Respect, Moderation and Choice: the Key Components

Why do we feel the need to judge others for their birthing choices? Why do we (even those who strive to be unbiased are sometimes unconsciously guilty!) take sides in the infamous "birth wars"?

Why is a mother who chooses an epidural shot down as a bad mother making a risky choice for her birth? Why does an unmedicated mom get attacked and told that there is no reward for being a martyr?

It is time to start respecting choice in birth and injecting a bit of moderation into our decisions. Some extremists preach views like unassisted birth or blindly-trust-your-doctor-no-matter-what and some people will make these kinds of crazy choices. But the majority of people will fall well in the middle of these two spectrums. And in those cases, their choices should be respected, supported and no one has the right to deter them.

There is so much that goes into deciding what a woman wants for her birth - personal preference, experience, medical condition, religious views, past trauma, cultural beliefs, the list goes on for literal miles. When so many personal details go into this choice, it seems particularly irreverent that others feel they can openly judge a mother’s choices.

Birth is all about knowledge and preference. It's about the risks and benefits. We seem to forget that "risks and benefits" can't be broken down into a simple list that everyone can use. Sure, a doctor can give you a medical risk and benefit list for an intervention but that is only a small piece of your risk-benefit pie. The rest is made up of personal pieces - how a woman wants her birth to go and what risks she is or is not willing to take. A great example: the mother who chooses not to induce even though her doctor thinks she is going to have a big baby. If she has been informed of the potential risks of having a big baby - the largest of those being a higher chance of shoulder dystocia - and decided that she is willing to take that risk . For this mother, the risk of a big baby is acceptable to her, but she is not willing to take on the risks that would come with induction. She has made an informed, moderate decision. It is right for her but could be the wrong decision for someone else unwilling to take the risks of a big baby.

Unfortunately, there is no black and white, no night and day when it comes to birthing preferences. Remember that the next time it’s tempting to butt in on someone’s birth choices. Let’s start respecting other’s moderate choices. Let’s start supporting them. Most of all, let’s stop judging them. Maybe then we will be on our way to ending the “birth wars”.