I’ve always been interested in childbirth- fascinated, because it’s amazing. And then petrified, because everything I’ve ever seen or heard about it is so scary; why is that? It’s a process our bodies are designed for.
When my team was looking for topics to research, we came across an article in the NYT detailing some pretty staggering statistics on birth in the US. One in three births results in a C-Section. The US is one of the most expensive places in the world to give birth, and we also have one of the highest maternal and infant death rates in the industrialized world.
We did a lot of research into this topic to find out WHY these things are happening in birth in our culture. Our huge takeaway insight was that our culture sees birth as a scary, out of control event that needs to be addressed as a procedure. We’ve taken control away from the mother and put it into medicalized methods and procedures that doctors understand.
One of the primary reasons for this is that women don’t see birth anymore- we used to literally support each other through the labor and delivery process and so would see the birthing process unfold before actually going through it. Women saw that it was a long, hard but totally doable process that our bodies are designed for. When birth starting happening in hospitals, women stopped seeing birth until they went through it themselves. By that time, their vision of it had been incredibly flooded by the images from the media that it is crazy, out of control and needs to be intervened upon (which is where I imagined my own fear spawned from)
So, our team wanted to design to enable women to have positive birth experiences. When women felt enabled to make informed decisions about their birth, they would end up feeling empowered by the experience instead of feeling bowled over by it.
We saw through our research that women that headed into birth feeling informed and assertive tended to have a more positive feeling about their birth experience afterwards, and women that were less informed and authoritative and had more of a “I’m going to roll up to the hospital and see what happens-I trust my doctor” attitude tended to feel more bowled over by the experience and have more negative feeling about the experience afterward.
One of our participants showed us an example of a birth plan that she had written for close friends and family detailing her wishes and setting boundaries around her upcoming home birth. Her plan helped friends and family feel included, let them know how they could help, and also allowed her to set boundaries with them. This email set a great tone for her birth and also for her impending motherhood.
It was also a provocation for the design of our startup: Inner Circle: The Birth Plan for Everyone Else.
Inner Circle is a web application that helps pregnant women create a birth plan for friends and family. By offering questions, prompts and examples from other women’s experiences, Inner Circle allows women to practice an assertive voice around their upcoming labor and delivery.
We are currently pilot testing. Pregnant women can go through the process of creating a birth plan email for friends and family via a survey monkey web form that we’ve created. We will then format this information into a Birth Plan Email for her to send to friends and family. See below for an example and go to innercircleplan.com if you know anyone that would want to pilot with us!