Birth, Informed Consent, and Birth Injuries
Recently, SELF featured an important article on birth injuries and the informed consent process that accompanies the birth process. Specifically, the author who wrote it describes having forceps used on her during labor.
Assisted vaginal deliveries with forceps are sometimes used when there are concerns about the baby’s heart rate, the head stops moving down the birth canal, or if a medical condition in the mother prevents effective or safe pushing. While she was in labor, her doctor strongly advised a forceps delivery for her baby, and at that point, she was not in the right state of mind so as to consider the implications.
What Is “Consent” During Childbirth?
While the author’s daughter is now a healthy first-grader, the point of her piece is that she wasn’t really given the chance to make a choice as to how her child was ultimately delivered. In the field of childbirth and obstetrics, there is a certain lack of informed decision-making involved, and thus a serious issue of whether actual, legal consent was provided. Is it okay for women undergoing birth to be forced into agreeing to serious medical procedures without understanding the potential implications?
Birth Injury Risks
Sadly, when we talk about risk profiles, we also have to talk about race and ethnicity, as there are well-documented racial disparities related to childbirth in the U.S. Specifically, the rates of severe postpartum hemorrhage and infection are significantly greater for Asian, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic women.
In addition, each procedure carries its own set of risks; for example, C-sections are generally riskier than vaginal deliveries, and include the potential for infection, hemorrhage, placenta problems, ectopic pregnancies later on, longer recovery time, and uterine rupture. Most women who get one C-section will invariably end up having another in subsequent births, and pregnancy after C-section delivery is associated with increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, placenta previa, placenta accreta, and placental abruption. C-sections can also pose risks for babies as well, including a higher chance of developing asthma and obesity.
However, vaginal and vaginal-assisted deliveries also come with their own risks; risks that can be even more dangerous and prevalent than those associated with C-sections. Some of these injuries—including vaginal tearing, pelvic floor problems, urinary incontinence, sphincter injury, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse—are also difficult to notice after birth, and are frequently associated with missed diagnoses. Many women who undergo vaginal delivery permanently suffer from pelvic floor damage as a result.
Learning about all of this after the fact ultimately made the author wonder why more time isn’t spent establishing informed consent for how people are going to give birth, including a comprehensive, ongoing discussion of what people are and are not comfortable with. In this sense, obstetrics is very different from most other surgical procedures, where nuances are discussed in detail.
Fort Lauderdale Birth Injury Attorneys
If you feel that your rights were violated during childbirth, and this resulted in harm to you and/or your baby, contact our Florida birth injury attorneys at Friedland & Associates today to find out how we can help.