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Be Your Own Advocate

Birth Plans/Essays

What is a Birth Plan?

Birth Plans are a simple directive of what you want for a normal birth, what you want in case of emerging changes in your labor and what you want for you and your baby after birth. Most women will ideally use the birth plan to open a discussion with their care provider who will then sign off on what they need or want for their “birth experience” but beyond just the experience, it’s also a good idea so that a woman is truly a partner in her medical care. It’s not selfish to want a positive birth but it’s also just smart thinking to make sure that you are involved in any decisions that are being made.

Some mothers write plans for what to do if a cesarean becomes necessary or for when an indicated cesarean surgery is scheduled ahead of time so that they can determine what kinds of drugs or medications they might or might not want, to reinforce the type of treatment they want and to help make sure their babies are not given formula in the nursery while they are in recovery. There are many other questions such as, “Can I have my doula and my mother in the OR,” “Who will go with the baby,” “What if my baby has a medical issue, who will make the decisions?” can also be answered for this kind of plan.

Birth plans have as many options as there are mothers!

This article is a fantastic one for someone looking for a place to begin their birth planning thought process!

EMTALA
Knowing about EMTALA can change your birth experience, especially if you are a VBAC mother. A VBAC mother arriving at the hospital can be told that she cannot give birth there due to a policy or VBAC ban but there is some argument that until mom is stable, the hospital HAS to treat her and a woman in labor is most likely not stable enough to be transferred once in active stage of labor. This is where many mothers get the idea to ‘go in pushing’ so that they cannot be turned away. However, it’s very important to realize that this has not truly been tested in a court of law even if some hospitals have been pushed into allowing a woman to labor through the use of EMTALA. If you show up at a hospital wanting to refuse some portion of care, remember that you can contact Risk Management, request new staff such as nurses or a different doctor, ask for the patient advocate, and/or you can simply refuse and continuing refusing.

Informed Consent/Refusal
Childbirth Connection has written a fabulous booklet on The Rights of Childbearing Women and it’s downloadable for free! They also have an article on their Vision that explains how a care provider and a woman should go about assessing risk and coming to a mutual respectful decision-making relationship. It should be mandatory reading for every care provider and woman!

Informed Consent is a vital process but without informed refusal, it’s a useless one. Every time informed consent is given, if a woman is still then coerced into the same decision, without a right of refusal, then she was never truly given a choice. One woman in Florida was given no option to VBAC but was then read the informed consent for her cesarean and asked to sign that she agreed or she would be removed from the hospital. This is NOT informed consent, it’s illegal coercion.

Many states have statutes regarding Pregnant Patient’s Bill of Rights or Patient’s Bill of Rights, so check out our State By State pages to see if your state is listed to find out more about your communities protections.

Blanket Consent Forms
What is a Blanket Consent form?

When a mother arrives at the hospital, she is often given many forms to sign and hurried while signing. Take your time and read what you are signing! While the hospital’s goal is to get you to agree to whatever they want you to do, you do have the right to alter this form. You have the right to make changes, initial them and demand further consent for further procedures such as a cesarean or feeding your baby formula. If the consent is on the computer, you can ask for the forms to be printed out, sign the printed form after altering it and then ask for a copy! Asking for a copy is VERY important because if your data is changed, you want you or your partner to be able to say something about it and have legal back-up for your position.

Know your rights!

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