Updated: Dec 30, 2021
Great doulas will preach informed consent from every rooftop, mountain top, street corner, coffee shop, and basically anywhere else they'll let us in. Informed consent is such a huge piece to your birth experience, that we can't risk you NOT hearing about it.
So what is it?
It's a necessary step beyond consent. If someone walks in the room, asks you to take a pill, allow them to touch your body, or do anything at all, they ask your permission, and you say "yes" or "no". That's consent. You don't have to understand whats happening, but permission was obtained.
Not good enough.
Us doulas like to use the BRAIN acronym. If you don't know all of these parts before giving consent, then your provider has not obtained informed consent. Here's what you need to know.
B - Benefits
What are the benefits of the procedure or intervention being recommended
R - Risks
What are the risks associated with the intervention being recommended
A - Alternatives
What are the alternatives to the intervention being recommended?
I - Intuition
What is your "gut" telling you about this intervention?
N - No or Nothing
What happens if I just say no? Or do nothing and give my body some more time?
Once you know all of these things. Then, you can give informed consent.
What does informed consent not look like? Well, basically anytime someone tells you they're doing something instead of asking you.
I'm just going to hang some pitocin a minute.
I'm going to check your cervix a sec
I'm going to break your water real quick
None of these statements leave room for you to ask questions or say no. But keep in mind, just because you're in labor, your body doesn't all of a sudden belong to someone else. You ALWAYS have the right to ask for more information, and to say no.
A few more thoughts on consent.
Consent is never implied.
Just because you consented to a vaginal exam, doesn't mean you consent to a membrane sweep. Just because you're in the hospital, doesn't mean you consent to a medical procedure.
Consent does not carry over.
Consenting to something once, does not mean that you consent to it again.
Consent can be withdrawn.
You can change your mind at any time. You're sitting on the table, and don't want the epidural? Cool. Don't get it. You started the vaginal exam, and now don't like it? Cool, tell them to stop. You signed up for the induction, but want to give it more time? Cool, call your doc and discuss your options!
The power is always in your hands. Your doula will help you pick it up, and make sure it's never lost.
Here's to your empowered birth! You've got this!