A Successful Birth Isn’t About Permission, It’s About Informed Choice

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Making informed choices in pregnancy and birth can be empowering, but it can also be overwhelming. There’s a lot of information to take in, and it can be confusing to understand your rights as a mother. I want to clear up some common misconceptions and help guide you to take charge of your birth experience.

Your Rights vs. Hospital Policy

First, let’s talk about the difference between your legal rights and hospital policy. Here’s the truth: you have the right to full and accurate information about any procedure or intervention suggested to you. You also have the right to refuse any medical test or procedure, period. This means you have complete control over your body and your baby’s body.

Informed Consent: The Cornerstone of Your Birth Experience

Informed consent is a crucial concept in maternity care. It means you have the right to understand the risks and benefits of any intervention before you agree to it. Unfortunately, informed consent is often confused with simply signing a consent form at the hospital. 

True informed consent is an ongoing conversation, not a one-time signature. Your care provider should explain all your options and answer your questions thoroughly. Only then can you make a truly informed decision.

The Power of Language: “Allowed” vs. “Choice

Here’s another important point: birth is about your choices, not about permission. You’ll often hear the word “allowed” thrown around, but it can be misleading. You’re not a child needing permission. You’re a strong, capable woman with the right to make your own decisions.

Hospital Policies: Guidelines, Not Mandates

Hospitals have policies in place to ensure a safe environment for everyone. However, these policies are meant to be guidelines, not rigid rules. There’s always room for individualized care and clinical judgment. Hospital policy is not law. 

Empower Yourself: Speak Up for Your Rights

If your provider uses phrases like “not allowed,” don’t be afraid to ask questions. Here are some things you can say:

  • “When you say that’s not allowed, what do you mean by that?”
  • “Can you explain my right to informed consent in this situation?”

Remember, you always have the right to ask questions- lots of them. Just because something is routine doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest. Cervical checks are routine in the hospital, yet I declined every single one of them. 

So….How Do I Effectively Advocate For Myself?

It is not lost on me that saying “No,” in the moment can be extremely challenging, especially if you know it’s not what your provider wants to hear. This is why I’ve devoted an entire lesson in my program to putting this important skill into practice. Together we review a long list of responses that can be used to help facilitate this tough task. Saying something as simple as “Do you mind stepping away for a minute so I can discuss with my partner?” can help buy you the precious time and space you deserve to analyze the data and your intuition before agreeing to something your gut is against.  

The Authority Lies With You

The most important takeaway is this: the authority in childbirth lies with you, the mother. You are strong, capable, and in charge of your birth experience. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Building the confidence to hold firm on your birth wishes takes time. If you’re looking for a birth preparation program that prioritizes self-advocacy click here!

By understanding your rights and speaking up for yourself, you can have a birth experience that is empowering, positive, and free of trauma.

Immediately after the birth of my baby, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and said NO to a Pitocin injection in my thigh, because I trusted my body’s ability to birth my placenta without intervention. Share something you plan to decline (or did decline) in the comments.

Let’s help other moms feel good about their informed choices!

-Coach Lisa

References

Ryan, G. L. (2021, January 21). Informed consent and shared decision making in obstetrics and gynecology. value is what Coveo indexes and uses as the title in Search Results.–> ACOG. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2021/02/informed-consent-and-shared-decision-making-in-obstetrics-and-gynecology

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