Birth-Choice Shaming

Congratulations on your natural, unmedicated birth. You did your research, hired a doula, wrote a birth plan, advocated for yourself and got your OB to agree to your plans. Labor was intense, but manageable. Your moment of triumph came when your sweet baby was placed skin to skin on your chest. It was a perfect end to a beautiful story…well, not quite.

Women are often surprised that they must continue to defend their birth choices and deflect negative comments, even after the birth. One new mom, a labor nurse herself, was mocked and shamed by the doctors and nurses with whom she worked. They taunted her about how she had struggled with her intense labor. They made comments to her that she “wouldn’t make that mistake again,” about refusing an epidural. They even used her as an example to persuade their patients to get an epidural.

This birth-choice shaming is repugnant. Especially when it comes from the healthcare professional that should be supporting mothers and their birth choices. A mother’s decision to decline pain medication, to have an epidural or any of the many other choices she will make need to be respected and honored. Trying to shame someone, about how she could have done better, is not a welcome or productive practice.

Strategies for moms dealing with birth-choice shaming:

1. Interrupt when someone is incorrectly speaking about your birth story and set the record straight.

2. Prepare a phrase to repeat when someone is pushing their opinion on you about YOUR birth experience. For example “I loved my daughter’s birth, even the difficult bits.”

3. Offer to give them information about your birth choices so that they can appreciate your point of view. Most people do not want homework so they will probably not bring up the subject again.

4. Respond: I am glad/sorry that you enjoyed/did not enjoy your birth, but every person has a different experience. I am happy with my choices.

5. When the subject is brought up, stop the conversation by saying that you feel the experience is too personal to discuss and you hope that they will respect you by not speaking about it.

And finally, surround yourself with positive and supportive people. You ultimately shared your birth experience with a very small group of people. Everyone else is a Monday morning quarterback, so go ahead and leave them on the bench.

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