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I came to my ob-gyn
halfway through my pregnancy. My husband had moved to a new job,
which meant a new location and different insurance. While this doctor
wasn't my top choice, she seemed capable, and I felt reassured
by the photos of moms and babies—former patients—on her office
wall during my first visit with her. I wanted as natural a birth as
possible, so I asked her about interventions.
only have interventions if you consent to them," she told me.
consent is in the news, this time with a mom who is suing her doctor,
claiming she was bullied into having a C-section. Lindsay Scarborough Switzer disputes the medical necessity of her C-section. When she resisted the procedure, she says her doctor asked her to sign something that said, basically, that she doesn't care if her baby's brain damaged or dead. In
the end, she had the surgery and describes the trauma she experienced afterward.
Flash-forward to my
own pregnancy: I'm now overdue at 40 weeks and 3 days. We've been
visiting my doctor's office every day this week. Today she tells me, "We need
to talk about inducing you." I was surprised, because my pregnancy had been uncomplicated and there are no signs of distress. I ask if we might look at that
as an option in a few more days.
She looked me in the
eye and says, "Oh no, in a few more days, you're looking at a C-section."
It didn't feel like
a careful prognosis. It felt like a threat. I'm not a doctor, but I
know there has to be a basis on which a C-section is recommended.
Without a basis on which one is necessary, the
suggestion is reckless. What she accomplished by using the "C-word"
was frightening me. She frightened me into agreeing to be
induced. I had to sign papers saying I accepted the increased risks of induced labor,
including the increased risk of C-section.
The story doesn't end
It didn't feel like a careful prognosis. It felt like a threat.
That was a Thursday.
I was scheduled to be induced Saturday evening. I went home and
searched the Internet for stories about overdue pregnancies. I found
some accounts of using acupuncture to naturally induce labor. Right
away, I searched for places in Los Angeles, found a highly reviewed location and called to make an appointment. I received pregnancy
acupuncture on Friday afternoon (which was incredibly relaxing) and
went into labor naturally at 5 a.m. the next morning.
I thought I was in
When my doctor saw
me, she said was surprised I had gone into labor naturally. At about
eight hours into my labor, she said she wanted to amplify it with a
pitocin drip and also recommended an epidural. Once again, the "C-word" was dropped. But this time, it was framed as something to avoid.
At this point, I started
to feel frightened again. What if I couldn't handle the pain? Would I
be unable to push and thereby need a C-section? Was my labor
not advancing as it should? My doctor never
mentioned any risks in using pitocin. Now that I look back on the situation, I wonder if
the onus was on me to ask. Without knowing the risks, could I really give
We have doctors for
the same reason we have lawyers—to guide us through situations
about which they have specialized knowledge. It's a relationship built on trust.
Women in labor are in a vulnerable state, and this brings into question whether the consent obtained is real consent.
I accepted the
interventions my doctor recommended and, a few hours later, pushed my baby into the world. Right away, there was a concern that she wasn't getting
enough oxygen, so she was taken from me and held under observation
for five hours—the most distressing five hours of my life. She was
returned to me, apparently in good health, and started
breastfeeding right away.
I'll never be sure if the interventions that I accepted contributed
to her condition upon birth. I know a number of factors could be at play. Only later did I read about pitocin and fetal distress. It's true that, ultimately, I had a healthy baby. I'm tempted to think "all's well that
ends well," but our injuries and
birth traumas matter regardless of whether we are OK in the end.
Consent is a blurry
subject in the context of labor and delivery. We can be unfairly
swayed with any suggestion of harm to our baby—even if that harm is
extremely unlikely, as Scarborough
Switzer alleges in her case. Women in labor are
in a vulnerable state, and this brings
into question whether the consent obtained is real consent.
informed consent and, in the absence of an emergency where it cannot be obtained, an ethical line is being crossed.