#2 First You
The second element that demands your attention is simply You.
Give some attention to your medical history. The more you know about your past and present medical history the more effective your care will be. Here’s why. The medical decisions that are right for you assume that you know yourself and that you have shared all of that information accurately with your care providers.
Do you have a respiratory condition? Could the administration of oxygen during labor help maintain sufficient levels, thereby helping to keep you strong and coherent? Possibly, but the option can’t be introduced if you don’t let your care providers know your complete health history.
Give attention to becoming the best historian of your past medical, surgical, social and obstetric history. Always be ready with diagnosis and dates even if you think the provider already has the information.
Next consider this question. Are you an accurate historian of what has been happening with your current pregnancy? Did you have a nonstress test (NST)? If so why, when and what were the results? Your health history and current condition shape your plan of care during labor and helps keep you safe. This is important information.
When it comes to your health history, do these two things to help your experience be as positive as possible. First, don’t assume care providers already know everything about your health history. Second, be as accurate as possible when giving your health history to your care providers. Create a physical or electronic cheat sheet, because honestly, you’re in labor. How much stuff can you pull out of your head accurately? Also, be weary of depending on someone else’s memory about your health because you may not have shared all of your health history with that person and under pressure he or she may not relay what they do know accurately. Take care of you and keep your attention on the details about you.
#3 Be Informed
Finally, give attention to being informed enough to give consent.
Start with becoming informed before you are in labor. Don’t shy away from understanding medical interventions that might apply to you based on your health history even if the idea of needing the intervention is scary. What is even scarier is making medical decisions that you really don’t understand because, again you are in labor, so your attention is likely divided and time is possibly short.
Be an active partner with your care providers by learning about common labor and delivery interventions ahead of time. You might not have a complication or need additional medical intervention. However, if that does become necessary you will be in better position to understand the situation and confidently participate in the decision making process. This is not endless work but actually quite time sensitive. Expectant mothers in labor don’t have endless amounts of time to learn, discuss and decide. Time will likely not be on your side then, so give attention to these topics now. Do yourself a huge favor and consider those scary interventions that might apply to you now when they are not in front of you and you have time to consider benefits and risks, both short and long term.
Next give attention to consent. Informed consent implies understanding options and freely authorizing medical intervention. To meet the first requirement of informed consent means understanding the medical condition and the available options. This is a collaborative process that involves your care provider sharing and interpreting information while you assertively communicate preferences and goals. Based on the information, goals, time and your current condition a plan is created. Engaging in this type of collaborative dialogue helps you arrive at the moment of consent fully informed.
There are many important elements to labor and delivery. Most are happening naturally but for those things that aren’t, prepare for them ahead of time. Communicating assertively, knowing yourself and giving informed consent, if needed, can help you manage surprises that might come up. Give your attention to these elements of labor at a time when there are no competing priorities. If you and your partner pay attention to these topics before the critical hours of labor it can help reduce stress and improve your overall experience. Now that is proper work!