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Our new Evidence Based Birth® program: Introducing the Savvy Birth Workshop for Parents

Learn about this exciting program which is brand new here in the UAE!

What is Evidence Based Birth®?

Evidence Based Birth® is an organization founded by Rebecca Dekker, an American nurse with her PhD. Rebecca was finishing up her doctorate in nursing when she became pregnant with her first baby. Figuring she would just "go with the flow," she just took a standard hospital antenatal class and went into labor hoping to be a "good" patient so that the nurses would like her.

Rebecca had a healthy pregnancy, and went into labor on her own when her water broke at 39.5 weeks. She went to the hospital like she was told to do, but was a bit surprised when they told her she would not be allowed to eat or drink, or get out of bed, even to use the toilet! They made her use a bed pan! She had a host of interventions that were done to her—none of which were medically necessary—and some of which led to complications that made her recovery and first weeks as a mother very difficult.

While Rebecca was in labor she assumed that all this care was being done in her best interest, but something seemed wrong to her. She was healthy and strong, but was being treated as if she was sick. And she had entered the hospital feeling healthy and confident, and left feeling quite the opposite, despite having had a “normal” delivery.

As a nurse researcher and professor of nursing, she was able to research the care that she and her baby had received. Rebecca was shocked to discover that almost all of the care she had received was proven by high-quality research evidence to be harmful to healthy women who are giving birth. What’s more, she learned that the type of care she had received was “routine” all across the USA—and that this model has been copied in places all over the world (including the UAE).

When Rebecca got pregnant with her second child she was determined to do it differently—she wanted her birth care to be evidence based. After accomplishing this with the help of a midwife, she was inspired to spread the word to other parents-to-be. In 2012, Evidence Based Birth® was born when Rebecca started to post summaries of the research evidence that she had found. Traffic on her website grew rapidly and within months she was being invited to speak all over the world. She started to build a whole Evidence Based Birth® team and in 2015 she started training Evidence Based Birth® instructors all around the world, and in the spring of 2018 I qualified as one!

What brought me to Evidence Based Birth®?

Unlike Rebecca Dekker, I happened upon my interest in birth long before I had children of my own. I first discovered the concept of midwives and the politics of pregnancy and birth care in the USA when I was a Women’s Studies major at Vassar College. I wrote a number of papers on the topic, including my senior thesis on the history of of midwifery in America (which was supposed to be about 40 pages long and ended up being 100). I sat in on my first births during a summer internship and was totally hooked! I applied for and was awarded a Watson fellowship for one year of independent travel and research which enabled me to study midwifery and woman-centered care in Holland, Sweden, and Central America. Seeing out-of-hospital births in these countries convinced me that this was where my true passion lay.

After 5 years of working as a health educator and trainer, I went back to school and trained as a direct-entry, out-of-hospital midwife and was licensed in Washington state, USA. My plan was to work as an independent midwife, having my own private practice and providing evidence based care for families through pregnancy, birth at home or in a birth center, and then right through the postnatal period. The wrench that was thrown into my plan was my husband—I fell in love with a guy who was already living and working in the Gulf region, and I decided to marry him and join him on that adventure.

Independent midwifery and home birth was not an option in Bahrain, where we initially lived, so I got a job as a ward midwife in a small hospital. I was disappointed to discover that the cesarean section rate was at least 80% in that hospital and I only “caught” 2 babies in 5 months—all the rest ended up going to surgery or were not delivered during my shift. I found myself spending all my time following doctor’s orders to give drugs for inductions, providing post-op care for mothers who had cesareans and bottle-feeding babies in the nursery. This was NOT the kind of midwifery I had set out to do, and it was not making me happy! In addition, I witnessed a number of abuses by doctors who I believed violated the principles of evidence based care and informed consent, and I felt terrible about being in any way complicit with this. I finally decided that any good I was doing there was outweighed by the bad, so I resigned.

Happily, I was hired by another hospital to teach antenatal classes and help mothers with breastfeeding. I loved this job as I was permitted to teach anything I wanted and the classes were free for anyone to attend. I felt like I could reach all kinds of couples and give them the information they needed to make informed decisions and have the births they wanted. Except that they very rarely were actually able to do that. I realized that I could give couples all the information and support humanly possible, but once they were in their hospital with their care providers, nothing they said or did resulted in evidence based care. The care they were getting was very similar to what Rebecca Dekker experienced, and I increasingly felt like I was “sending lambs to slaughter” by leading people to believe that they could influence their births in a way that they actually could not! I grew really depressed about this and ended up not going back to hospital midwifery or antenatal teaching after leaving Bahrain and moving to Oman. I decided to stay home with my 2 young daughters and hoped that once I returned to work in a few years I would find a way to make more of a difference.

Since coming to Dubai in 2010, I have focused on providing postnatal education and support. I co-founded the award-winning Love Parenting UAE with Jasmine Collin, Hypnobirthing practioner, and qualified as an infant massage instructor, a BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm instructor, and eventually finished my qualification as an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. I realized that I did miss birth work, so Jasmine and I started our Informed Pregnancy and Birth UAE Facebook group to help parents-to-be find information and make informed decisions. But again, it’s easier said than done when you are birthing within a health care system that is set up to follow its own routines and norms, rather than what is based on the evidence and your wishes. So, I was very excited to discover the Evidence Based Birth® Organization and to qualify as one of the first EBB instructors in the UAE!

How the EBB Savvy Birth Workshop is Different than other Antenatal Classes

Savvy means “to know” in French, and in English it is used to mean, “in the know—having shrewdness, common sense, and inside information and the ability to make good judgments.” The Savvy Birth workshop for parents does not teach you what evidence based birth practices are—it doesn’t teach you what to put on your birth plan or what choices to make. These are things that are taught in your Hypnobirthing or antenatal classes, and this workshop does not replace those classes, it complements them.

In the Savvy Birth workshop, you will instead learn how to increase your odds of actually getting those things; of actually receiving evidence based care, even in a health care system that isn’t accustomed to providing it. As your Evidence Based Birth® instructor I am trained to help you communicate with your doctor in a way which will enable you to really know whether or not he or she provides evidence based care. You will learn how to negotiate with your hospital care team and maneuver through the medical system with the secrets to getting what you want (and deserve). The workshop will help you get an inside view into how the hospital system works, what constraints your health care providers are dealing with themselves, and how you can be most effective as an advocate for yourself and your baby (and how your partner can best be an advocate for you both). Finally, you will have a firm understanding of what your rights are while you are in the hospital, and how you can be an effective change agent for increasing evidence based practices there. You will NOT enter the hospital as uninformed and vulnerable as Rebecca Dekker was—you will be empowered with inside information and skills that very few antenatal classes offer.

What was your birth experience like? Did you receive evidence based care? Did you feel confident asking for and receiving the care that you wanted? If you have not had your baby yet, what are your worries or concerns about the kind of care you might receive? What are you doing to increase your odds of having the birth you want? Check out more details about our Evidence Based Birth® offerings here on our website!

Amy x

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