10 Questions to Ask About Childbirth

4. Ask, "Can I walk and move around during labor? What position do you suggest for birth?"
In mother-friendly settings, you can walk around and move about as you choose during labor. You can choose the positions that are most comfortable and work best for you during labor and birth. (There may be a medical reason for you to be in a certain position.) Mother-friendly settings almost never put a woman flat on her back with her legs up in stirrups for the birth.

5. Ask, "How do you make sure everything goes smoothly when my nurse, doctor, midwife, or agency need to work with each other?" Ask, "Can my doctor or midwife come with me if I have to be moved to another place during labor? Can you help me find people or agencies in my community who can help me before and after the baby is born?"

Mother-friendly places and people will have a specific plan for keeping in touch with the other people who are caring for you. They will talk to others who give you birth care. They will help you find people or agencies in your community to help you. For example, they may put you in touch with someone who can help you with breastfeeding.

6. Ask, "What things do you normally do to a woman in labor?" Experts say some methods of care during labor and birth are better and healthier for mothers and babies. Medical research shows us which methods of care are better and healthier. Mother-friendly settings only use methods that prove to be best by scientific evidence.

Sometimes birth centers, hospitals, and home birth services use methods that are not proven to be best for the mother or the baby. For example, research has shown it's usually not helpful to break the bag of waters.

Here is a list of things we recommend you ask about. They do not help and may hurt healthy mothers and babies. They are not proven to be best for the mother or baby and are not mother-friendly.

  • They should not keep track of the baby's heart rate all the time with a machine (called an electronic fetal monitor). Instead it is best to have your nurse or midwife listen to the baby's heart from time to time.
  • They should not break your bag of waters early in labor.
  • They should not use an IV (a needle put into your vein to give you fluids).
  • They should not tell you that you can't eat or drink during labor.
  • They should not shave you.
  • They should not give you an enema.

A birth center, hospital, or home birth service that does these things for most of the mothers is not mother-friendly. Remember, these should not be used without a special medical reason.

7. Ask, "How do you help mothers stay as comfortable as they can be? Besides drugs, how do you help mothers relieve the pain of labor?" The people who care for you should know how to help you cope with labor. They should know about ways of dealing with your pain that don't use drugs. They should suggest such things as changing your position, relaxing in a warm bath, having a massage, and using music. These are called comfort measures.

Comfort measures help you handle your labor more easily and help you feel more in control. The people who care for you will not try to persuade you to use a drug for pain unless you need it to take care of a special medical problem. All drugs affect the baby.

8. Ask, "What if my baby is born early or has special problems?" Mother-friendly places and people will encourage mothers and families to touch, hold, breastfeed, and care for their babies as much as they can. They will encourage this even if your baby is born early or has a medical problem at birth. (However, there may be a special medical reason you shouldn't hold and care for your baby.)

9. Ask, "Do you circumcise baby boys?" Medical research does not show a need to circumcise baby boys. It is painful and risky. Mother-friendly birthplaces discourage circumcision unless it is for religious reasons.

10. Ask, "How do you help mothers who want to breastfeed?" The World Health Organization made this list of ways birth services support breastfeeding: