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Hospital Threatens to Report Mom Unless She Has C-section

Hospital threatens mom unless she has a C-section
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Florida mom Jennifer Goodall probably expected the last weeks of her pregnancy to be filled with lots of last-minute baby prep, nervous anticipation and precious hours of sleep (while she could still get it). But as it's turned out, these last few weeks have instead been filled with a lot of unnecessary stress, thanks to a letter that arrived on July 10.

The note was penned by the chief financial officer of Bayfront Health Port Charlotte, the hospital where Goodall is due to give birth. And what it said left her absolutely shocked.

According to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), the letter basically informed the mom of three that since she had decided to have a "trial of labor" before agreeing to a cesarean section, her prenatal care providers were obliged to report her to the Department of Children and Family Services. They would also seek a court order to perform the C-section on her "with or without [her] consent" if she went to the hospital to give birth. (Say what?!)

Goodall has already been through three C-sections before, with her three older children, but this time around, the mom wanted to try for a vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC) if possible. While she admitted through the statement that she would give in to another C-section if there was any indication that it was absolutely necessary, she (understandably) would prefer to at least have the option. After all, hasn't this hospital ever heard of a "birth plan"?

"My decision to allow labor to proceed before consenting to a surgical intervention is based on years of research, careful consideration of the risks to me and my baby, and my family's needs," Goodall explained in a statement that was given to the NAPW last week. "All I want is to be able to go to the hospital when I'm in labor and have my medical decisions respected — and my decision is to proceed with a trial of labor and not have cesarean surgery unless some medical complication arises that makes cesarean surgery necessary for my or my baby's health."

Seems reasonable enough, right? Apparently, not for some. The NAPW filed a complaint against the hospital, in order to seek a temporary restraining order against them that would prevent the forced surgery. But when the request made its way to Federal District Judge John E. Steele, he denied it. And furthermore, he stated that Goodall has no "right to compel a physician or medical facility to perform a medical procedure in the manner she wishes against their best medical judgment."

Considering the fact that the C-section rate is at an all-time high and the surgery itself carries with it considerable risk of complications, the case is a bit of a head-scratcher. It also should be noted that according to the American Pregnancy Association, 60 percent to 80 percent of women are able to have successful VBACs, and that the risks of them are relatively small.

Nevertheless, the Cape Coral, Fla., mom ultimately decided to switch hospitals, and go with one that would allow her to try for a VBAC first. According to the NAPW, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Though she did try for a vaginal birth, she consented to a C-section once it was clear that labor was not progressing.

But in the end, the mom is happy with the decisions she made.

"This was all I wanted to begin with," said Goodall. "I am grateful to the medical staff at another hospital who assisted us in a safe and healthy delivery. Now, my family's focus is on welcoming our newborn into our family with love, and on my physical and emotional recovery from the intensity of the last few days."

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