Knowing your rights as a birthing person

While understanding your rights as a birthing person is vital anytime, in the era of COVID-19, I found this topic especially apropos.

I have heard horrible stories from doulas and moms alike about their birth preferences being completely thrown out of the window due to COVID-19, and new hospital regulations that seem to change daily. The flood of birthing persons opting for midwifery style of care and home birth has never been more steady than during this pandemic.

While doulas are helpful in making sure your rights are being respected and upheld especially in a hospital setting, going into your labor or birth with eyes open can help remove a lot of miscommunication from the beginning. Because pandemic or not, there are rights a birthing person has under any situation.

Your rights as a birthing person include:

(Quoted directly from the text, unless otherwise italicized) *

  • Understanding what your are giving consent to
  • Receiving information regarding drugs or treatments before being performed or administered
  • Accepting or refusing treatment without feeling pressured or bullied
  • To know the full details about a medical procedure, including if it’s medically necessary or elective in nature
  • Access to your medical records
  • Ability to seek a second medical opinion – even while in labor (my addition)
  • To request alternative support in the nursing department during labor, if you do not feel heard or supported by the nurse initially assigned you (my addition)
  • To be kept informed and up-to-date on options and other information that will impact your birth
  • Being treated as an equal partner in making decisions regarding your care and birth, and any treatments for your child
  • To be treated with respect
  • To be provided with the best care possible, with a focus on prevention
  • To care for yourself and your child to the full extent possible while still being safe and responsible

While your care team has the onus of not stepping on your rights, especially in such strange times with the COVID complication, a birthing person and her support system also have responsibilities, including informing themselves.

In my first year as a doula, I’d come out of a few births feeling like I’d failed my clients when they had very little understanding or had unreal expectations about what birth looked like, since they did not attend birth classes or did not discuss their preferences with their doctor beforehand. And since they did not express any questions or concerns to me beforehand, I had not been aware there was a gap.

This is one of the biggest reasons why as a doula, I always strongly recommend my clients take a birth education class and breastfeeding class together with their partners. This makes sure everyone is on the same page. It also helps parents design a comprehensive birth preference plan, and gives them a starting point to discuss these ideas with their care provider on how they and their birthing location can or cannot support them.

I am so careful now to ask these questions, to ensure no one falls through the cracks, and that my clients feel empowered, prepared, and armed with accurate information.

That’s why I am also urging pregnant parents to fully educate themselves on their options during the pandemic. For a deep-dive into your rights and options during COVID-19, I love and the resources they have available.

Below are some additional things to consider as you move forward in delineating your birth preferences, and choosing your provider.

Birthing person’s responsibilities include:

(Quoted directly from the text, unless otherwise italicized) *

  • To learn what is available and make an informed choice
  • To find caregivers who (and identify resources that) can help her reach her goals
  • To listen to her caregivers with an open mind
  • To let her preferences be known in a courteous manner
  • To carry through on an agreed plan of care
  • To learn the approximate cost of a procedure in advance
  • To state why she changes caregivers, if applicable
Quoted Material:
Lauwers, J., & Swisher, A. (2011). Consumer Rights & Responsibilities / The Mother’s Rights. In Counseling the nursing mother: A lactation consultant’s guide (p. 70). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. *


Curious about how a doula can support you during your birth?

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Send me a message with your name, email, town or city you plan to birth in, and estimated birth month, and I will be in touch within 24 hours.

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