Here are some relevant statements from ACOG's (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) statement on informed consent, so that we know what the professional standard is, according to them. Midwives would have very similar ethical statements.
- "Seeking informed consent expresses respect for the patient as a person; it particularly respects a patient's moral right to bodily integrity, to self-determination regarding sexuality and reproductive capacities, and to support of the patient's freedom to make decisions within caring relationships.
- Informed consent should be looked on as a process rather than a signature on a form. This process includes a mutual sharing of information over time between the clinician and the patient to facilitate the patient's autonomy in the process of making ongoing choices.
- Consenting freely is incompatible with being coerced or unwillingly pressured by forces beyond oneself. It involves the ability to choose among options and to select a course other than what may be recommended."
I want to drive home the point that informed consent is vital to making decisions about our health. There is no way anyone can decide what they want to do unless they fully understand what the risks and benefits of the procedure/drug/test is. This ensures that the responsibility is put exactly where it should be: on the patient. After all, they are the one who is most directly affected by the outcome, good or bad.
When it comes to labor and birth, informed consent can be hard to come by. Mothers may be working through contractions and vulnerable. Most of the time, care providers are going to do things the way they were trained to do them-and that may or may not be what you as the patient want. That's why it's so important to talk about your birth plan before labor begins. Some parents think they will just tell the people in the room what they want in the midst of it all, but that rarely works out. In my childbirth class we spend a whole class on birth plans and all your choices. This is a two-hour class that takes place with everyone in their "right mind". It just cannot be reproduced between contractions!