Making informed decisions about personal health care needs can be hard. Often patients simply listen to the doctors opinion of what should be done and assume he/she knows best. But in actuality, the doctor does not feel what you feel nor does he/she have to tolerate the possible side effects. So this means that truly, we as individuals are completely responsible for our own health care. Your doctors opinion definitely matters but at the end of the day we have to make informed decisions for ourselves. Knowing the risks and benefits of all treatment options, sharing the knowledge with the doctor and coming up with the best plan together. (shared decision making will be discussed later in the article) Now, let’s talk about one of the most exciting, vulnerable and expectant times in a woman’s life. During pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period,(especially with the first pregnancy) there are a lot of unknowns, all new territory. It is also one of the most crucial times to make true informed decisions for yourself and on behalf of your baby. It is your right to give (or deny) permission of treatment. But how do you know what’s best for both you and your baby?
Making informed decisions about maternity healthcare care starts with finding the best available information on all options available. Then, utilizing that information to decide what you feel is the best decision for you and your baby. It often takes having the courage and confidence to ask questions of your care providers and childbirth staff.
Being as informed as possible and doing research during your pregnancy will help you to make the best decisions. Some decisions must be made rather quickly throughout the pregnancy and childbirth process. Now is the time to do your research. Read as much as you can get your hands on about risks and benefits, search for answers to your questions, make your preferences known to your health care providers and birth support team.
When facing decisions that can have lasting effects on you and your child it is hard to know who to listen to. Often, family members will share information and stories about their own experiences. It is important to remember, you are an individual. No pregnancy is the same. You and your baby are unique and have unique needs. It is a always best to make your decisions based on research and science that has measured the risks and benefits combining this with your own values, culture, religion, etc….
What is true Informed Consent?
When a medical procedure or other treatment of any kind is offered to you, you have a legal right to informed consent. Informed consent meaning:
Your health care provider discusses::
What condition is prompting this type of care
What is involved
Risks and benefits
Alternatives, along with the risks and benefits of the other options
Included is always the possibility of doing nothing at the present time
Informed consent is not about forms and signatures. The purpose of informed consent is to respect the right of the patient to self-care ans individual decision making.
What is informed Refusal?
If, for any reason you disagree with your care provider and decide not to accept care. Regardless of whether or not an agreement was signed to accept the care suggested. You always have the right to change your mind.
Shared Decision-Making: Maternity Health Care
Having a positive and respected relationship with your care provider with active, open and respectful communication is key to the shared decision-making process. You may also want to make a list of questions before each visit and write the responses down for future research. To get the information you need, you may need to say to ask for clarification.
Asking question such as:
Can you explain this further?
What are all my options? What if I take no action right now?
Can I see the research that supports your recommendation?
Statements such as:
I have some information I would like you to look at.
I am not comfortable with your recommendation.
I’m not ready to make a decision at this time..
I plan to get a second opinion.
One of the most important decisions during this time is to be sure to choose a doctor or midwife practice that respects your individuality, values, culture, religious beliefs and goals.