Stop Saying That: Birth Research Edition

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?”

Try this:

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.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Cassandra Bickford
    Cassandra Bickford12-05-2012

    Love this post!

  2. Lisa Pineo
    Lisa Pineo12-05-2012

    Very good point. I did a lot of research finding out how I wanted to give birth (it didn’t really happen that way but I knew what I wanted), what was happening during fetal growth and what to do postpartum. I’m usually dumbfounded when talking to other people by their lack of knowledge. As a doula I give them resources to expand their knowledge. Some people don’t have the time or inclination no matter how easy the access is but for others, it’s like you said, they just don’t know where to start. I give basic pregnancy/birth/newborn book suggestions, other ideas specific to their situation and local resources that they might need (support, breastfeeding clinics, drop in centers, etc). Sometimes the problem is that there is just SO MUCH research and info out there for people and they really just need someone to point them to the best books or resources pertinent to them. It can be overwhelming for new mothers and as birth professionals and experienced mothers we should be helping the new ones joining our ranks learn what they can before their babies are born.

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      Exactly–sometimes it is just a matter of putting people on the right path. Especially since not all the information “out there” is accurate or even current!

  3. psychsarah

    Very wise point about research being a privileged activity. I also agree that a cultural shift must take place to make people aware that options are available. Admittedly, I was once quite naive in this aea, and it was only because friends of mine raved about their midwives that I sought midwifery care (and thank goodness, because there are not enough midwives in my area, so if you don’t call practically the instant you conceive, you may not get in). It was only after my pregnancy progressed a bit that I started researching different options for birth. I also credit my midwives for bringing up the option of homebirth at our first appointment, which got my wheels turning. Had I not been one of the last of my friends to have kids, I would not have heard of their experiences with midwives and things could have gone a whole lot differently.

  4. 10 Finds for Thursday – 12/6/12 « Life, Love, and Dirty Diapers
    10 Finds for Thursday – 12/6/12 « Life, Love, and Dirty Diapers12-06-2012

    […] 6. Stop Saying That: Birth Research Edition […]

  5. Kate

    Excellent points! One and two I knew but I’d never even thought of three.

  6. Michelle

    Interesting post. I thought it was going to take another direction though. I too have tired of the “research and choice” framework of modern Western pregnancy and childbirth education and care but for different reasons than the ones you’ve stated. Isn’t anybody else asking WHY we have to do so much defensive research and decision making?? To me telling pregnant women to “do the same (or even more than the same) type of consumer research as they would prior to purchasing a smartphone or a car is actually stating that you accept the fact that birth is a devious corporate business like any other and they should to.

    I think we need to keep questioning why things are the way that they are, then we might be able to remember the “radical” notion that pregnancy and birth actually belongs to mothers and their babies. We should instead advise pregnant women that if they want to realise this truth they’ll probably have to opt out rather than trying to win the exhausting and sometimes near impossible game of “beat the maternity system” by researching faster and smarter than their opponents. The underbelly (no pun intended) of the current maternity system is highly disturbing and needs to be highlighted every time a woman realises that she is placing herself and her baby in danger in our current system if she ISN’T a highly skilled birth researcher or anthropologist!

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      I agree that there shouldn’t be such a large burden on women/families to research pregnancy and birth to the extent that they do. I wish that there was more general knowledge (and visibility) of normal pregnancy and birth in the first place, and then the research wouldn’t be all that necessary. Cultural shifts are so difficult to provoke, though, you know?

      But yes. Changing the “system” has to be one of the larger goals–this too would help to eliminate the “burden of research,” I think, and would help those many families for whom “opting out” just isn’t an option, for whatever reason.

      • Michelle

        Cultural shifts are hard because (unbelievably) not everyone within a self identifying group believe or even want the same things, a classical case and point of this would be “natural” childbirth advocates. A personal example of this would be that I actually have no interest in devoting my energies into changing the “system”, my goal is purely to highlight to others the (endless) reasons why is should be challenged and (ideally) avoided (at all costs).

        I do agree though that we have so much power to promote real change when we share our stories and experiences of what is possible, biologically normal and natural with pregnancy and birth. But the fact remains that most women, sadly even those who undertake research about the childbearing and raising “options” during pregnancy, are doing so (in most cases) far too late. Maybe the statement about lack of birth research was created / is needed for it’s shock value alone. If it garners defensiveness, criticism or shame by the recipient perhaps this is what is needed to wake women up in a world that prospers from our perpetual slumber??

        – Sorry for the essay, I could talk about this stuff all day! :)

  7. Laura

    And then there are those of us who start pregnancy nearly free of other parents (besides our own). When I got pregnant, I only had a couple of co-workers who already had small kids, and I did not know them well. I didn’t have the slightest idea there were so *** many choices (and how angry people could get about the ‘wrong’ ones).

    Add to that the fact that my kids were born at 25 weeks. Whatever illusion of choice I might have had blew away in the wind at that point. Any research I had done was immediately moot.

  8. Rebecca

    And here I am, part of the “system”. Part of the system trying to change. How can I improve the dialogue between my pregnant patients and me? I want tools for this.
    I get all revved up and excited about my work when I do tings like investigate some evidence based maternity care issues and share it with my colleagues, or read/watch/listen about shared decision making in maternity care. but I have an overwhelming amount of work to do, and I want someone to help me find the tools I didn’t get in medical school or residency, or if I had the opportunity to develop them I missed it because of everything else going on.
    This is a priority for me now, as a doctor, because I have got to find joy in my work.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

/* ]]> */