Time to leave your dignity at the door?

Birth…time to leave your dignity at the door?

Oh my goodness…this phrase still makes my blood run cold when I hear that someone has helpfully said it to one of my clients or the wonderful pregnant people that I come into contact with.

It is triggering for me…it was said to me before the birth of my first baby and I remember it making me think..WTF am I letting myself in for?


I don’t know about you, but this scared me shitless and flooded me with images of legs in stirrups, doctors all up in my bits without my say so and no control over anything that happened…none.

Dignity is ‘the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect‘ … so, by leaving that dignity at the door, are we saying ‘please treat me like I am a worthless being that doesn’t deserve to be listened to or respected’?

There is such a lot of conversation around bodily autonomy and consent, but it seems that as soon as we enter the birth room, we believe that we don’t have any and that our consent to what happens to our bodies just goes out the window.

As birthrights explains, your rights in pregnancy and birth are simple;

  • Every woman has a right to receive safe and appropriate maternity care.
  • Every woman has a right to maternity care that respects her fundamental human dignity.
  • Every woman has a right to privacy and confidentiality.
  • Every woman is free to make choices about her own pregnancy and childbirth, even if her caregivers do not agree with her.
  • Every woman has a right to equality and freedom from discrimination.

The experience you have during childbirth will remain with you and it saddens me deeply when I work with people who talk about not feeling listened to or not understanding what happened to them or being a passenger during their labour and birth. Words like helpless, scared and unimportant get used, some explaining that they weren’t even introduced before a procedure was carried out. This leaves a whole myriad of emotions…from angry, to disappointed, to traumatised…

I’m a fairly chill person but this makes me MAD…pregnant women have the right to make decisions about their bodies and what happens to them, just like everybody else!

‘OK!’ I hear you cry…’so what can we do about it?’

First and foremost, it is imperative to know that you have rights and you have choices when it comes to your care during pregnancy and birth…think ‘it’s my disco, I’ll dance how I want to’

So what counts as consent?

‘For consent to ‘count’ in the law, a person must genuinely agree to receive treatment.

This means that you must be well-enough informed about the treatment, and cannot have been put under undue influence, pressured or bullied into receiving the treatment by healthcare professionals or family members.’ (birthrights)

So, ask questions, get your birth partner/s to ask questions, gather all the information you can to ensure you are the key decision maker and you know that any course of action you choose is best for you and for baby.

You don’t have to be a dick about it and get all angry and defensive…by using a good level of assertiveness, you’ll get the answers you require without getting anyone’s backs up. However, I know from experience that when we get angry or feel scared, we can lose the ability to confidently and succinctly ask the questions we want…they just wont formulate properly in our brains!

This is where the brilliant B.R.A.I.N acronym comes into play…you can ask about the;




and listen to your Intuition

Finally, enquiring what it would mean to do Nothing for 5-10 minutes, this will give you a chance to chat it over

It can be the tool that can help you to gather the information you want and need to feel happy about any decisions you make.

When it comes to your dignity, think about what is important to you.

  • Where would you like to give birth? Where will you feel most safe and protected?
  • Think about your birth partner…will they advocate for you? Will they protect your birth space? Will they be present when needed? Do you want more than one?
  • Consider the birth environment  – what will aid you in feeling comfortable, calm and at ease? Think about the lighting in the room, the music you want playing, does being in the water appeal? What do you want to wear during birth? What will make you feel safe and reassured? What privacy do you need?
  • Research and consider birth positions – what will make things easier for you…YOU…what might aid in your comfort levels?
  • Find an antenatal course that will support your choices and fill you with confidence and knowledge

Think about these things, think about your rights, think about your choices and research the shit out of them. Educate yourself and write your birth plan so that it reflects your choices. Women are awesome…write your birth plan and know that you can cope if it changes. Equally, midwives are not mind readers! By having a plan that outlines what is important to you, you are communicating your specific wants and needs and these can be passed on to another midwife if it comes to a position where you have a different one in labour.

So really…leaving our dignity at the door is a load of bullsh*t and an awful phrase that needs to STOP breeding more fear and uncertainty into birth.


Kate x

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