Any one of my clients will have heard me go on and on about this BRAINS acronym. It is the most important part of decision making through your pregnancy, birth, postnatal period and let’s be honest, your whole entire life!
Wow, Zoe big call there, what could possibly be that important?
BRAINS is the basis that allows you to confidently make decisions. These may be big, life altering decisions, or small daily decisions. Either way the process to making an informed decision hugely relies on this technique. Knowing ALL the information before you say yes or no is the giveaway here. Emphasis on ‘ALL’ the information. Not just the information your Doula, Obstetrician, Midwife or family and friends want you to know but a range of sources and perspectives of information. If you feel you are getting a one-sided view of information or biased opinions or recommendations, please ask for more or ask other around you. I promise it will lead to you meeting others that can provide you with more than just one view on things. The main thing is that it is YOUR decision and you feel at the end of the day, you were the one to make this decision with after you had been given all the information. If you are feeling stuck or unsure, you do not have a clear ‘knowing’ of what decision- you either need more time or more information for it to become clear for you.
Let’s get into it;
Benefits – What are all the benefits to going ahead with what is being recommended? What are the benefits to not doing what is being told or recommended?
Risks – What are all the possible risks associated with what is being recommended? What are the possible risks of not going ahead with these recommendations?
Alternatives – Are there any alternatives to what is being recommended? Is there anything that can be done instead of going ahead with this or as well as? For example, complementary therapies (acupuncture, chiropractic care etc)
Intuition – Your intuition is you ‘gut feeling’. You know when you walk down the street and someone is walking towards you and you get an uneasy feeling to be cautious. It may be out of the blue or not make sense. This is a way our bodies communicate with us to let us know when something isn’t quite right. After you leave an appointment with someone, check in with yourself- how did that feel? Do you feel excited, supported, drained, hopeless, scared, not heard? Listen to this information and pay attention.
Nothing – What if we did nothing? What if we did not go ahead with what was being recommended and also did not do any alternative options? What would that potentially look like?
Space – How much space do you need in order to feel that you can make an informed decision? Even when sometimes we feel we have to make a decision then and there, most of the time we can have more time to make a decision even if it is a few hours, a day, a week or more. Vary rarely do the decisions have to be made on the spot.
Let’s run through an example (note, this is an example and not a complete list of risks/benefits etc):
You have been recommended to have the Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) that is offered to everyone in pregnancy at 28 weeks (if not high risk) to test for Gestational Diabetes (GDM).
Benefits – Knowing if you have gestational diabetes in pregnancy or not. Adequate monitoring of women and babies who have GDM. Adequately monitoring of babies after birth who were affected by GDM.
Risks – Many women vomit with these tests and have to redo. Requires x3 blood tests which create risk for infections.
Alternatives – Can perform a once off fasting blood sugar (x1 blood test) or monitor own blood sugar levels over 5 days.
Intuition – How do you feel about doing the GTT in pregnancy. How do you feel weighing up the risks and benefits? Does anything not quite feel right for you?
Nothing – What happens if you don’t test at all. Do not do the GTT, fasting blood sugar or check your own blood sugar levels? What could be the possible implications if you didn’t have these results? Could have undiagnosed GDM or you may not have any indications that you have it.
Space – How much space do you need to gather more information and weigh up all your options? 4 weeks? I generally give my clients 4 weeks from discussion to giving them the pathology request form. If this is not enough time this is important that they honour themselves with this and do more research.
I hope this example helps you to see how important this acronym is in decision making and how by going through these steps can have you feeling more empowered in your decision making.