Shaping the Future: Small Acts Can Create Great Change
If you are concerned about creating a better future for women and their families, here are a few small steps you can take that will impact your own life as well as the future of women's health.
Holistic Health Care for Women
Holistic health care is not only consideration of alternative treatments but also recognition that true health encompasses body, mind, and spirit.
Find the right health care providers. Evaluate the care you receive from your doctor. Does he really listen to you? Does she take time to explain all of your options? Your health care providers should be committed to your health beyond just a quick fix for a current complaint. Find a doctor you love, and write a letter to the old one letting him or her know how they can improve their care.
If you chart your cycle, tell your doctors. Doctors receive little training about the practice or effectiveness of Fertility Awareness and usually do not recommend it to their patients because it "doesn't work" or is "too complicated." Tell your doctor that you chart your cycle and be prepared to counter a lecture on the Rhythm Method with the facts about Fertility Awareness. Own your knowledge.
Seek out insurance that covers alternative care. As alternative treatments continue to gain popularity and credibility, some health insurance companies are starting to cover these options. Not everyone has great flexibility in choosing their health insurance, but if you have a choice, consider a company that covers alternative treatments. Write your old insurer a letter letting them know why you switched.
Safe and Cooperative Birth Care
A new life should begin with a gentle birth that reflects scientific conclusions regarding maternity care and respects the integrity of the birthing family.
Become educated about your birth options. One of the best decisions a woman can make while pregnant is to become an active participant in her prenatal care and birth planning. In our busy lives it is easy to be overwhelmed by all the available information and opinions regarding birth. It may also be tempting to hand over our experience to the "experts" (as we often regard our care providers), but cultivating and abiding by our own expertise is a powerful first act of motherhood.
Support the Coalition to Improve Maternity Services (CIMS). The CIMS mission is "to promote a wellness model of maternity care that will improve birth outcomes and substantially reduce costs". Their Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative (MFCI) provides guidlines for identifying and designating birth sites that provide "mother-friendly" birth services, including informed consent and evidence-based care. You can help by endorsing the MFCI or making a donation.
Write to your care providers about the quality of your prenatal care or birth experience. Your doctor, midwife, or hospital should all know if they served you well or how they could improve their care. In particular, if you had a wonderful nurse, take the extra time to write a letter of appreciation to her supervisor as nurses are understaffed and carry a heavy load of responsibility.
Breastfeeding as the Infant Feeding Standard
With all that is known about the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks of formula feeding, we owe it to ourselves as a culture to normalize and encourage breastfeeding as a desirable choice.
Breastfeed in public. Nothing will normalize breastfeeding more than including it and witnessing it as part of our everyday life. Breastfeeding women can achieve whatever level of discretion they desire while meeting their babies' needs and simultaneously making a silent statement that breastfeeding is not sexualized or indecent behavior. The state of Colorado expressly upholds the right of a breastfeeding woman to feed her baby wherever she has a right to be.
Refuse "free" formula samples. Whether they arrive in the mail or appear in a hospital "gift bag", formula samples are not really free. They are a formula company marketing strategy to sell their own brand, and breastfeeding mothers who choose to accept these samples pay for them with lower rates of breastfeeding success. If you receive a "free" sample from your hospital, give it back before you leave and ask what progress the hospital is making towards becoming Baby- Friendly.
Boycott formula manufacturers for violating the WHO International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes. In 1981 the World Health Organization adopted the Code in an effort to reduce world-wide rates of illness and death resulting from feeding breastmilk substitutes (formula). The Code, which is not legally binding, outlines Feeding Industry behaviors that undermine breastfeeding rates, including direct-to-consumer marketing and promotion to health care providers and hospitals. While formula manufacturers originally agreed to abide by the Code, compliance ended as each company worked to increase their own market share. Nestlé is the largest formula manufacturer, and if you would like you can join the international boycott of their products.