What is Informed Consent?

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  • September 7, 2015
Informed Consent

What is informed consent? Informed consent is; When pregnant, giving birth, and in the postpartum period, it is your responsibility to make informed decisions for yourself and on behalf of your baby. It is your legal right to give “informed consent” or make an “informed refusal” of any care that you might undergo. The national Listening to Mothers survey found that most women fully understood their right to make informed maternity care decisions, strongly supported having choices about mode of birth, and wanted to understand potential complications before agreeing to have major maternity interventions.”

Birth Connection

It is unfortunate so many expecting mothers still have no idea they are in fact, in charge of making the decisions regarding their birth, and any possible interventions which may arise along the way.

In the US it seems there are still many families giving away their power and voice when it comes to making decisions during their birth.

One of the reasons commonly witnessed are scare tactics given by the OB whom you have trusted to deliver your baby.

Many people fear making their own choices because understandably they don’t want to risk their baby’s health.

But an important missing piece is many of these procedures are being pushed onto laboring families, based on hospital policy written to protect the hospital’s interest and limit liability.

We are given reasons like “the baby is too big” or “your placenta is aging” or “your blood pressure is too high”.

So how do we know if our baby or we are in fact in danger and in need of intervention?

Especially as a first time parent trusting your instincts can feel scary, when you have a doctor insisting you induce because you have reached the 40 week mark, and if you don’t do so your baby is at risk. I can see the temptation here. We are often tired and uncomfortable after 36 weeks. An offer to end the uncomfortable state may sound like a good option, especially if you’re being told your baby is a t risk.

The fact is there is a wide range of ‘normal’ when it comes to gestational periods.

Every mom is different, and has her own time line.

Your baby triggers hormones and proteins that signal labor to start..

“Researchers have identified two proteins in a fetus’ lungs responsible for initiating the labor process, providing potential new targets for preventing preterm birth. They discovered the proteins SRC-1 and SRC-2 activate genes inside the fetus’ lungs near full term, leading to an inflammatory response in the mother’s uterus, which initiates labor”.

Science Daily

I recently attended a birth where my primary role was to help my client navigate interventions suggested by her OB.

I would receive the information from the client, such as her OB wanting to induce because of High BP.

This may sound like a good reason for intervention if this poses a threat to mom and baby in labor. Lets take the time to look at this a little closer.

I encourage you to get all the facts, because they can make a huge difference in your outcome.

Start with why? Why is this intervention needed and what are the risks ?

In my clients case the whys didn’t add up.

Mom was low risk in great physical shape AND having normal BP readings at home consistently. The only time her BP readings went up was when she went in for her ‘non stress tests’. Well let’s think about this … the words stress and test are enough to make anyone’s BP readings go up.

Additionally there is something called “White coat hypertension” also known as white coat syndrome. This is when a patient has a higher blood pressure reading while in certain settings, such as a doctor appointment. It is linked to anxiety, which can elevate  blood pressure.

My advice in this case was to find a new provider who would look at the whole picture not just one small piece.

My client ended up doing just that at 38 weeks, and went on to have a very healthy, happy natural birth and baby, with a new provider who saw the whole picture and supported her wishes.

Listen to the information given by your care provider and ASK for more information about WHY this particular intervention is needed.

If possible ask for some time to sit with and discuss further with your partner, listen to your gut, what is it saying?

AND of course hire a doula , she will help you navigate some of these very important decisions.

As women we have the right to choose what happens or doesn’t happen to our body and our baby . Own this power because it IS your choice!

Let’s not forget all interventions have risks, so this is important !

Take the time to learn as much as you can beforehand, so you will be prepared, educated and informed.

Your voice does matters, and your gut doesn’t lie.

If something doesn’t feel right ask more questions, and ask for some more time.

Own it! This is YOUR body, your baby and your choice.


Erika FalkErika Falk – In 1990, I became a Certified Massage Therapist at Heartwood Institute in Garberville, CA. Afterwards, I began my practice in the holistic field as a Massage Therapist in the Bay Area. In 1999 I received certification from World School of Massage and Advanced Healing Arts in Swedish, Deep Tissue and Vibrational modalities.

In 2000 I completed my doula training at Natural Resources in San Francisco and soon after became certified in prenatal massage at The Body Therapy Center in Palo Alto.

In April 2009, I began working as a volunteer in the Doula Program at San Francisco General Hospital. Through this experience I have been fortunate to be part of many births. Over the last year I have dealt with many issues that present challenges in the birth process, such as teen pregnancy, poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, drug and sexual abuse, and adoption support. This has been invaluable learning for me, as well as one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life.

In March 2010, I completed the Midwifery Assistant Workshop at The Farm in Tennessee, with instruction from the renowned midwife and birth activist Ina May Gaskin. The workshop focused on breastfeeding and bonding, cultural differences in childbirth, position, station and engagement of baby, anatomy and physiology of female reproduction, blood pressure, oxygen set-up and use and neonatal resuscitation. During my stay at The Farm, I met 14 other wonderful aspiring midwives, all who are making a difference in the world of birth. Along with my colleagues at SFGH, I am proud to be part of a community of doulas and midwives who are “changing the world one birth at a time.” It is my desire to nurture, respect and protect your right to a memorable and beautiful birth experience.


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