Advocating for Yourself During Pregnancy, Delivery and Postpartum

Shannon M. Clark, MD
October 27, 2021
Advocating for Yourself During Pregnancy, Delivery and Postpartum

*Updated 10/2022

Today I’m joined by ObGyn Dr. Heather Irobunda to discuss a vital topic-->advocating for yourself during pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period! This conversation with Dr. Irobunda is essential to any pregnant person.

How to advocate for yourself

Mentally Prepare & Take Notes

Having a baby comes with lots of questions and information regarding the health and well-being of both the pregnant person and baby. However, sometimes the amount of information can become overwhelming during obstetrical visits. For example, if you receive a new diagnosis of gestational diabetes or hypertension, you might only actually be able to take in and process 20-30% of the information, and them leave with even more questions!

When receiving information during obstetric visits, see if you can call someone, such as your support person, during the visit to have them on the phone while you are receiving the information or being counseled. Having another set of ears to absorb the information alongside you will ensure that important details are not missed. Two sets of ears are better than one!

If you cannot call someone during your visit, take notes! Also, be sure to get the phone number so you can contact someone after your visit in case you have additional questions. Your OB provider wants you to be cared for and to have all the knowledge you need. Call afterward to get the answers to your questions.

Know Your Medical History

Family medical history and your personal medical history are essential to a medical provider's ability to best take care of you as a patient. Sometimes people do not know the impact that hereditary factors can have on one’s health, but your medical provider will. Knowledge of certain diseases and medical conditions that happen within your family history might help a medical provider understand your health better, allowing them to more accurately care for you and your baby. Try to gather as much information as you can, including what caused any mortality. For your personal medical history, I recommend keeping a notebook or journal of surgeries, medical procedures, and medications you’ve taken. This is all information that can help your medical provider better care for you.

Find The Right Provider For You!

Sometimes it can be difficult to know who to trust and how to trust them, so finding a medical provider who you feel respected by is critical. If you do not feel comfortable with an OB provider in the first few visits of your prenatal care, seek out a new provider. It can be very difficult to switch providers in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy because a provider wants to have the medical history of you and your pregnancy.

If you are looking for an OB provider, research your options. If you’re going by where you live, ask for referrals from those around you who have had positive experiences. Second, look at if they are Board Certified and how long they have been in practice. Board Certification holds physicians accountable to a certain extent because they must meet certain ongoing requirements and education to maintain that certification. If someone has been in practice for 10+ years and is not board certified it does not mean they are a bad physician, however, it could be a sign that they are not the most up-to-date on medical standards and information. They are not held to an extra level of accountability to ensure the safety and care of their patients.

Communicate With Your Provider

Communicating openly and speaking up for yourself is vital. Your OB provider should be your partner to help deliver a healthy baby into the world. If you have questions, concerns, or certain desires, tell your doctor. They cannot read your mind and if you never ask, they certainly will not be able to work with you on that specific need.

For example, as Dr. Irobunda says in our discussion, she tends to see a lot of patients who have had C-sections previously and now want to have vaginal delivery. She appreciates when the patient brings this up in one of the first visits. Another example is if they share with her about how something in their last delivery was traumatic. Once she is aware of this, she can write it in their chart, discuss openly what happened, and try to take steps to ensure that it will not be the experience again.

Speak Up & Know What To Watch For

Be aware of the urgent maternal warning signs and symptoms during pregnancy and in the year after delivery. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention want to help save lives. With the Hear Her Campaign, they are working to empower and equip pregnant persons and postpartum persons with the information they need to seek medical care for symptoms that could indicate life-threatening conditions.

Share this information with your support person so that they, too, know what to watch for during pregnancy and postpartum, and seek medical attention immediately if you experience the following:

  • Headache that won’t go away or gets worse over time
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Changes in your vision
  • Fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher
  • Extreme swelling of your hands or face
  • Thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain or fast-beating heart
  • Severe nausea and throwing up
  • Severe belly pain that doesn’t go away
  • Baby’s movement stopping or slowing down during pregnancy
  • Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking during pregnancy

Read the full list here and learn more about the maternal warning signs here.

Shannon M. Clark, MD

Shannon M. Clark, MD

Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS is a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, and founder of Babies After 35. In her roles as a clinician, educator and researcher at UTMB-Galveston, she focuses on the care of people with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy. Dr. Clark has taken a special interest in pregnancy after the age of 35, which according to age alone, is considered a high-risk pregnancy.

Follow Shannon on TikTok @tiktokbabydoc, Facebook @babiesafter35, and Instagram @babiesafter35.

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