Obstetric Violence and How to Protect Against It

Obstetric Violence and How to Protect Against It

by / Friday, 24 December 2021 / Published in Birth Trauma
A mother wearing a hospital gown holds her baby.

Pregnancy, labor, and delivery can often be very unpredictable. It’s entirely possible for one woman to have a relatively easy pregnancy while another has a much more difficult time. It’s also possible for a woman to have very different experiences from one pregnancy to the next. With how unpredictable pregnancy can be, it’s only natural that expectant mothers would want to feel a sense of control over the situation whenever possible. 

Very often, expectant mothers like to develop a birthing plan so that they can communicate with doctors and nurses about what their wishes are in terms of care and treatment. It’s also extremely common for those birthing plans to end up not being exactly followed for a wide variety of reasons, given how unpredictable labor and delivery can be. For example, a woman might want a natural birth, but need to have a C-section because of complications that occur during delivery. 

Even if a birth plan ends up not being followed, either partially or completely, it’s still important for informed consent to be obtained. Informed consent is the process in which medical professionals explain what a procedure entails and the risks and benefits involved so that patients can make decisions about the care they receive. But far too often, expectant mothers feel like they’re left out of the decision-making process when it comes to their care.

What is Obstetric Violence?

Lamaze.org defines obstetric violence as, “anytime a person in labor or birth experiences mistreatment or disrespect of their rights, including being forced into procedures against their will, at the hands of medical personnel.”

Some examples of obstetric violence can include forcing a woman to have a C-section, being denied a requested epidural, performing an exam or episiotomy without permission, or performing a procedure without warning. Sometimes, it can also include bullying a woman into agreeing to medically unnecessary procedures or actively belittling her wishes for care. Obstetric violence can also involve actions like physically restraining a woman during childbirth or only addressing a birthing companion instead of the woman who is actually giving birth.

What to Do if Obstetric Violence Happens to You

If you experience obstetric violence during the prenatal period, remember that it is okay to try and find a new doctor. Sometimes, women experience obstetric violence because their usual doctor was unavailable at the time. But if you see a doctor who does something that you aren’t comfortable with for any reason, you are welcome to find a new, more respectful doctor. 

Anytime a doctor treats a patient without obtaining informed consent first, it’s also extremely important to contact a medical malpractice lawyer to find out about what your rights and legal options are. Some women who have experienced obstetric violence have stories that involve things like medically-unnecessary procedures, unnecessary medications, and procedures that were performed without permission and without regard to the mother’s situation, all of which can potentially impact the health of the mother and the health of the baby. 

Contact a Michigan Birth Trauma Lawyer

Very often, birth trauma cases are also medical malpractice cases and malpractice cases can be very complex. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to get help from a lawyer experienced in handling both medical malpractice and birth trauma cases in the state of Michigan. Contact us today to find out how we can help.