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Informed Consent in Birth: How to get the care you deserve.

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

You have options surrounding your birth. You also have the right to informed consent. Here are some tips from a doula to ensure that you and your family are given the care you deserve while in your birthing time.

I'm often asked by prospective clients what is most important to me regarding the birth space. My answer is this. "Aside from working towards a healthy physical and mental outcome for both the parent and the baby, ensuring that each client I work with is able to give informed consent when agreeing to any procedure or intervention is incredibly important to me."

So, what does informed consent actually mean? Informed consent is defined as: "permission granted in the knowledge of the possible consequences, typically that which is given by a patient to a doctor for treatment with full knowledge of the possible risks and benefits."

Note the phrase "full knowledge of the possible risks and benefits." What this means is that your provider has a responsibility to inform you of all of the risks and benefits of any

A person in the hospital sitting up looking serene.
Waiting for labor

procedure or intervention they are posing, not just those that will sway you towards their recommendation. These interventions can be anything, ranging from placing an I.V, performing a cervical check, the use of Pitocin, or the suggestion of cesarean birth.

So, how can you be sure you are getting all of the information you need? The first step is to learn and memorize the B.R.A.I.N acronym; you'll use this when asking your provider for more information. Here is what my favorite acronym stands for:

B- Benefits. What are the benefits of this procedure/intervention for both myself and my baby?

R- Risks. What are the risks of this procedure/intervention for both myself and my baby?

A- Alternatives. Are there any alternatives to this procedure/intervention? And, what are the benefits and risks to this alternative?

I- Intuition. Take a moment and listen to your intuition or gut feeling. There is something to be said for your instincts and what they are leading you towards.

N- Nothing/Not right now. What if we did nothing right now, or visited this again in an hour?

These questions are so important when you are unsure of how to proceed. They allow you to open up a conversation with your provider, acquire all of the information, and then give you time to process.

Having a doula can help you use your B.R.A.I.N as well! Hopefully, you are in "labor land," where you are not fully present and fully within yourself coping with labor, particularly in the active phase. Birthkeepers love when this happens because we know that it means you aren't suffering and handling your surges well. However, since we know your birth preferences, have gotten to know you prenatally, and are hired by you for physical and emotional support, we are able to let you know when a suggestion might be open for conversation vs. when something is being brought up due to an emergent situation with either your or your baby. We are also experts at reminding you that you have the option to take some time to discuss amongst yourselves, without the provider and/or nurse present. This takes the pressure off, buys you time, and allows you to fully feel the moment.

It's important to remember that after you've asked all of the questions of your provider, had time to discuss the answers with your partner, and thought about the alternatives, any choice you make will be the right one. This is YOUR experience, and one of your first acts of parenting will be to give your baby the best birth you possibly can, knowing that they will be ultimately making all the decisions anyway. I always tell my clients that listening to your intuition is so incredibly important because it's your baby and you communicating. It's ok if you don't have a strong gut feeling either way, but if you do, don't discount it.

This is your experience. Care providers are an invaluable resource and come with experience and knowledge, so I am so thankful they are there to help. Going to the hospital to have a baby is one of the few if only, times you will be admitted when you aren't sick and in distress. This means you get to help guide this life-changing experience that you and your family are having. Hiring a doula to help you find your voice so that you may advocate for yourself and your bay (or to help your partner do so), is a great first step, so please feel free to reach out if you need help connecting to birth workers in your area.

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