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Informed Consent

When planning your birth options, one of the most important things to think about is informed consent. Preparing for your birth also includes a conversation with your health care provider that answers the questions: What will happen during my birth?

Many options will be available and provided to you and for your baby. Knowing exactly what is offered will help you make informed decisions and provide you with the ability to make important decisions for your healthcare and the healthcare of your baby.

What is informed consent? 

Informed consent is the process by which the treating health care provider discloses appropriate information to a competent patient so that the patient may make a voluntary choice to accept or refuse treatment.   It originates from the legal and ethical right the patient has to direct what happens to her body and from the ethical duty of the health care provider to involve the patient in her health care. 

What are the elements of full informed consent?

The most important goal of informed consent is that the patient has an opportunity to be an informed participant in her health care decisions. It is generally accepted that informed consent includes a discussion of the following elements: 

o   The nature of the decision/procedure 

o   Reasonable alternatives to the proposed intervention 

o   The relevant risks, benefits, and uncertainties related to each alternative 

o Assessment of clients understanding 

o   The acceptance or denial of the intervention by the client 

In order for the client's consent to be valid, she must be considered competent to make the decision at hand and her consent must be voluntary. It is easy for coercive situations to arise in during labor, clients can feel powerless and vulnerable. To encourage healthy participation in ones own health, the healthcare provider can make clear to the client that she is participating in a decision-making process, not merely signing a form. With this understanding, the informed consent process should be seen as an invitation for the client to participate in health care decisions.

The health care provider is also generally obligated to provide a recommendation and share the reasoning process with the patient. Comprehension on the part of the client is equally as important as the information provided. Consequently, the discussion should be carried on in non-medical terms and the clients understanding should be assessed along the way.

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