Understanding Risks in Birth

Denise BrusveenPregnancy

Risk in BirthBirth carries risk.  Plain and simple.  So does every other choice you make and experience you live.  The question that separates many of us is, “What amount of risk are you willing to accept?”  This is no different for birth, and this is what leads to women choosing all different kinds of births.

You want to avoid a cesarean, so you take natural childbirth classes, hire a doula, do lots of reading, opt out of an induction, labor without pain meds, and do everything “right.” You’ve successfully reduced your risk of a cesarean. Does that mean you’ve eliminated your risk? Nope. There are inevitably still going to be times that a true medical need exists for a cesarean. Thank goodness for skilled obstetricians to perform them!

What happens all too often in Facebook groups or other online forums is that new information comes out that states that “doing X will reduce your risk of Y.” And immediately women begin chiming in that they did X and Y still happened anyway, so they argue that the research isn’t accurate. What they’re failing to understand is that there’s a difference in reducing their risk and eliminating their risk. Because for that person, it doesn’t matter if the risk is 10% when she’s the one affected. It’s either 0 or 100% for her. But there have to be people that make up that 10%.

Maybe you’re dealing with a choice that carries a 0.5% risk. You’re feeling good about accepting that risk, and then you make the mistake of reading all the comments below the evidence-based articles you’ve read. Those comments are filled with the 0.5% of women chiming in about their stories. Now suddenly that 0.5% risk seems to have ballooned to a 75% risk in your mind. So now what are you supposed to do? First of all, stop reading the comments!

Take a break from reading. Do something to clear your mind. Take a bath, a walk, have a conversation with someone about something else, even sleep on it. Then, come back with a fresh mind. Look at the statistics – how likely really is this to happen? And decide what amount of risk you’re truly willing to accept. Different people can look at the same numbers and come to different conclusions about what they would choose. That’s because everyone’s risk tolerance is different. And that’s ok! You need to choose what feels right to you, and you don’t need to explain yourself to everyone else. You’re about to become parents, so this is just the beginning of making choices that others may not agree with!