Being pregnant is an exciting time in a woman’s life. Whether it’s your first or third, it brings anticipation, joy, and sometimes fear. As a Doula and childbirth educator, I am constantly surrounded by pregnant women, many of their stories are the same, and some are quite different. What they all have in common is that they want the best for their babies. Nothing compares to the privilege of giving life and the responsibility of that. With that said, it is surprising to find that most women believe they have few options when it comes to birth. Very few women know what their choices are, and fewer are aware of what their rights are.
I was telling a friend of mine who teaches prenatal yoga, that I was going to pen an article about Informed Consent. She recommended I refer to it as Informed Choice. I quite agree. Before I talk about choice I want you to know what the AMA says about Informed Consent.
According to the American Medical Association, Informed Consent
“is more than simply getting a patient to sign a written consent form. It is a process of communication between a patient and physician that results in the patient’s authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention. In the communications process, you, as the physician providing or performing the treatment and/or procedure (not a delegated representative), should disclose and discuss with your patient:
- The patient’s diagnosis, if known;
- The nature and purpose of a proposed treatment or procedure;
- The risks and benefits of a proposed treatment or procedure;
- Alternatives (regardless of their cost or the extent to which the treatment options are covered by health insurance);
- The risks and benefits of the alternative treatment or procedure; and
- The risks and benefits of not receiving or undergoing a treatment or procedure.
In turn, your patient should have an opportunity to ask questions to elicit a better understanding of the treatment or procedure, so that he or she can make an informed decision to proceed or to refuse a particular course of medical intervention. This communications process or a variation thereof, is both an ethical obligation and a legal requirement spelled out in statutes and case law in all 50 states.”-American Medical Association.
So, calling it informed choice works best for me, because when you as a patient are given all of the information you need, you are not consenting to something, you are making a choice.
Many new moms shrink from questioning their doctor when it comes to birth, however, upon asking these same women if they would question (and question some more) their doctor if they were diagnosed with a serious illness, or were told they needed an operation, the answer was always yes. So why treat your pregnancy or your birth any differently?
Your baby is counting on you for food, shelter, love and advocacy. No one loves your baby more than you do, so speak up for your baby. Ask questions; don’t be afraid to ask about alternatives, to question procedures, or ask for/about alternative procedures. Your doctor is aware of informed consent and what the AMA says about it, so they won’t be caught off guard by your advocacy for your baby. Taking an independently taught childbirth education class like Lamaze or the Bradley Method to find out more about birth can make all the difference. The more you know ahead of time, the less stress you and your partner are likely to experience on the big day. Hiring a Doula (professional labor assistant) can also be a huge help. A Doula provides continuous emotional and physical support throughout labor.
She can not make decisions for you but can help, by letting you know what your options and rights are. Ask your doula questions too, find out if her birth philosophies line up with yours. Is she the kind of doula that’s just there to rub your back? Or is she the kind of doula who will have your back, who will have your birth preferences memorized? The kind that will remind you of your choices when you are distracted by the hard work of labor? Knowing what kind of support you want on the big day is another choice for you to make and not the last on this parenting path.Birth day can be a profoundly empowering experience or it can be a scary and scarring, both literally and figuratively, experience. It doesn’t have to be a frightening experience, knowing what your choices are throughout your pregnancy and birth experience can make all important difference. I really don’t care how your baby arrives earth-side, whether vaginally or via cesarean section, what is important to me is that you were treated with dignity and respect and were given information that allowed you to make the decisions that were right for you and those who love you.