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Doctor listening to woman

How to advocate for yourself after pregnancy and birth

Doctor listening to woman1

November 19, 2019

People often hire a doula to help advocate for themselves during pregnancy and labor. But what about postpartum? So many people feel completely forgotten during this time, and if you’ve experienced any difficulties during birth, that six week check-up will feel a long way off.

You may be feeling vulnerable and uncertain, but this is an important time to advocate for yourself. Our culture doesn’t often encourage us to speak up or question perceived authority, and it’s not easy. But caring for yourself will set you up for a better transition into parenthood.

How to find the right provider

Finding the right provider is a crucial piece of the puzzle, whether it’s a doctor, therapist, lactation consultant physical therapist, or other health professional. So when you’re shopping around for providers, look for someone who sees postpartum equally as important as pregnancy and birth. The “shopping” is intentional because people don’t often realize that choosing a care provider is no different than choosing other service.

Start by doing your research and gathering resources. Who has availability, accepts your insurance and is located near you? There is your short list. But the most important part of finding the right provider and advocating for yourself is self-awareness. Some things to consider are...

  • What is most important to you? Do you prefer a provider who is evidence-based and up to date with the newest research? Is rapport and warmth more important? Or do you want a provider who is holistic and focuses on less interventions? These answers are different for everyone, so knowing your preferences is important.

  • Seek out reviews. Luckily much of these are online so a bit of research can give you an idea of whether or not someone aligns with your values. Look for feedback from other parents in your community- groups on social media are great for this. You can also ask doulas or childbirth educators in your area to share their experiences with a care provider.

Knowing what you’re looking for in a provider and seeking out reviews or recommendations can help narrow things down. From there, it’s time to start interviewing providers yourself.

What to look for in a care provider

Again, this will vary according to your personal preferences but a good care provider will embody these three qualities.

  • Good listener. If you’ve ever been to an appointment where the doctor looked only at your chart or spoke over you the whole time, you know how important this quality is. Good care providers will listen attentively to your history, questions, and concerns. They will wait to respond until you’re finished speaking and be fully present during your appointment.

  • Thorough. Good care providers see you as an individual, not a statistic or number. They are investigative and thorough, which ties back into the listening piece. They will listen to your history and experiences- therefore knowing when to dig deeper into a symptom or concern.

  • Supportive. This is big. Especially for birth and postpartum care because it’s such a vulnerable time and easy to get bulldozed by a perceived authority figure. Good care providers will outline your options, share risks and benefits, but leave decisions up to you. Instead of dismissing your fears or concerns, they will address them in a respectful way.

Questions to ask if you’re not getting the help you need

If you’ve given birth and something feels a little off physically or emotionally, it may be time to find additional support. If you feel unsure about how to speak to your care provider, here are some questions to ask during a follow-up.

  • This doesn’t feel right for me, can we investigate this further?
  • If this persists, are there any risks?
  • Where can I look for more information or evidence about this?
  • What is your experience with this symptom/ complication/ issue?
  • Is there someone you can recommend who specializes in this?

That last question can be difficult, especially if you are afraid to cause offense by seeking out someone else. But it’s important. If you don’t feel like you’re getting adequate care or your concerns are glossed over, ask for a referral or simply seek out another professional.

Just because you have a history does not mean you have to stay with a provider, even if he or she is your doctor. You deserve to receive the care you want, and no one knows your needs or how to advocate for them better than you do.

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