pregnant women on couch having painful contractions

How Doctors Who Ignore Birthing Plans Are Traumatizing New Mothers

Most pregnant women aren’t expecting childbirth to be a walk in the park, but most are also not expecting it to be a nightmare of an experience, either. Unfortunately, traumatizing birthing experiences remain an ongoing health concern and legal dilemma across the U.S.

What Is Included in a Birthing Plan?

A birth plan is both written and verbal communication made between an expectant mother and her doctor which includes her wishes and goals for before, during, and after labor and delivery. Essentially, this includes how a mother wants her unique delivery to play out and what she does not want during the birthing process.

Some expectant mothers stick to the basic with their birthing plans, while others go into extreme detail regarding their individualized wishes, including:

  • Who they want with them during labor and delivery
  • How many people they want in the delivery room
  • Vaginal vs. C-section preferences
  • What equipment will be used during active labor
  • Specific birthing positions
  • The use of an epidural or other pain medications
  • External and internal electronic fetal monitoring
  • The use of oxytocin to induce labor contractions
  • Episiotomies vs. natural tearing
  • The use of interventions like vacuum extraction or forceps
  • Holding the baby immediately after birth
  • Having a personal partner cut the umbilical cord
  • Special requests around the placenta

A 2017 study from the Archives of Women’s Mental Health examined over nearly 2,200 women’s experiences giving birth and found that birth was a traumatic experience for about one in three women. Specifically, when asked why the birth process was a traumatic event for them, responders answered with the following:

  • Lack or loss of control - 55%
  • Fear for their baby’s life or health - 50%
  • Severe physical pain - 47%
  • Lack of enough communication from their provider - 39%

Why Are More Doctors Ignoring Birth Plans?

In order to protect themselves from potential medical malpractice lawsuits, more doctors in the U.S. are ignoring women’s birth plans to the extent that some have even begun using the term “obstetric violence.”

In short, obstetric violence occurs anytime during labor and delivery when an individual experiences mistreatment or disrespect of their rights. Just a few examples may include:

  • Vaginal exams without consent
  • Forced cesarean section
  • Physical force to prevent birth until the doctor arrives
  • Use of medications to speed up delivery
  • Performing an episiotomy without consent
  • Failing to get consent before a procedure
  • Being treated or spoken too disrespectfully
  • Having one’s autonomy ignored during birth

While an expectant mother may have a specific plan in mind to give birth, fears of a malpractice lawsuit may lead her medical provider to ignore her wishes and conduct unnecessary interventions and procedures.

Many medical malpractice lawsuits involve a doctor failing to act, such as failing to perform a timely C-section or using measures to get the unborn child out of the womb when the heart rate drops. As a result, a doctor may coerce a patient into accepting treatment that goes against her birthing plan or even moving forward with treatment without her consent.

Yet, this defensive form of medical treatment can essentially backfire when the doctor or medical provider fails to assess a situation properly and chooses to perform an unnecessary procedure that harms the mother or baby.

Can You Sue for a Traumatic Birthing Experience?

Researchers are still investigating how traumatic birth experiences impact a mother’s physical and mental health afterward. However, there is a general consensus that trauma can, in fact, have a negative impact on many aspects of women’s health.

Not every case of a traumatic birthing experience will be considered grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, if your traumatic birth experience caused physical harm to yourself and your baby, you may be able to file a lawsuit. Here are a few other situations that may be grounds for a new mother to file a malpractice lawsuit after a traumatic birth experience:

  • It is proven a procedure was not necessary (i.e., a C-section)
  • The mother did not give consent to a procedure
  • It is proven that the mother was coerced into giving consent or was otherwise not made aware of the full risks or reason behind a procedure
  • The traumatic experience resulted in pain and suffering or emotional injuries

At Angel Law, our legal team is dedicated to ensuring that the rights of expectant and new mothers are upheld. If you believe that your doctor performed an unnecessary procedure without your consent that resulted in injuries, our Portland birth injury attorneys are standing by ready to give a voice to you and your family.

Contact our firm at (503) 862-8666 to get started with a free case review today.

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