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Pregnancy & Birth

Climate Of Confidence, Climate Of Doubt

Pregnancy and birth are normal, healthy processes for most women, the vast majority of whom have healthy pregnancies and babies. But when was the last time you saw a newspaper article titled “3.5 Million American Women Had Normal Labors and Healthy Babies This Year” or a TV episode that showed a healthy woman giving birth to a healthy newborn, without a sense of emergency or a heroic rescue?

The media’s preference for portraying emergency situations, and doctors saving babies, sends the message that birth is fraught with danger. Other factors, including the way doctors are trained, financial incentives in the health care system, and a rushed, risk-averse society, also contribute to the popular perception that childbirth is an unbearably painful, risky process to be “managed” in a hospital with the use of many tests, drugs, and procedures. In such an environment, the high- tech medical care that is essential for a small proportion of women and babies has become the norm for almost everyone.

Some advocates for childbearing women describe this as a “climate of doubt” that increases women’s anxiety and fear. In contrast, a climate of confidence focuses on our bodies’ capacity to give birth. Such a climate reinforces women’s strengths and abilities and minimizes fear. Some of the factors that nourish a climate of confidence include high-quality prenatal care; healthy food and time to rest and exercise; a safe work and home environment; childbearing leave; clear, accurate information about pregnancy and birth; encouragement, love, and support from those close to you; and skilled and compassionate health care providers. As your pregnancy develops, do what you can to seek out such resources.

When I found out I was pregnant, my blood pressure was a little on the high side. But I had a great doctor who helped me take care of myself and my baby. She knew all the details of my personal problems—being unmarried, and with a partner who had an addiction problem—and she treated me with nothing but respect. I think it made all the difference in having a healthy baby. In spite of my difficult circumstances and the stress, I actually had a very good pregnancy and had a lot of love and support.
My husband loved my pregnancy. He’d want to play jazz to my belly and sing to my belly. He’d rub cream on the stretch marks and tell the baby the play- by- play of the baseball game. He and our cat both seemed more protective of me and I felt very loved by my little family of two.

End of excerpt
Excerpted from Chapter 1: Approaching Birth with Confidence
in Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth © 2008 Boston Women's Health Book Collective

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