Stop Saying That: Birth Research Edition
Nothing inspires me like a good blog series. I have, what, at least two or three going on right now?
Well, I’m inspired to start another one. And this is one that might outlast and outlive every other blog series I have in the works.
It’s what I’m going to call the “Stop Saying That” blog series. As in, “Please stop saying this stuff out loud/on the Internet/at all. It’s misguided/insensitive/judgmental. Here’s what you can say instead.”
And I’ll bet that some of you will be surprised at what I want people to stop saying.
In fact, here’s the first one I’d like to highlight:
“JEEZ, why don’t people put just as much time and effort into researching their birth as they would researching a new car or smartphone?”
That’s right. I want people to stop saying that. Even though the sentiment behind it isn’t entirely wrongheaded. Even though I would like most people to put a little more time and effort into their researching birth options.
Even though I have uttered these very words before, right here on this blog.
Here’s the thing: bemoaning the fact that people aren’t “doing their research” when it comes to pregnancy and birth isn’t entirely unreasonable. Perhaps maternity care in the United States would improve more rapidly if every single pregnant woman was poring over research and demanding not just evidence-based care but care that is tailored to their health needs, their values, and their unique preferences.
But complaining about the apparent lack of said research is only getting at a symptom of some much larger systemic problems. Among these problems are the facts that:
- Many maternity care providers aren’t having important conversations with their patients regarding their birth options. Even good research is no match for a care provider who does not engage in conversations about practices and policies with their patients.
- Researching birth options is not an easy task, nor is it one that women know innately how to do. Not every woman knows where to begin when it comes to “doing their research.” Not every woman even has the time or skills to engage in “good research.” Not every woman even has regular access to the internet, the money to purchase books, and/or the time and transportation to get and from the library to search for the books that are most relevant to them. Research, then, is a matter of privileged access: it isn’t always open to everyone.
- Because of cultural and media representations of cars, smartphones, and other items that “people often research,” most people know that they have more than one option when it comes to purchasing or leasing them. But cultural and media representations of pregnancy and birth tend to paint a different picture: one that reinforces submitting to care provider practices and hospital policies without question. With this in mind, it seems that a large cultural shift will need to occur before pregnant women begin viewing themselves as consumers of maternity care, able to choose among an array of birth options (and able to demand informed consent regarding those options).
So what might we say instead of “JEEZ, why don’t people put just as much time and effort into researching their birth as they would researching a new car or smartphone?”
1 How can we improve the research that people do regarding pregnancy and birth? Let’s work to improve dialogue between maternity care providers and pregnant women.
2 How can we make doing research on pregnancy and birth easier for all women? Let’s make the information more accessible.
3 How can we let women know that that it is important to research their pregnancy and birth options? Let’s promote the image of women as consumers of their maternity care–consumers who have options and rights.
We won’t change people by insinuating that they are lazy, uninformed, “bad” researchers. On the other hand, changing what we say won’t change how people research their birth options overnight.
It might, however, make the goal to get people to actually research their options a little more attainable.