Choice, consent and decision making – your body, your baby

Each woman’s experience of pregnancy and birth is individual and it is important that you think about how you would like to be cared for during your pregnancy, labour and birth, as well as afterwards.  While it is not possible to know exactly how your labour will progress or what needs might arise during the labour and birth, it is possible to plan for the type of care you would like to receive and the people you’d like to be involved.

Woman-centred pregnancy care means that your chosen pregnancy care providers work in partnership with you so that you feel supported throughout your pregnancy, labour and birth and empowered to express your thoughts, feelings and opinions on all aspects of your care.

Giving birth is a normal physiological process and for the majority of women a normal birth can be achieved without intervention. However, every woman and her experience will be unique. Because different women will need and choose different aspects of maternity care, it is important to discuss your care needs and preferences with your care providers regularly to ensure you are always well informed and involved in the decisions that affect you.

It is also important to remember that your emotional and mental health is as important as your physical health in managing pregnancy and preparing for birth and parenting. You should feel free and comfortable to ask questions and raise concerns about any matters to do with your health and to request information in a form that is useful and meets your particular needs.

Informed Consent

It is every woman’s right to have autonomy over her body, particularly during pregnancy and birth. Women should be valued as the key decision makers in their own care by all caregivers as the decisions you make during this time can have a long-lasting impact on your physical and mental health and wellbeing as well as that of your baby and family. Women who feel satisfied and in control of their birthing experience are less likely to experience traumatic stress after the birth.

Informed consent is the process by which your health care providers are legally obliged to discuss with you any intended treatment, intervention and/or procedures and discuss with you the associated benefits and risk involved. You have the right to make the decision about what will and won’t be done to your body and your baby. You should be given the following information about any intended treatment or procedure to ensure you are able to make a fully informed decision;

  • A diagnosis and description of your situation
  • Recommended treatment or procedure
  • Risks and benefits of the treatment or procedure
  • Risks and benefits of not having the procedure
  • Any alternative treatment or procedure and the associated risks and benefits

It is not considered informed consent if your health care providers have not covered and discussed these points with you before following through with a treatment or procedure. It is also not appropriate for your care providers to ask or demand that you agree to treatment without providing you with all of the above information.

Source: (ACT Health – Your antenatal care)