What is "Informed Consent?"
You read about it, you may have heard about it, and you know it’s very important to your midwives. But what is informed consent? In the midwifery model, informed consent is part of the crucial philosophy of shared decision-making. This is a collaborative process in which you and your midwife are part of ongoing verbal and written communication about your options, incorporating evidence, clinical experience, and your preferences and values to determine what will happen. Informed consent is critical to this process, because it means that you, the client, has what you need to be the co-author of your own care with your midwife. Informed consent should always include:
Explanation of treatments and procedures: What is this procedure and how does it work?
Explanation of risks and expected benefits: What are the risks associated with this procedure? what do you get out of it? What consequences might there be that you aren’t thinking of right away?
Discussion of possible alternatives and their risks and benefits: If you don’t choose this procedure, what else could you do? What are the plus and minus sides to the alternative procedure?
In other words, the client is in charge and gets to choose what is best for them. The midwife facilitates the process of the client’s decision-making and weighs in with the evidence and her experience, but ultimately respects the right of the client to practice bodily autonomy. We think this is essential for the care of women and it’s a huge aspect of midwifery care that we’re proud to say we think we do better than the medical model. If it was us in a situation, we might choose something different for our bodies. That doesn’t mean the client has to do it. We have our own professional boundaries about carrying out a care plan that won’t work FOR US, but that still does’t mean the client has to do something she doesn’t want to! We will never, ever try to manipulate or coerce someone into making a decision that isn’t right for them. (And we want to be told if we do that accidentally). We love our clients and we value their boundaries, so we practice informed consent to support these values.