Who are the pregnancy experts?
You’re pregnant. Suddenly, everyone wants a piece of you. The old lady on the train stops to offer you advice.
Friends who’ve had children regale you with stories.
People tut if they see you in the wrong part of the cheese aisle at the supermarket.
And every other day, there’s a story in the national press telling you that you should/shouldn’t/must/mustn’t/definitely can’t or it will drop off/do or do not do THE THING that they are writing about.
So who exactly are the pregnancy experts?
It might not be who you think.
You and your baby
Coming in right at the top of the list are you… and your baby. With your partner (if any) a close third.
Think about it. If somebody told you they’d been working in a certain field for twenty (ahem) years, you’d assume they were an expert in it.
You’ve lived with your body for your whole life.
You’ve known your baby since before s/he was made.
That’s a lot of expertise.
You know when something doesn’t feel quite ‘right’.
You know if your baby is moving differently from normal.
You are the expert. Everyone else is here to support you, but the person with the most knowledge?
The main professional expert in pregnancy (in the UK, at least)?
Depending on how old she is, she will have had three-four years’ undergraduate training in all things related to pregnancy, birth, and the first few weeks after a baby has been born.
Around half of her training will have been in ‘normal’ pregnancy, with the other half focussed on ‘high risk’ and less standard scenarios.
S/he is the lead carer for women with standard pregnancies, and is a health professional in her own right. She’s nobody’s assistant (a bit like a Physiotherapist or an Occupational Therapist – she is an expert in her field and involves other health care professionals when needed).
Obstetricians are Doctors who specialise in abnormal pregnancy and birth.
They will have undergraduate and post-graduate training, but are not experts in normal pregnancy.
They come into their own if there is a problem. Obstetricians are surgeons and can perform operations such as caesarean sections.
They can also advise on ‘high-risk’ births and may be called if instruments (for example, forceps) are needed to assist a baby who is stuck.
Unless they have taken a special interest in normal birth, their knowledge of low-risk pregnancy is limited.
According to Amali Lokugamage, an Obstetrician who trains Doctors, Obstetricians-to-be receive eight weeks’ worth of training about normal birth in their fifth year of training.
Many Obstetricians are also Gynaecologists as well – Doctors who specialise in problems with women’s reproductive organs.
Doulas are ‘experts’ (though they probably don’t like the term) in non-medical options around pregnancy and childbirth.
The key here is non-medical. Doulas do not have any professional responsibility for your health and do not offer any medical advice. It’s not their area of expertise.
Instead, they can talk you and your partner through your options, signpost you to places for support around the issue you are having, and help you learn techniques to make sure you feel in charge of the decision-making process.
Suddenly discover that your baby is Breech (pointing bottom or feet-first)? A Doula can help you find the space to think through all of your options, and point you in the direction of experts, support groups and research to help you work out what you would like to do.
Because, after all, you are the expert.
Last but not least – there’s lots of support available from other parents in your local community.
Perhaps you know about a parents’ and toddlers’ group. Or a fab antenatal class where you can meet other pregnant parents in your neighbourhood. Maybe it’s even a Positive Birth Group.
If you prefer to stay behind a screen, there are hundreds of online communities – from virtual home-birth support groups, to organisations for families with twins and triplets and general parenting discussion boards.
Whatever fear or life issue you are facing, someone else is bound to have gone through something similar. And just feeling like you are not alone can be a big help in itself.
It’s all about you
Anyone on this list can help support you in your pregnancy and birth.
But – no matter how ‘official’ they appear – they cannot make decisions for you.
Imagine you are the Prime Minister of your own pregnancy. You’ve gathered a team of specialist advisers and experts around you… but you are the one that will make the final call.
Your own intuition about your own circumstances is worth more than any degree.
Your body. Your baby. Your birth.
…Yours to enjoy. Good Luck!
How did you make decisions during pregnancy? What would you need to feel confident in listening to yourself? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.