How to Ask Questions & Effectively Communicate During Pregnancy: A Birth Doula's Guide

Asking Questions & Effectively Communicating During Pregnancy

During your pregnancy you will have somewhere between 10-15 prenatal visits with your chosen care provider, mainly to screen and monitor your physical health and the health and growth of your baby. However, these visits are also a great time for you to begin to lay the groundwork for effective communication during your labor and birth as well. 

As your doulas, we will help you go over your birth options for your chosen place of birth in the Cincinnati and Dayton area, and help you put that information into a concise birth plan. Your birth plan is a great tool to use to start a conversation with your doctor or midwife to get an understanding of what to expect in different scenarios, and to help them get an idea of what your goals and desires are, and how they can support those goals in the context of a safe and healthy delivery.

Most women, however, aren't writing and really honing in on a birth plan until later in the second and third trimester. In the meantime, here are some tips to consider as you consider questions you can ask your doctor or midwife to start the conversation, and begin to get to know a little bit more about how they make decisions, what options they offer, and how you might work together during the rest of your pregnancy and labor:

  1. Ask open-ended questions. Many doctors or midwives are hesitant to ever give black-and-white answers, because birth is rarely black-and-white, and there can never be a guarantee about anything. Rather than asking, "Will you do delayed cord clamping?" ask, "What is your philosophy about delayed cord clamping?"
  2. Ask about broad scenarios. For instance you can ask, "What does delayed cord clamping usually look like after birth, and under what circumstances would delayed clamping not be able to happen?" rather than simply asking, "Will you delay clamping for 5 minutes?" Again, you are asking for more than just a yes or no answer, you are giving your care provider an opportunity to share a little bit more about their views on certain topics, and how they might navigate different circumstances for you and with you.
  3. Listen and notice how their answers are presented and feel, not just what they are saying. Do you feel comfortable not just with the answers you are hearing, but with the overall style of communication? Do you walk away feeling like your questions have been answered, and do you feel confident to be able to continue asking questions if and when they arise? The greater your comfort level with communicating with your chosen doctors or midwives prenatally, the more relaxed you will feel as you go through your birth, which in turn can lead to a more positive, satisfying, and smooth delivery.
  4. Communicate any discomfort you feel. Sometimes conversations can become awkward or uncomfortable during pregnancy and birth, especially if things are changing from how you ideally envisioned, or if the answers to the questions you are asking are not being answered the way you had hoped. Remember that your care providers generally want the very best for you and your baby. If you are feeling out of control, upset, misunderstood, or rushed during pregnancy, speak up. Sometimes all it takes is an honest conversation about how you are feeling to see a positive change in communication. And remember, your care providers are humans, and they can't know how you are feeling unless you talk to them about it.
  5. Try to reserve judgement. If you do find yourself facing some difficult emotions surrounding your communication with your doctors or midwives, try to take some deep breaths, and identify the facts about what it is you are experiencing. Try not to jump straight into blame, and keep an open-mind to hear your care provider's perspective. They have gone through a lot of training and have a tremendous amount of varying experiences, just like you have have your own knowledge and experiences shaping your own perspective. Both deserve respect and consideration. That, and they are human too!
  6. Remember that you can always make a change. If you are having a very difficult time communicating with your health care team during pregnancy, remember that at the end of the day, you have the right and the responsibility to make a change if you feel that a change is warranted. It is important that you feel comfortable and confident in your care providers, and if that isn't the case, for whatever reason, it is never to late to find a new team that provides a better fit for your personal goals, preferences, and communication-style. As your doulas, we can help provide you with referrals as requested based on our personal understanding of your desires and personality.

As birth doulas, we love to help be your sounding board in pregnancy. We help you think through and form your own unique vision and goals for your birth, and we also help you come up with strategies for communicating those preferences with your doctors or midwives. We love to take the time to talk with you and provide you an outlet for many of the emotional ups-and-downs that pregnancy presents, so that you can have more effective conversations with your care providers about the things that matter most. And at the end of the day, we will stand alongside you as a constant and steady presence for you, no matter how your pregnancy and birth ultimately unfold.