Sometimes as an educator and a doula I hear the phrase “I wasn’t allowed or they didn’t let me….”
The thing is though you are the one who makes the decisions you are the one in charge, it’s your body, your baby, your birth and your choices, ultimately you call the shots.
This is protected in law and in ethics, it is you who chooses to allow your care provider (midwife, registrar, consultant) to do something not the other way around. They have to gain your informed consent. Informed consent is a legal, ethical standard which requires the provider to convey all of the information around a suggested procedure or course of treatment, and the person receiving the procedure or treatments gets to decide whether or not to take that advice.
The NHS defines consent as:
“For consent to be valid, it must be voluntary and informed, and the person consenting must have the capacity to make the decision.
The meaning of these terms are:
- voluntary – the decision to either consent or not to consent to treatment must be made by the person, and must not be influenced (coerced) by pressure from medical staff, friends or family
- informed – the person must be given all of the information about what the treatment involves, including the benefits and risks, whether there are reasonable alternative treatments, and what will happen if treatment does not go ahead.
- capacity – the person must be capable of giving consent, which means they understand the information given to them and can use it to make an informed decision”
If an adult has the capacity to make a voluntary and informed decision to consent to or refuse a particular treatment, their decision must be respected.
This is still the case even if refusing treatment would result in their death, or the death of their unborn child.”
There are some exceptions to this in real life threatening emergency circumstances but for everything else your consent has to be gained voluntarily and informed and not coerced.
So when it comes to choices in childbirth whether you are deciding to have a vaginal exam in labour or not, a membrane sweep, to be induced or wait for labour to start on its own or whether to have continuous monitoring, intermittent or no monitoring etc;
- You have the right to opt out of having a consultant, scans, tests
- You have the right to ask for a second opinion or to speak to someone more senior
- You have the right to agree to the invention, to decline and to take time out to think
- You have the right to all of the information to make an informed decision and not just the option(s) that is preferred by your care provider
- You have the right to ask why and to question any intervention/recommendation
- You have the right to ask for the advice to be written down so you can consider it properly (more applicable in antenatal appointments)
- You have the right to record any conversations you have with a medical professional
Sometimes the advice and recommendations are not always phrased as a choice, however anything a care provider suggests, it is always your choice whether you accept or not.
Remember Your Body, Your Baby, Your Birth and Your Choices.