Consent- what does that really mean?

COVID 19 has impacted many families, and is changing the way care is being provided to pregnant and birthing women.

There have been a range of experiences, from the wonderful to the heart breaking, but one issue which keeps coming up is the issue of consent.

So lets talk about consent and what it means to you- now in the time of COVID, yes, but also any other time.

Essentially, consent means getting someones permission to do something. Consent to take your blood pressure, consent to ask about your health history, consent to perform a cesarean section. 

All of these things are something which is done for you, or to you, and legally all of these need your permission.

One of the really important things about consent is that it needs to be an informed consent. That means that you have had the options explained to you, in  language that you understand and you have the opportunity to ask questions. If you didn't understand the explanation or if you wanted to ask something, but weren't able to, it isn't informed consent.

Another vital part of consent is that you feel as though you are able to refuse something which is offered. For example, it has been suggested that you have a vaginal examination to see how far dilated you are, and you feel as though you are able to say "no", if you choose to. Being too scared to say "no" is not consent.

Sometimes, pregnant women feel as though they have no choice in whether they accept a "routine" procedure, because it is framed as "hospital policy". It is really important to understand that following hospital policy is not a legal requirement and you are able to say no to anything which involves you, or your baby.

When you are asked for consent, one of the useful ways of thinking things through can be done using the B.R.A.I.N.S. acronym.

B.R.A.I.N.S. stands for;

Benefits- what are the benefits of this thing you are being offered?

Risks- what are the possible risks involved?

Alternatives- are there any alternatives which could be used?

Intuition- what is your intuition telling you to do?

Nothing- what happens if you do nothing?

Some time-is it possible to take some time to decide?

And in the end, it is imperative that you remember that this is your body, and your baby and your choice. 

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