|I really struggled with writing this article. It all seems really easy, just tell someone that they should
do something. Hey woman, be empowered, but life rarely works that way. Years of paternalism (a system where
the person who has the authority makes the decisions for another person because the authority figure knows
what is best) has given women the false idea that the provider (doctor or midwife) knows entirely what
is best for her body. How is it that a woman’s body knows exactly how to grow a whole person, but all the
details and the birth should be given to the provider to “handle”? Now, I am not saying that providers
are not needed.
Certainly, Mother Nature has flaws and providers can guide the woman and help prevent complications, but
the key here is guide. Who is the expert on you? It’s not a trick question, it’s you! No one knows your
preferences, needs, and desires more than you. Providers are the experts in what is normal or abnormal
for most, what can go wrong in particular situations, and how to prevent or treat problems. Providers are
there to answer your questions, to educate you about your body, and to guide you in your decision-making
about what is the best way to treat your concerns or problems. They are not there to control and make decisions
How do you go about taking back your power in your care? The first step is finding a provider that you
feel comfortable with, who puts you at ease. In that first meeting, do they sit down with you? Do they
look you in the eye, ask questions, and then listen to your answers? If not, you have to think, are they
interested in what you have to say or do they have their own agenda? Truly, your care is about you, how
can anyone think they know what is best for you without your input?
Next is finding your voice. Ask questions! How can you decide what you would like to do if you do not
understand what you are choosing? Providers go to school and are educated, but they do not know how the
available choices fit into your life. They are there to explain the options and then you decide which one
suits your preferences, values, and comfort. Do not be afraid to ask questions, to challenge your provider,
you are not an inconvenience.
You are the entire reason your provider has a job, and that job is to make recommendations and help you
care for yourself. You have the right to know all of your choices and the right to accept or refuse any
test, procedure, or medication. If you refuse something, the provider should respect your decision. It
is your body and if they do not, then they are not the provider for you. You want to build that trust in
the office, because for the pregnant women especially, a more vulnerable time is approaching.
Obstetrical violence occurs every day because providers think they know best for laboring women and make
decisions for them without their consent. This leads to feelings of doubt and possibly lasting trauma.
In that moment of extreme vulnerability, you need someone who will support you. You should carefully choose
who you allow in your birth space, starting with your provider. Choose someone with whom you feel comfortable
voicing concerns, asking questions, discussing options, and who empowers you to make decisions regarding
your health. This is important because in an emergency you want that provider who is going to take a few
extra seconds to discuss it with you and involve you in the decision-making.
Women are strong, we run households, we grow humans inside our bodies. We make decisions every day to
grow, support, and nurture our families. Should we not do the same for ourselves? You are resilient, you
are brave, and you know what is best for you. You have the right to be educated, the right to know all
of your options, the right to make your own choices, and the right to have a provider who feels the same
Crystal is a Certified Nurse Midwife here at Pomerene and Pomerene Women's Health Services and has been with Pomerene for one year.