Many women worry about raising concerns in pregnancy. Fear of being a nuisance and being seen as a time-waster are common. Trusting your instincts and looking out for changes that don’t feel right is an important part of having a safe and healthy pregnancy. Here are some tips for speaking up in pregnancy, getting listened to and being taken seriously. This film has been created as part of our #AlwaysAsk campaign.
Published: April 2017. Review date: April 2020.
1. Don’t play it down - take your concerns seriously and others will too
Health professionals are people too and they can be led by your attitude. It's easy to fall into the trap of raising a concern and then persuading the health professional that actually it's probably nothing. Tell them your symptoms and explain why you are concerned, and let them use their knowledge and experience to decide whether it is serious or not.
2. Be specific - say what has changed, even if you don’t think it’s related to your pregnancy
Tell the midwife what is different and what is worrying you. Tell them even if you think it has nothing to do with your pregnancy.
3. Begin by saying, ‘I am concerned…’
Using a specific phrase such as ‘I am concerned’ can help you create shared meaning and understanding with the staff you come into contact with.
4. Ask the healthcare professionals for their name
Asking staff for their names can help you feel more familiar and on a level playing field with them
5. Make a list of all your concerns
When you are in an appointment, it is easy to forget what you wanted to raise. You might feel under pressure. Have a list and go through the items one by one.
6. Write down what you’re told
Be prepared. Have a notebook and pen with you to write down what you are told. You don't know whether the response will be complex or not so be ready. If you have notes, you can go away and think about the response later, and decide whether you feel comfortable with what you were told. It will also help you share the response with a friend, family member or birth partner.
7. It’s OK to say you are feeling vulnerable and frightened
Health professionals can forget how you may feel. Remind them. It’s important to share any new feelings of anxiety and changes in your mood.
8. Before you leave the appointment – consider whether you have asked all your questions and are satisfied with the answers
Think back, check your list. Do you feel that you have been listened to and your concerns have been taken seriously?
9. If you can’t make yourself heard or you don’t agree or you feel uncomfortable, say ‘Let me think about that and get back to you’
If you do not feel that your concerns have been taken seriously, share with staff your need to have some time and space to consider what you would like to do next. If something is still bothering you, leave it open for you to get back to them.
10. If you are not happy with the response ask for a second opinion
It’s important to feel safe and to trust the staff you are working with. If you feel your concerns have not been taken seriously, ask to check out your concerns with another member of staff. Midwives and doctors often ask each other for a second opinion so this is not an unusual request. Having a second pair of professional eyes will help provide you with a safety net.
'My work colleagues were begging me to make an appointment or go to the hospital.'
'I have learnt that midwives prefer it if we call them or come in. They don't view it as a nuisance.'
'As a midwife I’m really aware of telling pregnant women that they must come and see us. Yet, I didn’t take my own advice.'
'I had felt my baby move only a few hours before. It was only just too late.'