One of the hardest things about becoming a parent is knowing who to trust for advice about pregnancy, birth, and parenting.
Most new parents have never held, let alone looked after, a baby before having one of their own. Talk about learning to sink or swim!
Of course, you’ll be offered a lot of advice on any number of topics from family and friends and there is also no end of information available on the Internet – from social media pages, and chat rooms to pregnancy and birth websites, like the one you’re reading right now.
The Question All Pregnant And New Mothers Should Ask Their Care Providers
And then there are the people who we’re told to trust, our care providers – midwives, general practitioners, obstetricians, maternal and child health nurses, and paediatricians.
The problem is: how to decipher what advice is based on the best and most current research and evidence? What is safest and best fits with your personal situation and needs?
The health professionals we see during pregnancy and afterwards, have years of education, training and experience behind them.
It makes good sense to listen to their words of wisdom and follow their advice to the letter, doesn’t it?
But do we question where our care providers get their information from? And, more to the point, is it actually as solid as we’re led to believe?
Astonishing as it might sound, care providers can offer advice that is out of date, or inaccurate. It might be given with the best intentions, but it can seriously affect how women give birth and care for their babies afterwards.
If care providers offer you advice, it’s important to ask what evidence-based research is available to back up their statements.
This doesn’t mean you should reject all the advice and information offered to you, but you should think critically, and ask for the evidence on which their claims are based.
If your care providers are unable to provide you with any credible or accessible evidence, then possibly the topic is outside their area of expertise.
For example, a general practitioner might not have the most experience and training in breastfeeding challenges, and a new mother should be referred to see a board certified lactation consultant.
If the person offering advice is a specialist and still can’t produce evidence to back a claim, this should act as a red flag: look for a second opinion from another specialist.
For example, if an obstetrician recommends elective induction at 40 weeks gestation, without medical reasons, it would be appropriate to expect evidence to back up the necessity of this intervention.
If a doctor is unable to provide any evidence, it is worth seeking another opinion or considering a different care provider.
How To Ask For More Evidence
Questioning your care providers’ authority on a topic can be very confronting. But remember they are people too; they are busy and often have to care for many women and families with different needs.
Sometimes a care provider might have been meaning to read up on current research and hasn’t had time. Often a certain piece of advice does the rounds, which means it isn’t best practice, but it’s well entrenched as ‘fact’, and therefore isn’t questioned. A good example of this is in BellyBelly’s article Why The Feed-Play-Sleep Routine Doesn’t Work For Breastfeed Babies.
Unfortunately some care providers have certain practices which they aren’t willing to let go of, even if research has shown a different method has greater benefits.
As a consumer of maternity and health care, you are entitled to question your care provider, so you can make an informed decision about your maternity or child health care.
The best way to ask questions is to follow the BRAIN acronym:
B – what are the Benefits?
R – what are the Risks?
A – what are the Alternatives?
I – what other Information (evidence) can you provide?
N – what if we do Nothing (now and later)?
Using BRAIN helps you to ask your care provider for all the relevant information you need, to make sure you are given the best available advice, based on current research and evidence.
You don’t have to feel as though you must always take advice that doesn’t sit well with you. If you have asked for help, and the suggestions offered haven’t changed your situation, or if you’re not comfortable with the advice, don’t hesitate to ask what evidence is available or seek another opinion.
If you find out early whether the advice you are being offered is, in fact, evidence-based or not, it can save you a lot of stress and further challenges later on.