True informed consent in pregnancy and birth scenarios is when you have ALL the information about a topic or intervention, including:
Leaving out alternative options, or over-hyping the risks, or over-stating the benefits are just some of the ways that people are robbed of having informed consent.
The worst part? They don’t even realize it happened, sometimes until well after the fact.
This TikTok by @mrs.unitedstates2020, a doula and labor and delivery nurse in the hospital, quickly and efficiently explains what can happen when providers don’t provide true informed consent.
Why does this matter?
It matters because more and more people are coming out of their birth experience feeling traumatized. This trauma can have lifelong effects, contribute to postpartum depression/anxiety, lead to fear for any future pregnancies and births, and significantly impact your emotional and mental well-being. When you don’t understand why something happened, you feel unheard, or like people didn’t explain things to you during your birth, or like you were just a vessel for a baby whose thoughts opinions and feelings did not even matter – you did not have informed consent and may actually be left feeling the effects of that trauma for years to come.
So how can you avoid this?
Take a childbirth education class.
No, not just the free one offered by your hospital or birth center. You need a real, deep dive into all the various options and common interventions that may arise. You want to learn about these interventions, when they’re necessary, when they’re not, the true risks involved with various scenarios (is it a teeny tiny risk or a great big huge risk?), and alternative options and ways to avoid them.
Hire a doula.
Birth doulas do more than rub backs. They are extremely well versed in informed consent and know which topics are usually under-explained or misinterpreted. Birth doulas are a neutral party whose job it is to provide you with unbiased, evidence based information, talk you through the benefits, risks and alternatives do you can make a true informed decision. A doula will tell you that you can always decline or say “no” and remind you to listen to your intuition or your gut feeling when a particular topic comes up.
Read birth books.
No, not “what to expect…” Here are my top birth books to learn about interventions and their alternatives.
– Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gatskin
– Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon
– Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper, RN
Watch a documentary.
(2021) Birth Time is a documentary created by Zoe Naylor, Jerusha Sutton and Jo Hunter who embark on a mission to find out why an increasing number of women/people are emerging from their births physically and emotionally traumatized.Their discoveries expose the truth and lead them to join the birth revolution and create this Birth Time education platform that hopes to change the face of maternity care across the world.
(2011) More Business of Being Born is a documentary that talks about choices available to birthing people and exploring birth options. They talk of homebirth, hospital birth, birth center births, coping techniques, c- sections what labor felt like to them, and how people reacted to their birth story afterward. This is a deep dive exploration of the maternity care system, including birthing options and celebrity birth stories.
If you are recovering from birth trauma and want someone to talk to, here are two postpartum counselors that I recommend.
Amy Galaviz, Belle Ame Therapy, LLC in Portland
Margot Strauhull, LCSW, PMH-C, Root & Bloom Counseling in Portland
Natalie Broders is a birth photographer, birth filmmaker and birth doula located in Portland, Oregon. She lives on a farm with her husband and 2 kids. They raise chickens and love to garden. Natalie loves babywearing, cloth diapering and is passionate about her work as an advocate for birthing people. She had one of her babies at a birth center and her second baby was born at home, in water.