Informed Consent in Childbirth & why it is important
There is a huge movement happening globally where women are speaking up and empowering each other to stand for some pretty basic human rights.
It is no different in the birthing world and sadly women have been complaining about how they were treated during their labour and in far too many cases left wondering why certain procedures were carried out with a myriad of questions left unanswered. If they knew their rights in this situation it may have made a difference.
We are fortunate to birth in a climate that has such amazing medical advancements if we need to use them in emergencies. However the intervention rate in Australia is well above the World Health Organisations recommendations. Intervention is any medical procedure during your pregnancy journey. It is important to talk about intervention and consent because it can impact the overall health and wellbeing for you and your baby.
Yes, you may have reduced one risk by having an intervention but studies are now showing the negative side effects that women are experiencing due to a lack of empathy and respect being given to her during her labour. So what can you do about that? Get educated, get your partner educated and know what your boundaries are when faced with these decisions. It is important that you were given a choice and at times it can be an easy choice to reduce risk but it was still your choice and not an order from medical staff.
My hope in writing this article is that you gain a newfound knowledge and confidence to speak up knowing that this is your body, your baby and your experience. Making a choice under duress, with coercion or feeling as though you weren’t given one is not how you should feel after birthing your baby. You should feel supported, heard, included, respected, nurtured and empowered to be the superwomen you are.
‘A Woman will always remember how she was made to feel during her labour’
What Is Informed Consent? Informed consent is a process whereby your doctor/midwife (caregiver) is legally obliged to discuss the benefits and risks of any procedures or treatments with you. You as the birthing mother have rights over the important decisions regarding what will and won’t be done to your body and your baby. ‘
The Australian Medical Association – Maternal Decision Making Statement 2013
“most pregnant women strive to achieve the best possible health outcomes for both themselves and their unborn babies. Because of the inter-dependence of the maternal-fetal relationship, both the mother and the fetus have an interest in any health care decision. In this situation, ‘interest’ refers to ‘optimal health and well-being”.
Your birth experience will directly impact your postpartum period.
It is every woman’s right to have autonomy over her body and her baby at all times. The decisions you make about your birth options can have long lasting effects on the health and wellbeing of yourself, your baby and your family. Women who feel satisfied and in control of their birth experience are less likely to experience traumatic stress after birth.
“Even when a medical intervention is wanted or needed, the inclusion of women in making decisions about the care they receive is important to ensure that they meet their goal of a positive childbirth experience.” Ian Askew, WHO Director Department of Reproductive Health and Research.
The birth climate is complicated and you may not start to learn about that until you are too far into the system or until you go home wondering what just happened to you. The reason this is so important is because if you do not receive the basic informed consent fundamentals followed by medical professionals your experience will be tarnished and here is a truth bomb for you ladies – you will always remember how you were made to feel. Did you feel powerful or powerless?
It is daunting at times and there is so much going on but you should at all times feel in control and ultimately cared for. While hospitals will always have systems, checks and controls in place it should always remain an informed choice for you to make. So how do you make an informed choice? You need information.
The information you should be given is:
A diagnosis and description of the situation including the risks and benefits of each course of action that might include their first recommended treatment or procedure, an option of alternative treatment or procedure and thirdly if you continued without taking these options and chose no intervention. It is not considered to be informed consent if your caregiver has not covered these points yet follows through with a procedure without your consent, or has asked or demanded that you agree to a treatment before having all available information.
If you are not given this level of information freely click here to get tips on how to.
Choosing your birth team with care and knowing who will advocate for the type of birth you want will provide an environment more conducive to the outcome you are wanting. Meet with doulas, private midwives, natural practitioners, obstetricians before making your final choice. Treat these meetings like an interview and make it known how you would like to birth and the options you would like to have available to you. Remember you are picking your dream team of birth empowerment.
At the end of the day this is your experience, you go home with your baby and will reflect on every aspect of your journey. How do you want to feel when you think about your experience?
If this article has raised more questions for you contact Jenna today at firstname.lastname@example.org or book a free 30 minute phone/skype session.