How to Advocate for Yourself and Your Baby During Delivery

Babies are unpredictable. Knowing your rights can help you better prepare for the unpredictable.

After 9 months of nausea, weight gain, back pain, and general discomfort, the day is finally here: delivery day. And, if you’re anything like me, you are more than ready.

I was trying to evict my daughter as soon as she turned 37 weeks.

But before you head to labor and delivery, you should know what your rights are (and aren’t). Because while you may have a well-written birth plan, things change, and it’s important that you know how to advocate for yourself and your baby.

The basics

You have the right to receive full and clear information about the benefits and risks of any medication, treatment, test, or procedure you may receive

Things move quickly in labor and delivery wards, and for good reason. Childbirth can be unpredictable, and most medical professionals act abruptly out of necessity. They simply want to ensure a safe and healthy delivery.

But before receiving any treatment, you can (and should) ask about the risks and results of procedures. It’s your legal right and duty to give permission for care.

You have the right to receive full and clear information about your healthcare professional’s background and qualifications

When it comes to your OB-GYN, transparency isn’t just important, it’s your right.

Ask about their medical training and degree. Inquire how many years of experience they have (and how many babies they’ve delivered), and request any other information which you deem necessary. For example, you can ask how many vaginal and Cesarean births they’ve attended.

You have the right to receive treatment that’s appropriate for your cultural and religious background

This includes refusing certain medical procedures and receiving written correspondence in a language of your choosing.

You have the right to accept or refuse any unnecessary medical test, intervention, or procedure, including continuous fetal monitoring or an episiotomy

While certain birthing situations require intervention — sometimes it’s medically necessary to perform a C-section or monitor your unborn babe — if you’re laboring naturally and there is no fetal or maternal distress, you have the right to accept or refuse any test or procedure.

You have the right to change your mind

If something doesn’t feel right or if you’re having second thoughts, speak up. Period.

The birth process

You have the right to know if you will be induced (and why)

Some pregnancy complications may require you to be induced. In fact, in certain cases, it may be the best way to keep you and your baby healthy.

However, many inductions are unnecessary, and in some cases, can increase your risk of complications.

You have the right to labor in whatever position you choose

Barring any unforeseen problems or medically restrictive devices (such as a catheter), you can — and should — be able to labor in any position.

Some hospitals have various policies in place when it comes to delivery. If you’re planning a hospital delivery, ask about their policies ahead of time.

Newborn care

You have the right to uninterrupted contact with your newborn

There are numerous benefits of skin-to-skin contact, both immediately following birth and in the days and weeks after. As long as you and your baby are healthy, you should be given (and are entitled to) relatively uninterrupted time to bond with your child.

You have the right to breastfeed or bottle feed

While the benefits of breast milk are well-researched and well-known, not everyone can or wants to. (I stopped breastfeeding to resume my regular mental health care regimen.)

Do what is best and right for you.

You have the right to deny unnecessary medical tests or procedures

After your child is born, medical professionals will likely perform a series of tests on your wee one. For example, your newborn will be measured, weighed, given an APGAR test, and blood will be drawn.

However, not all procedures need to be done immediately after birth (or in the hospital). Speak to your OB-GYN or pediatrician in advance to better understand what they recommend doing and when.

You are your own best advocate

You should speak up, ask questions, and remember this is your birth experience and your child.

If something doesn’t seem or feel right, or if you have questions, it’s your right to ask questions and receive answers.

Kimberly Zapata is a mother, writer, and mental health advocate. Her work has appeared on several sites, including the Washington Post, HuffPost, Oprah, Vice, Parents, Health, and Scary Mommy — to name a few. When her nose isn’t buried in work (or a good book), Kimberly spends her free time running Greater Than: Illness, a nonprofit organization that aims to empower children and young adults struggling with mental health conditions.