Using the BRAIN Method for an Empowered Birth

Babies and Bumps

October 22, 2023

Labor and birth involve a variety of complex decisions, all of which are related to each other and play a role in defining the path for your experience and recovery. As with every decision in life, each of them will have its own set of pros and cons (benefits and risks). And being empowered to confidently decide for yourself when the benefits outweigh the risks is crucial to being able to give informed consent.

I sat down with Tara Withey, CD, CBE, CVD from Birthing by Design to talk about how she coaches her clients so they can make choices that are aligned with their preferences, beliefs, and values. We’ve worked with Tara for years at our Babies & Bumps events in Buffalo and her seminar on how to write a birth plan has always been a favorite of our attendees.

One of her top tips to share in that session is the BRAIN method – a communication tool that can help you engage with your healthcare provider in a meaningful way, ensuring that you fully understand the options available, and the potential outcomes associated with your choices.

Before I get into more detail, I want to stress the importance of being as informed and prepared as possible before your labor and birth. Believe me, the fewer things you have to think about in the moment, and the more confident you are in your vision for your experience, the easier it will be for you to handle a curve ball if one gets thrown your way.

BRAIN stands for Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition, and Nothing. This is an effective tool to use when you’re making any kind of decision. Here’s how Tara applies the BRAIN method with her clients.


When faced with a decision about your birth plan, the first step is to ask about the benefits of the proposed intervention or procedure. What does your healthcare provider believe will be gained from it? Understanding the potential benefits can help you weigh the pros and cons of the decision.

Questions to ask your provider:

  • What are the benefits of this option?
  • Does current research support those benefits?


Next, inquire about the potential risks associated with the intervention. What could go wrong, or what side effects might occur? Knowing the risks is crucial for making an informed decision about your birth.

Questions to ask your provider:

  • What is the statistical probability of this risk?
  • Where can I get additional, evidence-based information about this risk?


Explore other options or alternatives to the proposed intervention. Are there different approaches or treatments available that might achieve the same goal? Sometimes, you might discover alternative methods that better align with your birth plan.

Questions to ask your provider:

  • What is the goal of the proposed option?
  • Are there other ways to achieve the same goal?


Trust your intuition and gut feeling. Your personal comfort and instinct play a significant role in the decision-making process. If something doesn’t feel right to you, it’s essential to communicate that to your healthcare provider.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What is my gut reaction to this option?
  • Does this decision feel right to me?


Consider the option of doing nothing or delaying the decision. In some situations, it might be appropriate to wait and see how things develop before making a choice. Sometimes, time can provide clarity and allow for more natural progress.

Questions to ask your provider:

  • Can I have more time to make this decision?
  • What happens if I do nothing?


I wish I’d had these tools at my fingertips when I had my son in 2012! When my OB said, “cesarean,” I just went along with it. I assumed that it was the right choice, and to be fair, it may have been. But I didn’t give myself the chance to take a different path, or to delay the decision. Was my baby in distress? Was I at risk? Or was I just taking “too long to progress” and everyone wanted to go home at 6PM on a Friday? I’ll never know. But I’m sure I’d have far fewer regrets about my own experience had I been empowered to advocate for myself and give informed consent to a major surgery that would have a profound impact on my postpartum recovery, breastfeeding experience, body confidence, and pelvic floor health.

My hope for you is that as you prepare for this incredible journey, you’ll be able to use your “BRAIN” to make the best choices for you, your baby, your collective health, and your future together.

Founder & President, Babies & Bumps

Monica Infante

Monica founded Babies & Bumps in 2013 to inform and empower new and soon-to-be parents. Over the past decade, B&B’s footprint has grown to include 13 cities – today, she and her team plan, promote, and produce more in-person maternity events than any other series in the U.S. Babies & Bumps also offers digital resources and hosts online events throughout the year to serve parents everywhere. She lives in Rochester, NY with her husband and two children.

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