The B.R.A.I.N. acronym is something that birth educators, doulas and midwives have been using for a long time to help parents become more educated and engaged with their care providers. The world of birth medicine and obstetrics seems very overwhelming to a lay person. And in this age of “Dr. Google” information, so many articles, so many Facebook posts, so many comments in social media groups – that becomes just as overwhelming. Without expert guided, outside education, it’s hard to assemble all the pieces around birth and how they fit together. I personally feel that once you have a really good childbirth class under your belt that was intriguing, informative and had an instructor that could personalize the information to you and your specific birthing situation, adding the B.R.A.I.N. acronym just helps clarify the information that you’ve already stockpiled in your head.
Even in a well-organized birth class, there are moments where even the best students drift in and out of the conversation and miss some important bits of information. The same information that their partner caught because two heads are better than one! I have found through attending births, that if the parents need the information(even if they forgotten everything else) their amazing brain system recalls the medical information needed when faced with a certain situation. If those situations occur, knowing how to gather more information with a simple formula of questions, proves to be a useful skill in birth. Parents have better birth experiences when they have felt a part of the decision-making and a part of the process in deciding what is best for their family. The B.R.A.I.N. acronym works during prenatal appointments and even in choosing your child’s first preschool!
The B.R.A.I.N. acronym can help give you some distance and clarity to the situation you are gathering information on. After asking clarification questions and taking a few minutes to discuss what you feel is best for your family in this moment, keeps you in the consumer role for the birth that you and your family are experiencing. It is ok to ask questions and expect clear answers with all of the facts. Some of these choices and decisions can affect the long term health and well-being of you and your child. Taking time to do your own research and make sure there are evidenced based choices being offered is more than important.
Let me reaffirm when asking questions of any care provider, that your family will work better as “a team” than as opponents in a birth situation. It’s crucial in labor(because we are mammals) to keep the birthing woman calm and in a space of safety and comfort as much as possible. Things move forward in labor when the mother is not alarmed or feels backed in a corner. If you go into your birth assuming that you will have the right staff to support your ideals, then it’s much easier to attract that same supportive staff when variations in the best laid plans show themselves. Making sure you are in the best birth place for your ideals should be looked out WAY before delivery time.
Going with the flow of any birth works better if you have tools that keep you, the parents, calm. Keeping your baby at the forefront of all decision-making and what will make your baby’s birth experience peaceful, calm, welcoming and connected, will also help you navigate the changes in the flow of your birth. So after you gather the information from the below acronym, apply that new information to how it will work best for your baby.
For example – If we are are deciding on a belly birth due to unforeseen medical circumstances, then what kind of questions can you ask to ensure baby gets to you as soon as possible for skin to skin(knowing what a gentle cesarean can look like ahead of time will help with this too). Maybe putting off some of the newborn procedures for awhile so baby acclimates and gets some time with his/her parents first. Remember that it’s not only about your experience but this is your baby’s one and only birth. What happens to them matters and you have a say in a lot of decisions that would automatically be made if you weren’t voicing your feelings about it. You can come up with different scenarios and role play these with your doula & partner be more fully prepared(Staying in bed with continuous monitoring, IV Fluids, breaking waters to speed things up, multiple vaginal exams, not eating or drinking during labor, induction before 42 weeks)
It is more than okay to take ownership of this birth from start to finish with a common sense attitude. Care providers want a safe and healthy outcome and sometimes there are a few ways to get there. With both parties adding to the conversation, adjusting their expectations – it can be a win-win for your baby and for you. Working as a team instead of as adversaries is what works best for everyone involved. Here is a great starting point.
B stands for benefits. What are the benefits of this suggestion? Will it help baby to have a better experience?
R stands for risks. What are the risks involved for myself and my baby with this suggestion? When medications are involved, more specific questions may need to be asked.
A stands for alternatives. What are the alternatives that we could try instead? Sometimes an alternative is skipping down to the last part of the acronym and doing nothing for now.
I stands for intuition. Intuition – CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF and your baby. Take a step back – what are you feeling inside of your body right now? Does your gut say “hell no!”? Are you feeling like you are being pushed or that you need a few minutes to steady yourself? Are you fearful and a need a few minutes to replace that feeling with love and then make the decision?
N stands for nothing at all or nothing at this time(it can also stand for “Negotiation” or simply “No”.) If baby or the mother are not in a life or death situation, you will be able to say no, do nothing and revisit things later.
Know that if it is a TRUE emergency – you would not be asked and would be rushed into the OR to save you or your baby’s life. THAT is what you would want to have happen in an emergency and thank God we have that as a life-saving option thanks to modern medicine. But if that’s not the case, take a step back, breathe and gather some information. There is usually no dire need to rush, no one needs to panic. Keep that mama calm and use your tools!