Bringing Your BRAINs To Your Birth

Did you remember to pack your BRAINs in your birth bag? This simple acronym has the power to completely transform a birthing experience as it actively enrolls you in the decision making process, helps you make informed decisions, and empowers your voice in your birth. As a Certified Birth Doula, this is one tool I always make sure to equip and engage my clients with as early as possible.

Birth plans are great at keeping parents informed, involved and in control of their birth, but there’s no guarantee things will play out exactly as you have planned and envisioned. In fact, they usually don’t. The truth is, you will likely be faced with many minor and major decisions during your birth. However, you can still remain active and informed in your care, even when things deviate from your birth plan, if you remember your BRAINs.

So, what are your BRAINs and how do you use them? The acronym stands for:

B- Benefits
R- Risks
A- Alternatives
I- Intuition: what is your gut telling you?
N- Not now/Nothing: what happens if we wait or do nothing?
Let’s take a closer look at how this would play out in a real life situation. You’ve been in labor for 7 hours and dilation hasn’t progressed past 5cm. Based on intermittent fetal monitoring and vitals taken, you and the baby are both doing fine. Your Dr. comes in and says she wants to administer IV Pitocin to speed things up because you’ve been diagnosed with ‘failure to progress’. The use of synthetic oxytocin wasn’t in your birth plan. This is when you can assess the situation by asking yourself and your care provider a few questions:
-What are the benefits of Pitocin?
-What are the risks associated with Pitocin?
-What are my alternatives to speed things up?
-What is my gut telling me?
-What happens if I wait on the decision, and what happens if I say no?


This may seem obvious to some people, but during labor if one is distracted from physical and mental exhaustion, anxious, or just caught up in the heat of the moment, it can be hard to member and act on. A lot of people don’t realize they have the right to ask questions or chose between options in a birth setting, which can often leave them feel as if birth is something that happened to them vs. something they were privileged to go through and look back on with pride. Every member of the birth team brings value and their voice should be heard and respected-Dr’s, nurses, parents and doulas. When we remember to bring our BRAINs to the birth room, we’re engaging in conversations that bring unity to the team and help foster and create an environment for a safe, positive and empowering birthing experience. 

“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” –Dr. John Kennell

Helping parents assess and understand their options and harmoniously bridging the gap between clients and the healthcare system is just one of the many ways a doula can assist during labor and birth. Professionally trained in childbirth, doulas offer physical, emotional, and informational support. A doula can supply natural pain relief through massage, reflexology, relaxation and breathing techniques, and recommend laboring positions to ease discomforts. Studies have shown that having a doula present during labor and birth can result in 25% short labors, 30% less requests for pain medication, 60% less requests for epidurals, 50% reduction in cesarean births, and 40% reduction in use of forceps. No matter what you have chosen to include or exclude from your birth plan, don’t forget to bring your BRAINs if you wish to be active and informed in the decision making process.