The world of risk

Risk (noun): 1 (mass noun). A situation involving exposure to danger.

  • (singular noun) The possibility that something unpleasant or unwelcome will happen.

Risk is an inherit part of life. There is risk in every thing that we do, but everyone has a different ‘tolerance’ level for it. Some people are willing to accept a certain risk, while others are not.

When it comes to risk in pregnancy and childbirth, most people become risk averse. Suddenly, there’s not just the risk to yourself, but also to your baby. You get told not to eat or drink certain things, that you must do this or must not do that, all because they can increase the risk of a negative consequence.

The threat of ‘risk’ can be used to control you and the decisions you make. Being told by a family member that planning a home birth is ‘risky’. Being told by your doctor that there’s a risk to your baby if you don’t get induced before your estimated due date. Don’t get me wrong, for some women with certain predisposing factors a home birth would be risky. And for others, there are sound medical indicators which mean they should be induced before her estimated due date. But for a majority of pregnancies, the risks of certain things happening or not happening are small. The actual numbers can help you decide for yourself which risks you’re willing to accept and which you aren’t. You may be willing to accept a risk of 3 in 10,000 but not 3 in 100.

Try not to let risk scare you. Keep pushing, keep asking questions, get actual numbers and then go away and do your own research (if time permits). You might find that this variety of information paints a picture of risk that you are willing to accept, especially if it means not compromising on other things like how your labour gets started, the comfort measures you want to use, and what policies and procedures you feel comfortable agreeing to. It also means that if you decide that you are not willing to accept a certain risk, you’ll be confident that you’re making a fully informed decision, not a fear-based one.


Rachel Angelone is the founder of Your Birth Your Baby and is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and Postpartum Doula based in Melbourne. Rachel offers independent childbirth and early parenting education to pregnant families before baby arrives. Once your baby is Earth-side, she offers practical and emotional in-home support as you adjust to your new life as parents. She is also a loving wife and mother to two young girls.

Graphics from The UK’s National Health Service’s (NHS) Atlas of Risk

risks leading to death in perspective-minLeading cause of death in perspective-min

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