Communicating effectively is an important part of taking responsibility for your health care and taking part in the decisions that need to be made from time to time. Communication also tells your doctor or midwife what is important for you in your pregnancy and birth care, improving their ability to work with you on your terms.
Eye contact is an important part of communication. As is observing body language. Eye contact establishes trust and connection with your midwife and demonstrates that you are engaged in the conversation and are attentive.
REMEMBER THEIR NAMES
The word that is most special to a person is their own name. In our busy lives, we often forget people's names. Stand out from the crowd: call your midwife or doctor by their name and you'll find they treat you as a person, more-so than a number in a busy system. When you meet them for the first time, if you try to associate their name with something about them that is unique, it will help you to remember their name. Otherwise, repeat it back at the first chance you have and it'll be more likely to stick.
BRING YOUR BIRTH PLAN WITH YOU
Your birth plan / birth preferences / birth wishes (or whatever you're choosing to call it) documents how you'd like to be cared for by your midwife or doctor. It helps them to focus on your needs and desires, and will help them to better help you. An ideal birth plan is no more than two pages long; preferably one page, and arranged in headings and bullet points. Make it easy to read and easy for them to find the information they need.
TAKE SOME TIME
When decisions are needing to be made, or plans are changing, or you're feeling uncertain - if its not an emergency, ask for some more time. Take some time to formulate the questions you need to ask to get the information you need. If you're unsure, ask. You can ask to see the policies or evidence that is being used to inform your care. If it's an emergency, go with what is being recommended.
USE YOUR BRAIN
Benefits: what are the benefits?
Risks: what re the risks?
Alternatives: what are the alternatives to what is being proposed / suggested?
Intuition: what does your intuition tell you? You may need some time to tune into what your intuition is telling you.
Nothing: what if we do nothing?
The BRAIN acronym is great for many issues that occur in life. It is the process of stopping and asking for more information that often clarifies for you what is important or the best path forward.
NEVER FORGET TO SAY THANKS!
If your midwife or doctor has gone out of their way to honour your birth plan, work with you through complications so that you still felt empowered in making decisions, and if you generally felt that they were awesome, please tell them! Generally, midwives love chocolates with a nice thank you card. It's a tough job, long hours and when someone says thank you, wow, it really makes their day.