For many woman, the type of birth they desire is a decision made before they give birth. Once pregnant other factors will influence their birth choices. A 2013 Study* found that nearly 45% of woman had preconceived notions about the type of birth they desires. Of these women they had a tendency to carefully select care providers and information sources that supported this desire.
Here are 8 factors that influence birth choices:
1. The Birth Stories of Family and Friends.
The experiences of our mother, aunts, sisters, close friends and co-workers will influence our perceptions of birth. Women surrounded by positive birth stories that welcome birth, are more likely to choose natural birth. Women who hear less positive and even traumatic experiences, will be more open to interventions. For those women with preconceived notions, they are likely to be careful about who they share their plans with, choosing supportive people to confide in.
2. The Partner's Feelings
The experience and perceptions of the woman's partner affect her birth plans and experiences. Some partners will bring fear, other calm, some disinterest and others may be controlling. This will influence the experience of the pregnancy, birth preparation and eventual birth.
3. Hollywood Birth Stories
The visual media is one of the most powerful influences of how birth is perceived. Often these images are confirmed by dramatic tales shared by family and friends.
4. Childbirth Classes
For women with preconceived notions, they were likely to choose independent classes that reflected their desires. For women without these notions, they were likely to attend the classes provided by hospital, and these would influence their choices. As these classes vary between institutions, they can be terribly uninformative and bias, or they can be very productive.
5. Information Sources
Women tended to choose sources that reflected their desire, leaving them feeling supported and confirming their notions. For many woman, random information may be provided via family and friends (a book or suggested resource) which influences their choices. For others, the only information available to them is that from the care provider and any googling they do for themselves.
6. Care Provider
For many women experiencing pregnancy for the first time, they usually go with the first care provider they come across. This is either their GP or someone they are referred to. The standard nature of pregnancy care tends not to provide advance notice of procedures and very little detail on why or the repercussions. Many women are not aware they can decline procedures (such a internal exams). For those who have preconceived notions, if the care provider does not support their desires, they are more likely to seek alternatives.
7. Witnessing another's birth
For women who had witnessed another woman birthing, this experience greatly influenced they way they wanted to birth. If the experience had been positive, they may desire to replicate it for themselves, choosing similar care providers and making similar choices. If the experience was not positive to witness, the woman may make conscious choices to avoid a similar experience.
8. Previous Personal Experiences
For those women who have given birth before, they will find that experience influences their choices. It may be that their care provider feels that a previous CS means an automatic repeat, meaning they have limited options if they would rather a VBAC and can not change care providers. Likewise, a woman wanting a repeat CS may encounter pressure to VBAC, which is stressful. For other women, a previous traumatic experience may require debriefing (preferably with an impartial professional) A positive past experience, may mean a more relaxed approach to the next birth.
* Regan, M., McElroy, K.G., and Moore, K. (2013) Choice? Factors That Influence Women’s Decision Making for Childbirth J Perinat Educ. 2013 Summer; 22(3): 171–180.
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