How moms can advocate for themselves in the delivery room

Rachel Nicks, a certified doula and fitness expert, is an In The Know by Yahoo parenting contributor. Check out her site, Birth Queen, and follow her on Instagram for more.

Dear mamas,

Before we even start, let’s remember that there’s no baby without you.

And never forget: 

You are a birth queen. 

You must be at the helm and need to be centered at all times.

However, because of the way birth happens in America, women are not always supported as the central figure in the process. It’s important to educate yourself so that you know what your options are, so you can enter your birth empowered. My worst nightmare is for a mother to leave her birth feeling like it “happened” to her, instead of it being something she led herself.

It may be your first child, but always remember it is your body and your baby, and only you know what is best for you and your baby. Pregnancy and birth are not just physiological — they’re deeply spiritual, and you can tap into your power as a woman and protect your power during your birth. You have the right to invite anyone to leave. If you do not feel comfortable or supported, goodbye.

Support and intervention during birth

When a mother is bringing forth a new life, everyone else in the room is there to support her. When a mother is stressed, with cortisol and adrenaline running through her veins, interventions are often necessary and can possibly delay and complicate the birth process. This can leave the mother feeling defeated and disappointed, or worse.

One common intervention is the use of Pitocin, which is a synthetic form of oxytocin. It strengthens contractions but also blocks a woman’s natural endorphins, which can cause her to feel more pain. That can lead to the need for an epidural.

There are a number of ways to naturally create oxytocin to keep a mother calm and continue to help her dilate. Oxytocin is commonly referred to as the “love” hormone, because our bodies produce it during childbirth and when we’re falling in love.

Creating a safe and loving environment during delivery

There are other ways to create an environment for the laboring mother to feel loved. Laboring at home is wonderful because the surroundings are familiar. However, no matter where you birth, be sure to set the mood and create a warm, loving, safe and empowered environment.

Here are some ideas to help create oxytocin:

  • Lower the lights
  • Light candles (battery operated)
  • Use essential oils
  • Play music
  • Get a massage
  • Take a shower or bath because water is soothing
  • Bounce or sit on a birth ball and do hip circles
  • Say a mantra
  • Meditate or pray
  • Hold your new baby’s first outfit to keep focused on the goal — birthing your new life

We must remember that generations of women have given birth safely and successfully at home. Medicine and technology are wonderful when used to support the natural process of birth or when needed in emergency situations. But we have grown accustomed to a pathological approach to birth. We have lost faith in the power of a woman’s body and often have never witnessed a woman give birth in an empowered and intervention-free environment. Women should not have to advocate for themselves at the most beautiful and vulnerable time of their lives. However, with our approach to birth, it is necessary for women to advocate for themselves in the delivery room.

Doulas and other support systems

I highly suggest that mother and partner (or support person) take a childbirth education class, lactation class and hire a doula. I also prefer a midwife’s style of care. A doula is a birth coach who helps mothers work through birth preferences and supports mommy and partner during birth and postpartum.

What is wonderful about doulas is that they are dedicated to your birth and only your birth. Nurses and doctors have multiple shift changes and patients, which can throw off your flow or create a disjointed birthing experience. A doula provides a consistent base of support for the mother and partner.

I want to emphasize that doulas are not just there for mom. Sometimes the doula plays a larger role in supporting the partner rather than the birthing person. I have literally had a dad say, “I want to hire you for me because I know I will need your help supporting my wife.” It has also been proven that there are numerous benefits to having a doula, such as but not limited to lower intervention rates, higher attachment and breastfeeding rates, and evidence of lower rates of postpartum depression.

I encourage you to approach your birth with preferences and not a plan. As my aunt and many others always say, “Make a plan and God laughs.” Your goal is for a healthy mommy and baby. No matter how your baby enters the world, your birth is equally as beautiful as “natural.”

Questions to ask before a big decision in the delivery room

Trust your gut during your birth, and speak up. Monitors and people in the room cannot tell you what you’re feeling. A wonderful tool to use if you need more time before making a decision are these three questions:

  1. Is the baby OK?
  2. Am I OK?
  3. May I have more time?

If they give you more time, there is no emergency. The other question that most people will respect is: 

  1. Can we pray about this?

If you have a care provider who makes you feel uncomfortable, you have the right to ask for a different nurse or doctor. I also suggest that you ask them for their name and write it down as they tell you. Many behaviors will shift for the better if they are aware you are taking notes and advocating for yourself.

During your pregnancy, celebrate your strength, beauty, and power. During your birth, tap into that power and hold on tight as you enjoy the wildest ride of your life. Remember to trust your gut and speak up. Know that there will be moments when you are afraid or have doubt, but the role of your birth team is to support and empower you to have the birth you desire. I believe in you, Queen.

Happy birth day.



Photo credit: Howl & Rose Photography

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