciding on? For example, if you are thinking about an epidural, are you able to try Nitrous Oxide or a shot of Morphine first? Have you explored all of the natural pain-coping techniques yet? Know your options so that you don’t feel backed into a corner with nothing else you can possibly do.
I – What is your intuition telling you?
Women are very lucky to naturally possess an incredibly strong intuition. I rely on mine quite heavily in everyday life and childbirth is no different. This time, you also get to factor in your motherly intuition which is an added bonus! So what does your gut tell you to do in this situation? No one can help you with this particular point, and it’s important to not let anyone interfere with what your intuition is telling you. Take a moment to be alone and away from other opinions if you need, but be sure to tap into your inner self for a moment to stay on your preferred path.
N – What if you do nothing?
The last point of the process is looking at the possible scenarios if you avoided this decision completely. Is this decision so important that by not doing it, you are threatening you or your infant’s life? By not making this decision, is it going to weigh on you forever? In the example of possibly getting an epidural, if you were to not do anything for just another 30 minutes, will you be okay to deliver your baby and be happy with your decision? Will an epidural be possible at any other time (perhaps you’ve got a very busy anesthesiologist who can only see you right at this moment)? Play out this scenario in your head first and see which seems more appealing.
I love the BRAIN acronym, not only because it allows moms to make educated decisions, but it temporarily takes you away from what might seem like total chaos in the labour room and brings you to a slowed-down mindset. Going through each point will bring you some relaxation and stillness, and we all know how relaxation is key when having a baby. What decisions are you thinking about right now that you could use the BRAIN acronym for? Have you ever taken these steps to make a decision prior to today?