Communicating with Your Birth Attendant

Mother just after giving birthIt’s a good idea to take a little time to review how you would like to communicate with your birth practitioner. After all, you will be seeing this person for several more months, through all of your ups and downs. This person will help you through labor and usher your new baby into the world.

First, consider what your past communications with doctors and other health practitioners have been like. There are three different types of relationships people tend to have with their care providers:

Activity-passivity.
In this relationship, the health provider is the actor and the patient is the person acted upon. This type of relationship is certainly appropriate when, for instance, a person is unconscious or otherwise unable to participate in her treatment.

Guidance-cooperation
. In this type of relationship the care provider is an authority figure, and the patient takes the given advice without question. This has historically tended to be the pattern for most doctor-patient relationships.

Mutual participation
. This is more like any other adult-peer relationship. The provider and the patient decide together what type of treatment is most appropriate under the circumstances.

While there’s no need to actually sit down with your care provider and discuss the above three options (and all the possibilities in between), you should carefully consider which feels right to you.

Here are a few tips to assist you in talking to your care provider:
        Shake hands at the beginning and end of each visit. This helps to establish your adult-to-adult relationship and reminds the provider of your personhood.

        Refrain from asking questions when the midwife or doctor is in the process of examining you. Ask her, instead, either before or after the examination. If you prefer to talk to her fully dressed, request that she meet with you after the exam is over and you have put your clothing back on.

        Do not hesitate to discuss things about your practitioner that bothers you. This can be difficult. We are, after all, socialized to see medical professionals as authority figures. Keeping the things that bug you bottled up inside will only create more anxiety.

        Conversely, let your practitioner know what you like. This will help to reinforce it in your future relationship, and will benefit other patients as well.

        Don’t be afraid to ask for all the clarification you need. It may help to ask the care provider to repeat what he or she is saying “in regular language.”

        If a course of treatment makes you uncomfortable or you aren’t sure you want or need it, say so. There may be other options, or perhaps the treatment is not strictly necessary. Don’t forget that you can decline treatments that you do not want.

        Try to get to your appointments with enough time to relax before your care provider sees you. Seeing health practitioners makes some people feel nervous. Bring a good book or magazine to read.

Using the techniques suggested above can help you to protect one of the most valuable, even if temporary, relationships you will ever have.