Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Disservice of Biased Information

I skipped out on the prenatal childbirth preparation classes - not to say that I didn't prepare myself for childbirth, I did - but I focussed my attention and education on surgical childbirth, as that was what I had planned on doing. I skimmed the other stuff (I went to the meet the doctor night at the hospital) - but mostly found that it confirmed what I did not want to do - give birth the 'normal' way. One of the reasons I opted out was that I perceived that I would be a poor fit in the traditional class - the maternal request c-section mom - no doubt I'd be singled out and potential ridiculed for my choice. I wasn't going to put myself in that position. This was a perception of bias (on my part) about the information that would be given in the class. Of the moms who did attend pre-natal class, they confirmed for me that indeed there was a 'natural childbirth' bias in the information given. Thanks, but, no thanks.

Unfortunately this left me somewhat flat-footed when I was faced with no other choice but to give birth 'naturally'.

I don't think biased information is limited to the 'natural childbirth community', I think the medicalised birth also has some degree of bias and perhaps an over emphasis on the avoidance of risk at all costs.

My problem is that I don't think there's much of a middle ground, and as a result women are left trying to decipher the information they receive about childbirth. For some women, likely those with higher levels of information literacy, they can sift through the information and make decisions that work best for them. Unfortunately for many women, they are ill-equipped to sift through the information in a way that identifies the bias (and corrects for it) and may make decisions that are less than ideal for themselves and their babies.

Good decisions that meet the needs of women and their babies would allow women to determine what matters most to them and which course of action is most likely to result in the most satisfaction when the job of parenting begins. I think this is the underlying problem with birth plans and can explain the sometimes large gap between what women expect of childbirth (and after) and what women actually experience of childbirth (and after).

The other big problem with bias, is that it tends to generate a paradigm where there is only one right way to give birth or parent. It generates the "if I didn't do it this way, I'm a failure" feeling and provides fertile ground for the development of "sanctimommies" and that is also damaging. Every woman should be able to stand by her decisions and say with conviction "I looked at the information available, and I made the choice that works for me and my child" with pride and with knowledge that it's okay to make a decision that is different from somebody else's decision.

Bias in information is bad, informed choice is good - but good choices rely on good (unbiased) information - a difficult challenge for any pregnant or birthing woman or parent today.

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