Medical care is all about what’s best for my partner and child? Right?

According to oxfordictionary.com an advocate is:
Advocating for your Partner
One of the great things about men, and especially dads-to-be, is that they are great protectors. It’s instinctive and natural for poppa bear to make himself known somewhere along the line. Many times this is during the birth.

‘Why do I need to be involved in the decision-making process?’ you might ask, ‘Won’t the health and wellbeing of my partner and baby always be at the centre of their care?’ Have a listen to what Pete has to say.

So how do you advocate for your partner without getting yourself kicked out of the birthing room?

And how do you know when it’s right to step in or when you should just focus on your partner?

1.  Remember: You are PARENTS, not PATIENTS.

Pregnancy isn’t an illness and you don’t have to be an onlooker at the birth even if your partner needs intervention that wasn’t planned. If you go into birth keeping in mind that you are, first and foremost, parents, you are more likely to feel empowered to ask questions, make decisions and not just to be a “good patient”. This is great preparation for parenthood, there will be many times over the course of your children’s lives when you will need to advocate for them, not just at birth.

2.  Be aware that hospitals are run like businesses and profit-making ones at that.

There are many women birthing at the same time and the hospital needs to cover staff, wages, holidays etc. So a lot of your care is based around this and not necessarily what is best for your partner and your baby. A classic example is the rush to measure and weigh your baby after the birth when this is the most important bonding time for the three of you. Your partner should be given as much time as she needs to have skin-to-skin bonding. Your baby does not need to be weighed within 5 minutes of birth, or even within an hour of birth, weighing can wait until you are ready. So ask for what you want, try and determine what needs to be done and what is done for cost and efficiency. Sometimes you may need to ask for what you want a few times and be a bit pushy but always do it with a smile and manners.

3.  Be informed. Properly informed.

It’s a great idea to get more information than what you get from where you are birthing. DadSkills online childbirth classes are a great place to start 🙂 Ask questions and then ask for the time to think things over before you make a decision. If it’s a true emergency, believe me, it will be very clear and you won’t have a second to think. It will be all hands on deck.

4.  It’s not too late to change care providers.

As doulas, we have had many clients change hospitals and care providers (even at the last possible moment) when they are feeling like they are not being heard or honoured, or they feel they are being railroaded without all the information in front of them. This is a big decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but if you think you can get better care somewhere else, then do it!

One of my most recent clients changed her care provider at 34 weeks and lost her deposit of a couple thousand dollars. She made the decision to move, with her husband, after a consult where she felt she was being patronised and her questions weren’t being answered. She was worried that her care provider would be like that in labour. To this day she says it was the best money she ever spent.

5.  So what happens if you are at the birth and feel like you can’t speak up – that you have ‘lost’ YOUR voice?

This happens to most women during labour at some stage and it can definitely happen to men. Firstly, after the birth if you think back and think there is something you could have/should have said, please don’t beat yourself up about it, it happens to the best of us.

But there are ways to help minimise this happening. In the DadSkills online childbirth classes for the dad to be we teach you how to deal with the intensity of birth, so that you are more likely to be able to stay in the moment and support your partner. During antenatal classes, we teach our birthing couples about BRAIN. It’s an acronym used to remember questions to ask your care providers. It’s easy to implement, especially when things are feeling really intense and you are not sure of what the next best thing to do is. (We suggest writing this out on a card and putting it in your pocket, so that you can bring it out when you need to.)

Benefits – What are the benefits of this proposed course of action?

Risks – What are the risks? (It’s NOT ok for the answer to be ‘minimal’ – that’s not informed consent)

Alternatives – What are the alternatives?

Intuition – What is your intuition telling you? What is your partner’s intuition telling her?

Nothing – What if we do nothing for a while longer?

After everything has been explained to you, you will need time alone to discuss all of this so ask politely if staff can give you a few moments and you will come get them when you have decided. Don’t expect them to be happy about it. They have a job to do and would rather just get on with it.

Do all your negotiating with the hormones of labour in mind. DadSkills covers which hormones can speed up labour and which ones can make it stall. So if a discussion seems to be getting tense, take it outside the room so your partner can continue to labour and not be affected. Just make sure she is being supported while you are doing this.

This is a really special day for you and we don’t want you standing outside the door because you got a bit aggro. Do everything with a smile and remember your manners.

Don’t forget to check out DadSkills Top 5 Tips for Advocating in Birth and A Closer Look at Advocacy in Birth.

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