Right now, much of the advocacy surrounding women’s rights deals with birth control and access to abortion. Not very much is dedicated to pregnancy and birthing rights.
That’s too bad, because most women have access to birth control (if they so choose) and abortion isn’t something most will deal with. But pregnancy and birthing rights are issues that almost all women will deal with at some point in their lives — often multiple times.
Yet, women are still treated like they don’t “get it.” They’re told frequently that they didn’t go to medical school, don’t know how to take care of their bodies and their babies, and they just need to trust their doctors. If things go poorly during birth, they are admonished, “Be happy you have a healthy baby. That’s all that matters.”
More and more advocates are fighting back against this, though. Fighting for women to gain or retain the right to decide when and where she will give birth. (In some states, home birth is essentially illegal.) This is critically important!
That’s why we’re giving you 10 ways to stand up for your birthing rights.
10 Ways to Stand Up For Your Birthing Rights
1. Refuse to be bullied
First and foremost, do not bend in the face of bullies. Bullies will tell you that your feelings and choices don’t matter, and that you’re not thinking of your baby’s needs. They will try to pit your desires against your baby’s best interests, as if these are separate things (they aren’t). To get you to second-guess yourself. They will tell you horror stories and talk about how your baby could die if you _____.
These are the tactics of bullies. Nothing more or less. Do not let them affect your well-thought-out decisions. Walk away from people who talk to you this way — whether it’s another mama, a random person online, or a doctor. If they can’t be bothered to communicate information to you respectfully, and allow you to make your own choices, they don’t get to talk to you about your situation at all. You keep your birthing rights by respectfully but firmly demanding them.
2. Correct misinformation when it is shared
Many people have heard the stories that bullies have shared, and are passing along that information as if it were fact, unknowingly. Stand up for the truth, by gently correcting it. For example, “Home birth is illegal.” The truth may be, “Midwives are not legally allowed to attend home births in this state, but you may birth anywhere you choose. You decide for your own body and baby. Getting a midwife to attend you may be difficult, making home birth not a viable option, but it is not illegal.”
For example, “Home birth is illegal.” The truth may be, “Midwives are not legally allowed to attend home births in this state, but you may birth anywhere you choose. You decide for your own body and baby. Getting a midwife to attend you may be difficult, making home birth not a viable option, but it is not illegal.”
Or, “C-sections are safe and fine and have no risks.” The truth is, “C-sections come with high risks to both mom and baby. There are situations in which the benefits of getting baby out quickly outweigh those risks. For low-risk moms, going into labor naturally and birthing vaginally is much safer than a c-section.
Risks of a c-section include poor lung function in baby, increased risk of NICU time, disturbed gut flora, cuts from the surgeon’s scalpel, delayed breastfeeding initiation (and lower rates of breastfeeding success), maternal infection, longer healing time, and more.”
3. Stand up for other women
What another woman chooses, or ends up with (if she doesn’t have her ‘preferred’ experience) is none of anyone else’s business. It may be true that things could have been different. But we don’t know. Bottom line, we need to stand up for other women and their rights to make their own choices, even if those choices are not what we would choose. We have to defend their autonomy, and ability to make thoughtful decisions for themselves and their babies, from unassisted home birth to scheduled c-section.
This includes defending women if others attack them in person or on social media. It can be hard, at times, to defend yourself — this is such a personal topic. Coming to someone else’s defense is important when it is needed.
4. Share correct information on birthing choices
Believing that someone has the right to make their own choices, and not ever discussing information are different. Some women believe that if you advocate for home birth, you are shaming women who choose the hospital. This is not true, and only divides people further.
Sharing factual, research-based information on birthing options is important. Women may not know what all their options are. They may not know what criteria are used to select the best birth location or care provider. So, we need to keep sharing this kind of information in a non-judgmental way. In person, on social media, and anywhere we can. Every time, it will reach someone who didn’t know, and is grateful.
5. Encourage other women
Sometimes, women feel uneasy about making a choice because they feel like (or know) that others around them won’t support them, or will even outright criticize them. We need to be a voice of support. “I believe in you. I believe you are capable of doing what is best for yourself and your baby.” We can also say, “If you are interested, I would love to share some other options with you,” but if they are not interested, we support them where they are.
6. Participate in legislative efforts
If they are currently legislative efforts in your state to make home birth or midwives legal or illegal, get involved! Share information about it. Volunteer with a campaign (putting together or distributing fliers, helping organize a rally, attending a rally, etc.). Contact your local representatives and tell them what you’d like to see happen (pass/block the bill).
7. Be willing to defend yourself
Sometimes, when push comes to shove, you have to defend yourself. Be willing to say, “This is my body, and my baby. I make the choices. I’m not going to argue about it. I’ve done my research, and I know what the best options are for me.”
8. Push for new legislation
If there aren’t currently any legislative efforts in your state, and the current laws aren’t favorable for women’s choices, start some! Band together with other local mothers who believe in birthing rights, and look for a representative or two who would be willing to draft and sponsor a bill to make home birth, midwives, etc. legal. Many representatives are willing to do this if they know that citizens find it important!
9. Get involved in birth work
This isn’t for everyone, but for some, it is. Get involved in birth work. Become a doula, or a midwife, or another type of support person. Work towards being a lactation educator, or a child birth educator. Work directly with pregnant women to help them know their options and to advocate for them. A doula is a powerful weapon — she can say, “This is what your choices are. Here are some resources to look into these options more. These are some questions you may ask your care provider.” She can stop doctors during labor to ask these same questions — “The doctor would like to do this. Do you have any questions about that or would you like to explore other options?” She can let staff know what you have chosen and ask them to respect that when you’re in no position to do so.
If you’re passionate about birthing rights, becoming a direct advocate for birthing women may be for you!
10. Share your passion and your story
No matter what, keep telling your story.
Many women are birthing rights advocates because they have been in a situation where their rights were not respected. They have learned to be passionate because they have been ignored or hurt. Share your story — if you don’t, it’s easy for people to think it’s an abstract problem, something that doesn’t happen too often, something that isn’t worth worrying about. When you share your story, people realize it does matter, and it does happen.
When we keep speaking out, we will make changes. We will help women to take back their rights to pregnancy and birth. To get accurate information without fear, to feel secure in their own choices, and to not be bullied.
This post is well-timed for me. Just this past week I finally broke through the red tape and have a referral in so that I can give birth outside of the military hospital. I’d been told so many times that, being active duty, I’d have to give birth in their hospital. I finally got fed up and asked the tough questions when my OB said that, if they had to do an ECV to turn my son from breech at 39 weeks my only two options were immediate induction if it was successful or immediate C section if it wasn’t.
Fast forward four days and I’ve got about another 3 days before the referral is through the system and I can make an appointment with the birth center that will also try an ECV but will allow me to go into birth natural even if it doesn’t work and will allow me to give birth to my son vaginally. I feel like so much weight is off my shoulders!
Don’t be afraid to stick up for what you want…but don’t shame someone else for not wanting that. My friend due 3 weeks after me agrees that everything about the center I’ve chosen sounds awesome but that she’ll be more comfortable in the hospital. I support her in that and make sure that when it comes up that I reiterate that she needs to be comfortable with where she’s going to be giving birth. Hopefully everything goes smoothly for both of us!