By: Cassie Phillips
When you first discover you’re expecting, you’ll probably feel excited and a little overwhelmed. As you begin your pregnancy, there are many decisions to make. However, few, if any, are as important as finding and obtaining quality maternity care.
In all likelihood, a midwife will attend you throughout your pregnancy and childbirth unless your personal medical history or the specific needs of your baby require the oversight of a physician. Throughout Europe, but particularly in the Netherlands, pregnancy and childbirth are viewed as normal processes that should not be treated as medical conditions unless necessary.
Because so much of Europe holds this view, determining the quality of your maternity care becomes a largely personal assessment. Before you meet with your midwife or obstetrician, take some time to consider your vision for the next several months. For instance, where do you want to give birth? Do you want the support of a doula? What interventions are you comfortable or uncomfortable with?
While most midwives are women-centered, there is a spectrum to the personalities and the intimacy a midwife creates with her patients. You will also have options about the place of birth. In Amsterdam, home birth is a well-accepted practice, as is birthing center or hospital birth. It’s up to you.
One way to narrow down your options of like-minded midwives is to join message boards from your area. Be wise when you do this, though. Don’t give any identifying information, and take any other measures you feel are necessary to protect your privacy and safety. Unfortunately, pregnant women are often targeted, so be careful. Despite the potential for risk, these other mothers can be a great resource and may even end up being a long-term community for you, so just be wise when you log on.
Once you select a provider, the fun really begins. As the months pass, you’ll want to make sure you continue to feel confident in the care you and your baby are receiving. To do so, ask yourself a few pointed questions.
Are you a patient or a partner?
Unless your situation requires extra medical attention, you should always feel your midwife is partnering with you. The goal should always be to work together, respect the process, and make educated decisions as needed. Respecting your role as a woman and the mother are paramount to respecting your opinions and concerns as your pregnancy continues.
While your midwife likely has many years of experience bringing women safely through pregnancy, she should always view you as an individual with the autonomy to make decisions regarding your body. No one knows your body as well as you do, and a good midwife will acknowledge this and glean from your knowledge.
Likewise, you should trust your midwife enough to know that her expertise is a gift to you as you travel this exciting adventure together.
Do you have all the information you need before making certain decisions?
As you prepare for the birth of your child, you will encounter a number of decisions that only you can make. When these arise, your midwife should provide you with as much information as you need to make an educated, thoughtful decision.
It’s not unusual for medical providers to provide only the most basic information to their patients. Unfortunately, this can lead to women feeling they have been pushed or bullied into decisions they might not have otherwise made.
Are your appointments long enough, or do you feel rushed?
In the beginning of your pregnancy, your appointments will be spaced out so that a few weeks pass between them. As a result, you’ll probably have a million questions when each appointment rolls around. The best thing to do is to keep a running list throughout the weeks so when the time comes, all of them are addressed.
If when you arrive at your appointment you feel rushed and without time to have your questions and concerns answered, this may be indicative of your future encounters with this midwife. However, while doctors are famous for rushing their patients, midwives tend to approach their clients with more personalized attention. Still, keep this in mind.
Do you feel free to ask questions?
Time for questions is one concern, but so is the freedom to ask the questions in the first place. If your midwife makes you feel ignorant every time you ask a question, she may not be the midwife for you.
If, however, your midwife is open and respectful, answering your questions with care and thoughtfulness, you can feel sure that your opinions and concerns are valued by this midwife. When it comes to the care of our bodies and babies, this is absolutely nonnegotiable.
How quickly does your provider respond when you have concerns?
At some point during your pregnancy, you may feel concerned that something is wrong. Maybe you’re spotting a little, or the baby isn’t moving as much as you’re accustomed to. When this happens, there’s nothing more reassuring than a midwife who tells you to come right in to be checked out.
You aren’t bothering her when you call. You’re making her aware that conditions have changed, and any good midwife will be thankful for your attentiveness and follow-through. Good outcomes are always more likely when you work together.
When the time comes and your baby is ready to arrive, you need to feel comfortable with the person who is assisting you as you bring your child into the world. By building your trust over the previous nine months, your midwife is creating this level of comfort and confidence.
If at any point over the next nine months you feel your role is being disrespected, your concerns are downplayed, or that you are not given the tools and knowledge you need to make the best decisions for you and your baby, there is nothing wrong with taking a step back to reconsider your options.
The most important thing to remember is you are in control, and with the right midwife, this can be the most exciting time of your life.
Cassie is a nurse whose greatest joy in life is supporting healthy lifestyles from birth and beyond. When she’s not caring for her patients, she is sharing her knowledge as a freelance writer and raising her beautiful daughter.