Protecting Your Rights in Cases of Birth Trauma

Having a baby is a major life event that most parents cherish forever. Although the birth of your child should be one of the happiest and most joyous moments of your life, birth trauma is a tragic reality experienced by about 45% of mothers at some point in their lives. Understanding your rights will help shield you from being mistreated by medical professionals and reduce your risk of experiencing a traumatic birth. 

What Is Birth Trauma?

Birth trauma is defined as any serious injury that occurs to you or your infant during the birthing process and has an impact on your physical or mental health. An estimated 33% of mothers display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder following a traumatic birthing experience. 

Some common causes of birth traumas are:

  • Emergency c-sections
  • Obstetric violence, lack of respect, or provider mistreatment
  • NICU transfers
  • Inadequate pain management
  • Injuries
  • Prolonged labor
  • Rapid labor (fewer than three hours from the start of contractions to birth)

PTSD symptoms commonly resulting from birth trauma are:

  • Intrusive thoughts or flashbacks of the trauma
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Nightmares
  • Fear of another pregnancy 
  • Inability to bond with the child

In the United States, most human rights for laboring and pregnant women have no protections under the law. For instance, the United States is the only developed nation where healthcare access for newborns and pregnant women is not guaranteed. 

This legal barrier can make it challenging or even impossible for pregnant women to exercise many of their rights pertaining to labor and delivery. For example, choosing the setting of your child’s birth is widely regarded as a fundamental human right. Unfortunately, state regulations surrounding homebirths and midwives can make it challenging or infeasible to find a licensed provider who can oversee an out-of-hospital birth in certain places. 

What Are My Rights in Childbirth?

Examples of rights as they pertain to childbirth include the right to:

Autonomy

Mothers have the right to make decisions regarding their own bodies and to decline recommended procedures or medications. For instance, they have every right to refuse an epidural, refuse induction, drink or eat during labor, and give birth in the position of their choice. They also have the right to choose where they give birth and to sign out of the birthing center or hospital against medical advice. No hospital policy overrides these rights.

Be Informed

Mothers also have the right to ask questions and be properly educated about any procedure or medication that is being recommended, as well as any related benefits and risks and their other options. They are allowed to choose any available option, up to and including doing nothing. If they do not speak English, they are entitled to an interpreter who can translate, and help them understand their options. 

Support

Mothers have the right to select their support system for labor and delivery. This person could be a spouse, friend, family member, or a trained professional such as a doula. Mothers can also ask their care providers and support system to leave.  

Respect

Mothers have the right to be spoken to and treated with respect by their medical providers and not to be insulted, threatened, coerced, or physically bullied into doing anything against their wishes. They are entitled to be treated respectfully without regard to their race, age, ethnicity, nationality, class, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or religion. 

Parent

Mothers have the right to breastfeed or formula-feed their newborns and not be separated from them. They are allowed to make well-informed medical decisions for their child, including rejecting suggested care. However, medical professionals are required to notify child protective services if they feel that the non-compliance qualifies as neglect or abuse. 

What Should I Do if My Rights Have Been Violated?

If your rights during labor and delivery were violated, there are a few things you can do, including: 

Record the Violation

Tell a medical provider to record the event in your medical chart. You can also document the situation yourself with pictures, videos, notes, and recordings of conversations. Many of these can serve as evidence in court or if you file a formal complaint.

Make Your Desires Known

Simple, precise phrases like “Stop,” “I’m telling you no,” and “I don’t consent” will help prevent any confusion regarding your wishes. Ask your healthcare provider to verify that they heard you say no and understand that they do not have your consent.

Request All Policies in Writing

You do not have to blindly accept everything your doctor says. Request to see fact-based information and hospital policies in writing. You are also entitled to request a second opinion. 

Ask Questions

Queries like “What are my other options?” and “Is this an emergency?” can help keep the lines of communication between you and your doctor clear and open. 

Speak With a Patient Advocate

Hospitals usually have a patient advocate on staff. Their job is to intervene and help resolve patient concerns. If you don’t feel the issue has been adequately addressed by the patient advocate at your medical facility, you are not out of options. The law allows you to file a civil claim against any negligent entity that may have caused trauma to you or your child during childbirth.   

Talk to a Birth Injury Lawyer 

If you have concerns regarding a rights violation that occurred during the birth of your child, you should speak to a birth injury lawyer as soon as possible. The Dallas birth injury lawyers at Rasansky Law Firm offer free initial consultations and can advise you on the best way to proceed with your birth injury case. Call us at (214) 617-1886 or fill out the contact form on our website to schedule your free consultation. Should we take your case, we will do so on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will never have to pay any fees upfront or out of pocket. Call us today to see how we can help you move forward.

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Note: The information that was utilized in this post was gathered from the use of secondary sources. This information used has not been confirmed or independently verified. If you locate any information that is not correct, please contact our firm as soon as possible so that we can make the appropriate corrections. If you find any information that is false, we will remove or correct the post immediately after it is brought to our attention.

Disclaimer: As a valued member of the Dallas community, Rasansky Law Firm’s goal is to improve the safety of all residents in the great state of Texas. These posts should not be viewed as a solicitation for business and the information included herein should not be taken as medical or legal advice. The photos used in this post are not representative of the actual crash scene.

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