When preparing for your birth, at some point you’re going to need to make some choices. They might be small decisions, like whether you want to go to that yoga class or not, or which pair of undies you want to pack in your hospital bag.

Sometimes though, despite best preparation, pregnancy and birth (and parenting!) can throw you a few curveballs. Navigating these sudden crossroads isn’t always easy, and if you don’t have the tools to take that next step, we can feel paralysed. How do you know what to do?

When we need to make a sudden decision in pregnancy or labour, it can feel scary and overwhelming.

And let’s face it, it’s really not an ideal time to be deciding anything, either. Our brain chemistry is just not geared to make decisions when we’re in labour.

Informed consent is a hot topic in birth right now. Many women reflect back on their birth and realise that what happened wasn’t done with ‘informed consent’, because they weren’t given all the information they needed to make that decision. I encourage all my clients to go with the flow when it comes to their labour, but when it comes to making decisions, going with the flow often means you won’t get to birth the way you want to.

Hold the panic button! There’s help!

There’s a very famous anagram for making decisions in labour (which I’ve tweaked!), and I share this with my doula clients and in my Preparing for Birth workshops. I encourage you to print this image off and keep it on hand, because it can be incredibly helpful.

It’s called using your BRAINNN.

B – What are benefits?

R – What are the risks?

A – What are the alternatives?

I – What does my intuition say?

N – Do I need time?

N – Do I need space?

N – What happens if we do nothing?

What are the BENEFITS to doing this procedure?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out why they say you need this, and what you will get out of it. Do they have evidence? How will this benefit you and your baby? How will this help you have the birth you are hoping for?

What are the RISKS to doing this procedure?

Again, don’t be afraid to ask questions. What could happen if you do this? Do they have evidence to back this up? How could this hurt you or the baby? Are there any other side effects? How will this affect your other choices further down the labour line? What does it mean for future births? Will it affect your birth preferences?

What are the ALTERNATIVES?

What other options do you have right now? Sometimes there’s more than one way to achieve the same goal. Don’t be afraid to explore other options with your care providers. If you have time, ask people (including other care providers) you trust for their perspective and any resources they might have.

What does my INSTINCT say?

This one is super important. While our brain chemistry isn’t gung ho for making decisions when we’re in labour, it IS very tuned into instinct. Our gut feelings are heightened in pregnancy, especially in labour, and you can include this in your decision making. Listen. Trust it.


It can be hard to make a decision on the spot. If you’re in labour, don’t be afraid to ask for a minute or two, or even longer, to make your decision. If you’re pregnant, don’t be afraid to ask for longer. Explore other people’s experiences and perspectives. Find out what they thought went well and what they wish they’d done differently. It’s important that you feel you have made your best choice under the circumstances.


While it’s not in the original acronym, I also add do you NEED SPACE? Because sometimes it can just be too hard to decide when you’ve got multiple caregivers standing waiting for you to hurry up and decide! This can make it hard to listen to your instincts and voice your fears. It’s ok to ask people to leave the room while you decide. If you can take a moment, away from all the noise, sometimes the answer is easier to find.

What happens if we do NOTHING?

Sometimes, nothing much will happen. Sometimes, all kinds of things can happen! It’s worth asking, because sometimes, even a small decision can have big consequences.

So that’s it! Use your BRAINNN! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Work with your care providers. Remember, this is your baby, your body, your birth. You can absolutely have a say in how this all goes. And above all, trust yourself, too.

Anna is a certified Childbirth Educator and Doula, working in Adelaide and country South Australia.

For more information about her workshops, birth support, and post baby support services, please visit www.annasiebert.com.au.

© Anna Siebert and Anna Siebert Blog, 2016. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Anna Siebert and Anna Siebert Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About the author

Anna is a Motherhood Mentor, who works with busy mums to beat overwhelm, stop yelling and enjoy parenting. As a Childbirth Educator, Anna helps parents prepare for their birth to overcome fear, feel confident and come out the other side of birth positive and empowered. She is the founder of Calm in the Chaos, where mums learn how to feel calm, joyful and confident in modern parenting, and Preparing for Birth, where parents learn how to have a positive birth regardless of how their birth unfolds. Her mission is to take the fear out of birth and the overwhelm out of parenting. Anna runs live workshops, online courses and trainings, and is the author of Preparing for Birth.