What is your BIAS in the childbirth conversation?
No kidding. Our Trust has spent the past 45 years trying to get past the biases that are such a huge part of the present childbirth conversation. Here’s a good explanation of what bias is … ‘Cognitive bias describes the inherent thinking errors that humans make in processing information. Some of these have been verified empirically in the field of psychology, while others are considered general categories of bias. These thinking errors prevent one from accurately understanding reality, even when confronted with all the needed data and evidence to form an accurate view. Many conflicts between science and religion are due to cognitive biases preventing people from coming to the same conclusions with the same evidence. Cognitive bias is intrinsic to human thought, and therefore any systematic system of acquiring knowledge that attempts to describe reality must include mechanisms to control for bias or it is inherently invalid. (excerpt from Wiki article:List of cognitive biases)’
While this list pits science and religion, in the childbirth conversation we often pit trend beliefs with reality. How does this play out?
- Bandwagon effect — the tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same. Related to groupthink, crowd psychology, herd behaviour, and manias. Women hear the present message that ‘natural childbirth’ is good, best for both mother and baby and that medical births are therefore bad and risk mothers and babies. While both types of births are good and bad for any individual, there is a bandwagon effect.
- Choice-supportive bias — the tendency to remember one’s choices as better than they actually were.
Actually, this bias tends to go in the opposite direction. When women make ‘choices’ around their coming birth and those choices don’t unfold as wanted, women remember their ‘choices’ as worse then they actually were. This often leads to what is now known as TABS … trauma after birth syndrome.
- Confirmation bias — the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions. We’re all familiar with this one. In the childbirth conversation, it’s when women seeking a natural birth cannot and will not hear that medical care is useful, helpful or essential. Natural birth advocates tend to reject medical care as an unnecessary and imposed ‘intervention’. On the other hand, women seeking medical care just close their eyes, ears and mind to any belief that natural birth is safe even when faced with overwhelming evidence.
We’ll do one more today because there are so many biases around the present conversation in childbirth that we are now unable to determine reality and common sense.
Here’s a bias that plagues those who work as birth providers.
- Déformation professionnelle — the tendency to look at things according to the conventions of one’s own profession, forgetting any broader point of view. This is quite simple. The vast majority of obstetricians are quite closed minded to natural birth, home birth and even midwifery care while most midwives are strong advocates of natural birth and think medical care is mostly unnecessary. But this bias goes further. The obstetrical profession sees birth as unsafe until over while midwives see birth as safe until proven otherwise.
And then there are SKILLS
Just taking into account those 4 biases think about how skills that birthing women and birth-coaching men can possess and use interface with these four.
- Bandwagon … If everyone jumps on the bandwagon of either natural or medical birth, skills enrich both births. Skills aren’t about your beliefs, they are the actions you take.
- Choice-supportive bias … While far too many women experience both TABS and post-natal depression we honestly have to take a look at the fact that unskilled women are much more likely not to actualize the birth they ‘choose’ and to feel incredibly disappointed they didn’t get the birth they ‘choice’. When a women and man are skilled then they turn to those and work with and around their baby’s birth as it unfolds. In other words, skills are more likely to help you achieve your choices but are also what you use to cope and manage your baby’s birth as it unfolds in reality and over Time.
- Confirmation bias … We’ve read everything about the pros and cons of every medical intervention, thought through what we want, make a Birth Plan that reflects our choices. That whole process often occurs within our confirmation bias. When our world is shaken and what we think becomes our worst nightmare then we are left with TABS and often post-natal depression. We can’t rationalize what we believed with what happened. When we were smart enough to become skilled then we turn our focus on doing the task of birthing our baby instead of focusing on what is happening to or around us. We use skills as a way to respond to the reality we are facing rather than reacting and feeling passive.
- Déformation professionnelle … This one is simple from a birthing woman or birth-coaching dad’s viewpoint. Your skills have absolutely nothing to do with how your birth professional feels or thinks. While you might be influenced and impacted by the ‘standards of care’ that surround those beliefs, in reality, neither or obstetrician or midwife are doing your birth. You can use your birth and birth-coaching skills if there are tubes coming out of every hole in your body and you hate the whole experience. You will admire yourself for using your skills in adverse and challenging situations. You can use your birth and birth-coaching skills if you’re left alone to birth on your own and either love or hate it. Your skills become your focus and in thrill to your indepth capabilities!
We have a problem … not in the choices pregnant women are making and not even in the beliefs of birth providers. Our problem exists in the Unconscious Incompetence that highlights the HUGE gap in how you, your family and friends approach and discuss childbirth. You actually do not know you need to know any skills because there is no societal expectation or conversation about the importance of all expectant families becoming skilled and using skills to birth their baby in every birth circumstance!