Yes, you are allowed. In fact you are the only person that can do the allowing. You are an adult woman who is doing the amazing feat of growing and nurturing a baby. You get to decide. No one else does.
You may have come across care providers who say things like, “We don’t let you go more than 10 days beyond your due date,” or “We don’t let you get in the pool until we’ve examined you.” One of my friends even found herself injected with the whooping cough vaccine at an antenatal appointment whilst saying to her midwife that she wasn’t sure she really wanted it. Whilst all of the midwives that I know would be horrified by this, you don’t have to look far to hear tales from women who have been told “We don’t let you…” or even worse, “You are not allowed...”
Now I’m the kind of person that apologises when someone steps on my foot, and I will go out of my way not to be thought of as a difficult woman, but alarm bells go off for me when I hear the language of allowing or letting in reference to pregnant women. Are you flipping kidding me? Does carrying a baby reduce us to mere vessels that no longer have autonomy over our own bodies? Or is it that as women we are so used to other people commenting on, touching or generally having an opinion about our bodies that it’s just a case of “same shit, different day” when it comes to our care providers telling us what we are and are not allowed to do?
It is your right as a pregnant woman to ask questions about any care offered to you, and it is absolutely your right to say “no thanks”. It is called informed consent. Hospitals have guidelines for the care of pregnant women, but they are guidelines, not rules. I always suggest to my clients that they ask whether something is being offered to them because it is routine, or because it is something they might want to consider because of their unique circumstances.
When I was born, women admitted to the labour ward in the UK routinely had all their pubic hair shaved off due to the risk of infection. Does that sound completely bonkers to you? In the UK, pubic shaving is now considered to be completely unnecessary and humiliating, but it still continues in many countries even though there is no evidence to show it improves outcomes for mothers and babies.
I include this example to show that ideas and routine procedures change over time, and just because your health care provider is offering something - and it should be an offer, not something you feel you have to accept because you have no choice - doesn’t mean it is right for you and your baby. It might be. It might not. Do your research, ask questions, make the decision that feels right for you and your circumstances.
With that in mind, I've complied a short list of websites you might find useful for support and information about choices during pregnancy and labour. If all this feels overwhelming and you'd like some serious support, then consider enrolling on one of my Calm Birth School courses. Not only do you learn to remain calm and relaxed during your labour (and why that's desirable), you and your birth partner learn how to navigate the choices availale to you, and what to do if something unexpected happens. Check out more info about my classes here.
I'm Liz Dew, founder of SheffieldHypnobirthing.com and I love a good chat about birth. This blog is where I explore some of the things that I find amazing, frustrating, or fascinating about birth and birth culture. Grab a cuppa and dive in.