We are a risk averse culture. We've all heard it said. But what does it mean? The Oxford dictionary defines risk averse as "not willing to do something if it is possible that something bad could happen as a result". Many of us make decisions in this way - we consider the worst possible outcomes and try to avoid making choices that might lead to those outcomes. On the surface, that makes a lot of sense. But the reality is that decision making is much more nuanced than that. This is especially true when making choices during pregnancy, labor, and birth. Here are 4 things to consider about risk:
1. There's no such thing as a no-risk option. I know we all kind of hate that, but it's true. No matter what we choose, or don't choose, there is risk involved. It's a function of life. That can seem kind of overwhelming and, well, downright unfair sometimes. If every choice carries risk, how do we what the right choice is? This is where the freedom comes in - if every choice carries risk, then we can let go of the pressure of making The Right Choice and instead embrace the flexibility of making the best choice for our own individual circumstances.
2. Remember the benefits. Sometimes we forget that along with the various risks associated with our choices there are also variable benefits. No matter what we choose to do, some risks and benefits increase, and some risks and benefits decrease. Consider what benefits are most important to you and what choices you can make that will increase those benefits.
3. Figure out your acceptable level of risk. What amount of risk are you comfortable with? There are as many answers to this question as there are people in the world. During pregnancy is a good time to get honest with yourself about your relationship with risk. From here on out, there is a new life that will, forever and ever, be faced with risk, every day. Figure out how you feel about it and how you want to approach this sometimes uncomfortable reality. And if you have a partner, talk to them about their acceptable level of risk as well, especially if it's different from yours.
4. Human beings are generally not good at assessing risk accurately. Why? Because of all those pesky emotions we have. For our great-great-great-great ancestors, being able to make quick, snap decisions about risk based on a hunch made the difference between taking lunch home or being lunch. For a long time this worked really well for our species, but now the risks we often need to consider are much more abstract than a saber tooth tiger hiding in the grass. Now we need the higher functioning part of our brain to step in and adjust our hunches, but that also doesn't often happen because the higher functioning part of our brain is super lazy. If a hunch "feels" right enough to our higher functioning brain, we figure that's good enough and don't adjust our assessment accordingly. Being aware of this tendency can help us adjust for it. (If you'd like to learn more about this check out Dan Gardner's Risk: Why We Fear The Things We Shouldn't And Put Ourselves In Greater Danger)
So tell us: how to you feel about risk? What have you done in life or pregnancy to find peace amid the risks we face every day?