What Is Informed Consent and Why Is It So Important?
Consent is an important ethical and legal aspect in all fields of health care, including midwifery. It’s an important aspect of proper midwifery care so patients are more secure and informed during childbirth. It can also significantly reduce the level of stress and anxiety associated with childbirth, especially for first-time mothers. This in turn encourages the smooth progression of natural labor without the need for additional medical or surgical interventions.
Consent and Informed Consent
Consent itself refers to giving permission or agreeing for something to happen. Informed consent in healthcare refers to explaining a procedure or treatment in detail to the patient before obtaining permission to continue with it. There are four components of informed consent; decision capacity, documentation of consent, disclosure, and competency.
What Is Informed Consent In Midwifery?
According to NARM (North American Registry of Midwives), shared decision-making and informed consent are two essential components of midwifery care. Informed care in midwifery includes:
- Explanation of procedures and treatments in detail
- Explanation of both risks and benefits of aforementioned treatments and procedures
- Explanation of alternatives to certain treatments or procedures
- Explanation of consequences of delaying certain treatments or procedures
- Documentation of both, agreement and refusal to treatments/procedures
- Client and midwife signatures and date on documentation stating refusal to treatment that is the standard of care
For the consent to be valid, it’s important that it’s given in full, voluntarily and the person giving consent is in their right state of mind and not under the effect of any drugs or medication.
Why Is It So Important?
Informed consent is the human, legal, and constitutional right of all mothers during childbirth. It bridges the gap between evidence-based care and the patient’s right to accept or deny treatment.
According to ACOG, every pregnant woman has the right to base her decisions regarding childbirth on accurate, up-to-date, and understandable information.
Other than that, informed consent is an ethical and legal necessity prior to any form of midwifery care provision. Midwives must take consent before touching the patient, before administering any treatment, and before performing any procedures. The patient must be well aware of the risks and benefits of the treatment/procedure before agreeing to it and consent must be given by the patient themselves.
Other than its legal importance, the act of obtaining consent is beneficial for both the midwife and the patient. It creates a secure environment for the patient by enabling them to make decisions for themselves knowing what it entails, and it legally secures the midwife from any legal repercussions later on. This is why we stress the importance of informed consent for every one of our wonderful families. Your birth should be based on your decisions, and the best decisions come from receiving full and accurate information from your midwife!