Informed Consent & Your Birth Rights
The phrase "informed consent" is something you will hear me saying quite a bit. I've mentioned it in numerous blog posts already, and decided it was high time to give the phrase it's OWN post.
The website 'Human Rights in Childbirth' defines it perfectly:
"The right to informed consent is a fundamental healthcare right grounded, like the right of refusal, in the right of every human being to autonomy and authority over their own body. When a doctor or other healthcare provider recommends an intervention or treatment, they have a legal obligation to inform the patient of the risks and benefits of the full range of options available to that patient. The patient is entitled to evidence-based, individualized recommendations, and to be supported in the exercise of genuine consent – that is, the choice to accept the recommendation or decline it—on the basis of the patient’s personal needs and values.
The right to informed consent is a right to evidence-based care—or the right to be informed that the recommendations under discussion have no basis in evidence. The right to informed consent recognizes that 10 rational pregnant people, with similar clinical charts, might make 10 different decisions about what they need for a healthy birth. Decision-making in healthcare, and in childbirth in particular, is a personal process that incorporates the individual’s history, cultural and spiritual values, and family values, to name a few. One-size-fits-all, protocol-dictated, assembly line maternity care violates the right to informed consent and fails to promote health and well-being.
Genuine informed consent recognizes the patient as an intelligent, autonomous human being capable of making decisions about their body. Informed consent rests upon an assumption that, despite the esoteric nature of medical knowledge, ordinary people can assess their medical alternatives and make a decision about them—including a decision not to follow their doctors’ advice."
You have the right to know exactly what is happening regarding your pregnancy & care, all of the benefits & risks to certain procedures, etc.
You also have the right to refuse anything you don't want done, while being supported in your decision by your healthcare provider, because it is YOUR body and YOUR choice.
What Are My Rights?
You have rights. And they are important.
Please, please, please, know your rights.
In Canada, the Ministry of Health has a guide on consent for practitioners.
This guide outlines your legal rights regarding giving & refusing consent:
1. The right to give consent or refuse consent on any grounds, including moral or religious grounds, even if the refusal will result in death;
2. The right to select a particular form of medically appropriate health care on any grounds, including moral or religious grounds;
3. The right to revoke consent;
4. The right to expect that a decision to give, refuse, or revoke consent will be respected; and
5. The right to be involved to the greatest degree possible in all case planning and decision making.
How Do I Exercise My Rights?
This is your birth and you call the shots. Thankfully the handy dandy BRAIN acronym can help you to make informed decisions while you're in labour!
BRAIN stands for:
Benefits - what are the benefits of having this procedure done?
Risks - what are the risks of having this procedure done?
Alternatives - are there any alternatives to this procedure?
Intuition - what does my gut tell me about this?
Nothing - what if we hold off for an hour or so and just wait?
Remember, birthing parent, you have every single right to ask these questions so that you can make the best decision for your family.
Your care provider should always inform you, advise you, and support you. No matter what choice you make.
Your doula can also help you during these times by prompting you with questions to ask. We're here to make sure you are fully informed and have your ideal birth!
Also, in case you were unaware, under the Ontario Human Rights Code, there are some more pregnancy rights that you are entitled to and might enjoy taking a peek at.
Knowledge is power, everyone. Know your rights! :)