Survey says expecting mothers don’t have enough say in childbirth


Last week, I wrote about the importance of quality perinatal care. Even if expecting mothers do everything they can to ensure that the baby is born healthy, medical negligence during delivery can lead to debilitating birth injuries. Bad medical advice or unnecessary medical procedures can also increase the risk of birth injuries or pregnancy complications.

The results of a recent survey show that many pregnant women undergo invasive interventions and medical procedures without full knowledge of the risks and alternatives. In certain areas, perinatal care recommended by the doctors or staff does not follow established best-practice guidelines. The survey was conducted by the non-profit group Childbirth Connection, and included responses from 2,400 women who recently gave birth.

Two of the most pressing issues highlighted in the survey included under what circumstances labor should be induced and under what circumstances the baby should be delivered via C-section. The survey revealed that 41 percent of women had labor induced rather than waiting to go into labor naturally. About 25 percent of these women said they agreed to induction because they felt pressured by their health care provider.

Furthermore, the reasons commonly given by providers for why induction was necessary were not always proper justifications for the procedure. Reasons included that a mother had reached her due date or that the baby might have been getting large.

The subject of C-sections was also a major issue highlighted by the survey. The complication risks are different based on whether a woman has previously given birth via C-section. Many mothers who had given birth this way wanted to deliver vaginally on their second pregnancy but a significant percentage were not allowed to do so.

There are few experiences as rewarding and rare as the birth of one’s children. For this reason, pregnant women should be given a larger decision-making role in their perinatal care, and doctors should respect that role by helping inform their patients of all options and risks. Commenting on the study results, the executive director of Childbirth Connection said: “Our survey suggests that pregnant women need to take a more active role to make sure they get the care that is best for themselves and their babies. They need access to trustworthy information about the benefits and harms of interventions, to educate themselves, and be their own advocate.”


Source: Consumer Reports, “Pregnant? Watch out for unnecessary c-sections and other questionable medical procedures,” May 8, 2013

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