Using Your BRAIN During Labor

Posted on: October 11, 2021 | Doulas, education, Information, Labor, Pregnancy, Prenatal

Claudia was upset. Her recent prenatal appointment left her bewildered and anxious. Her baby was in a questionable position, and her provider had made several suggestions. Claudia wasn’t sure what to do, how to proceed, or what was even going on. Claudia knew that there was one person to help her navigate through all of these thoughts and emotions, and she called her doula“Hi Claudia, let’s use our BRAIN to navigate through this together.” 

What Does BRAIN Mean

The acronym BRAIN is broken down to mean: Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Instinct/Intuition, Nothing. How do these five letters work together in decision making? What questions should one ask? Why is it helpful to use the acronym when making a decision? All great questions! So let’s dive into some helpful questions to ask your provider, to use yourself, and to discuss with your doula when walking through BRAIN.

B-Benefits…What are the benefits to this decision/option? How does this help me in labor/birth?

R-Risks…What are the risks to this decision/option? How does this risk impact my labor/birth?

A- Alternatives…What are the alternatives to this decision/option? Have I utilized all of my resources? Have I been given enough of the information regarding the situation to make an informed decision? 

I- Instincts…What are my instincts telling me? If I had to make a decision at this moment, what would I choose? 

N- Nothing…What if we did nothing? What if we waited <insert a measure of time> to make a decision/revisit the decision?

How To Utilize It

Throughout the stages of labor, there can be times that decisions need to be made. These decisions can be as simple as ‘where do I want to labor’, and more complex like ‘what do I want to do about xyz’. Let’s use our BRAIN in an example. How about the decision to get an epidural? 

B- The benefits of an epidural is that they can allow the birthing person to mentally, emotionally, and physically rest during a long laboring period. It can ease the pains of labor, making it more manageable. 

R- The risks of an epidural is that the epidural may wear off before one is ready for it to, and on the opposite end, it can take so well that one is completely numbed that the pushing stage becomes difficult.  There is a small chance that a spinal injury may occur. Epidurals run the risk of slowing an active labor, prolonging the laboring process. Babies born with the usage of an epidural in labor have shown to have a slower reaction time in vitals, and with nursing. 

A- The alternatives to an epidural is laboring and/or birthing unmedicated. Using comfort measures to manage pain naturally, helping to put mind over matter. Enlisting the support of a doula. Taking a childbirth education class or an alternative birthing method course, such as hypnobirthing or lamaze. 

I- The instincts/intuition about an epidural that one may have to navigate through. Maybe they heard stories from friends…or Facebook. Reading about the pros and cons of an epidural out of curiosity and self-education. That’s not using one’s instincts, that’s listening to what others are imposing or projecting on the matter. The “I” in BRAIN is turning internal and really digging deep about how one feels about the situation. 

N- The nothing about the decision to get an epidural isn’t all or nothing or even making a final decision right then. Note that depending on the nature and severity of the situation, “doing nothing” may not be an option at all. 

How Your Doula Can Help You Navigate BRAIN During Labor

Taking a moment to decipher, discuss, and digest information that  with a doula can help one make the best decisions for themselves. Being able to talk out the steps of the benefits, the risks, the alternatives, the instinctual, and the impact of doing nothing, if any. With each step through BRAIN, YOU are in the driver’s seat. The doula is a crew member to you and your partner’s co-piloting. Having the expertise of a doula to help navigate the waters of labor and into birth, instill empowerment; which leads to the ability to advocate for oneself with confidence.  

Making the Decisions that Feel Best for You

Ultimately, BRAIN is a decision making tool to help birthing families come to a decision that best suits them. While we know that birth can be unpredictable, birth should not be riddled with fear, coercion, or uncertainties. Knowing (and owning) one’s power during the entire birthing realm is one way to solidify that no matter what birth brings, being in the driver’s seat is the best seat for a birthing person to be in.  

Claudia sat flabbergasted and at-ease after the check-in phone call with her doula. Using her BRAIN sounded like a no-brainer, not only in her upcoming birthing experience, but in general. Talking a decision out, and truly taking the time to make a decision was a win-win. Waiting thirty-eight years to become a mother, she wasn’t taking things lightly. Being in-the-know, being in charge, and being supported was important to Claudia, and her doula understood that. Validating that any decision Claudia may come to make, she will be informed and supported.