Thursday, October 30, 2008

Understanding your birth experience by reviewing your medical records

Although I have helped mostly first time mothers, I have some women who hire me because their first birth did not turn out the way they wanted. Some of these mothers have ended up with instrumental births or c-sections and feel sad that they didn't have the birth they dreamed of, or feel like a "failure" because they didn't have a natural birth. Sometimes it's helpful with these moms to have them obtain a copy of their medical records and go through it with them line by line.

Many people aren't aware of the fact that they can access their medical records. In most cases, you are entitled to a copy of your medical records. For New Brunswickers, you can refer to the guidelines at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of NB website. Your doctor's office may charge you for the cost of photocopying all, or a portion of, your records. Your doctor also has the right to refuse to give you your record if he or she determines it is in your "best interest". Although this rarely happens (and hasn't happened to any of the moms I've worked with so far!), your doctor is required to give you a reason why, preferably in writing, with the knowledge that you can then complain to the College.

Reviewing your record with a good midwife or doula can help you to see if, in fact, your "emergency" c-section was an emergency, or if it was the end result of a cascade of interventions. It can help you to know why the nurses seemed to be working feverishly on your newborn. For many mothers, this information has helped them to be less scared when looking forward to subsequent births.

If you know that, in all likelihood, your c-section was the result of going to the hospital way too early in labour, then you can make some changes for the next birth. Maybe you will have a doula or midwife to sit with you early on in the birth process, or you can resolve to educate yourself about the signs of active labour and rent all your favourite movies to watch while you stay at home and wait for your baby.

On the other hand, your notes may help you to see that the interventions you had were warranted and/or done with the best of intentions for both you and your baby. In this case, having this knowledge can help you to process your birth and to make peace with it.

Knowledge is power. I hope some of this information helps you to find out about your births!

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