What is TRUE Informed Consent, Especially When Pregnant?
You hear the term “informed consent” a lot but many do not fully understand its meaning. Most will happily read the piece of paper handed to them by their doctor, midwife, hospital, birth center, etc and believe they have been informed and call that “informed consent” however, true informed consent means taking the time to discover if anything has been left out or misrepresented.
When you read something that has been created by someone else, such as this article, you are reading what they (the author) think you should know. In order to consider yourself truly informed you must be given — and take — the opportunity (when possible) to research and discover for yourself if there is any information missing. Obviously, if I put everything there is to know about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting into a book it would be many volumes. This is one reason why there are so many books about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting ~ one person cannot include all the information in one book.
Materials given by “care providers” have been carefully designed to encourage you to say “yes” to the procedure, medication, vaccination, etc. It’s important that you DO OUR OWN RESEARCH. If what you’ve been told doesn’t “feel” right, then you must explore it, research it, read about it, etc. Your inner wisdom is trying to tell you something. Where birth is concerned, when a woman has no regrets, a new baby is enjoyed more and postpartum depression is less likely because the mother feels at peace with her choices and decisions.
No one can make decisions for you nor should they tell you what they would do in the same situation as that is irrelevant; that person is not the parent of your child. Their choices will be made based on their own life experiences. The same is true for you.
I’ve come to know — through my own experiences, study and research — that babies are designed to be born at home but I also understand that our society has become accustomed to the man-made baby delivery system™. When things go wrong within this system, birth is blamed; making birth into something to be feared. The goal of my articles is to remove that fear and give you an understanding of birth that helps you better prepare for birth whether you choose to birth at home — where it belongs — or at an out of home facility, such as a birth center or hospital.
Because of this, YOU are responsible for “filling in the blanks.” You are ultimately responsible for the decisions being made even when you don’t have all the information. Your baby is depending upon YOU — both mom and dad — to learn as much as possible and take full responsibility for the birthing process that will bring the new human into this world and change your family forever.
This is a Good Time to Talk About Autonomous Care
One decision you need to be fully informed about and willing to take full responsibility for is whether or not you experience autonomous care. For the past 100+ years, pregnant and birthing women have been forced to comply with the rules of the man-made baby delivery system™ because the term “autonomy” was unknown to them. You are probably hearing the word AUTONOMY more and more as it pertains to expectant and birthing women.
Autonomy is defined as:
- the act or power of making one’s own choices or decisions,
- the state of being free from the control or power of another.
Tides are changing and this can be a very good thing. Women are waking up, fighting back and flocking to autonomous care providers who offer truly autonomous care.
When your care provider is autonomous, it means he/she is able to offer you everything. There are no limitations placed on them. YOU become their regulator. In the man-made baby delivery system™ care providers are limited by their regulating body, hospital policies, procedures and regulations, insurance companies, etc.
When you experience autonomous care, you are able to make your own decisions regardless of what your provider thinks, believes, or knows about your choices.
No, this doesn’t mean that the care provider has to continue offering care, because, in a perfect world, your care provider is also autonomous and while they have the freedom to respect the mother’s decision, they also have the freedom to say, “Because that is your decision, you’ll need to sign this informed consent form” OR “Because that is your decision, I don’t feel comfortable continuing on as your midwife (or doctor or doula or etc.).” It also means the midwife (or doctor or doula or etc.) can choose whether or not to share a list of other midwives (or doctors or doulas or etc.) who might be okay with your decision.
For the expectant and birthing woman who is choosing autonomous care it is important to understand that your family and friends may not understand why you are making the choices you’re making. They may question your decisions without understanding the fact that they only know the rules of the man-made baby delivery system™ that has dictated to women what will happen to their bodies while pregnant and during birth for the past 100+ years.
Your family and friends do not know what they do not know so you — the expectant and birthing woman — may be expected to teach them or refer them to the appropriate information. This requires that you educate yourself and know the reasons why you are making the choices you’re making. Sometimes your decision is an intuitive knowing and it’s okay to say that.
It’s also important for you to know that all these conversations with your friends and family may be discussed with others….a sort of gossip that may spread like wild fire throughout your community with things being taken out of context and may impact you and all members of your care team. You may hear things like:
- “Allowing you to make such dangerous and irresponsible decisions puts the baby’s life at risk.”
- “Doesn’t your care provider care about the baby?”
- “This is why birth needs to happen in the safety of the hospital under the care of a trained medical professional.”
- “Your midwife is obviously uneducated and dangerous.”
- And many other comments and assumptions that will blow your mind and harm your psyche.
None of what will be said about your choices will leave you feeling loved, supported and understood.
None of what will be said about your choices will leave you feeling educated and responsible.
All of what will be said will increase the likelihood of you experiencing a degree of postpartum depression.
Why? Because it will shed a light on your “support” system that proves they aren’t the type of support system you thought they were. It may become clear that they support you only when you are complying with what they have decided is “good” for you. This will cause you to withdraw from them during a time in your life when you need their support the most; leaving you feeling alone and vulnerable. Turn to your sweetheart because he is experiencing the same thing. You can weather this storm together.
Again, the members of your social circle may only know the rules of the man-made baby delivery system™ where women have been told what to do for 100+ years. Their intent is not to cause harm….sadly, harm is precisely what is being caused.
Choosing autonomous care means taking full responsibility for your choices. Your care provider can help you know and understand the consequences of doing or not doing something as it pertains to your situation. They are not to be your only source of information and they are to share only what they know to be true not any assumptions of what they believe might happen or might be true. Forcing someone to make a decision while using fear tactics is called coercion and IS NOT a form of informed consent and has no place in any type of care, especially truly autonomous care.
The ultimate in autonomous care is freebirth (aka unassisted birth) because it removes a care provider from the picture altogether. Most freebirthers take full responsibility for their pregnancy and birth. Some may hire a care provider for the pregnancy while giving birth without that care provider present. In a truly autonomous care relationship, the freebirther will feel safe telling the prenatal care provider her plans to freebirth.
Informed consent forms are not be signed if you do not understand or agree with any part of the form. Some people have written on the informed consent form; crossing out the things they do not consent to and rewording things so that they feel comfortable consenting. If you choose to do this, make sure to get a copy with the changes and understand that your changes may not be legally binding. Regardless, if you initially consent to something, that consent can be withdrawn at any time…..yes, even when you’re in labor.