During your pregnancy you will also need to make choices about your maternity care. In NZ/Aotearoa the “Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights” gives anyone who is receiving any health or disability service, the right (amongst others) to “receive a service only when you have made an informed choice and given your informed consent”. For further information about your legal rights when receiving a health or disability service go to www.hdc.org.nz

What is informed choice and consent?

Informed choices give us control and responsibility for ourselves and our children. Informed choice is particularly relevant to maternity care because pregnancy, labour and birth etc are normal physical functions not illnesses so healthy women could, in theory, manage without any treatment at all. Most women, however, appreciate the monitoring, support and advice that they receive from their midwives/doctors and some need the treatments/procedures that are available. All women should be given the opportunity to make informed choices about the maternity care they receive.

Informed Choice and Informed Consent

From the time you become pregnant (or even before), there are health and lifestyle choices that you can make to help ensure the best possible outcome for your baby and yourself. When we actively make choices and decisions, we tend to use a combination of information and intuition. Because pregnancy, labour and birth and parenting are normal life processes, your intuition (or gut feeling) is an important and valid part of your decision-making process.

Informed Choice

When you are making decisions about your maternity care or medical care for yourself and/or your baby, you should be given the opportunity to make informed choices and this means that you must be given access to accurate and unbiased information about:

  • why any treatment/procedure is recommended
  • the desired/expected outcome of any treatment/procedure and how effective/accurate the proposed treatment/procedure is likely to be in achieving this
  • an explanation of what the actual procedure involves and what other medical personnel (if any) would be involved in giving you the recommended treatment or performing the procedure
  • any known risks or side-effects for mother and baby
  • other options for care or treatment (including not doing anything for a period of time) and how to obtain a second opinion
  • whether the procedure/treatment is new or part of a research project

Informed Consent.

Before you receive any medical treatment or participate in any medical procedure your caregiver must obtain your informed consent. In order to give informed consent, you must be given all the above information about the proposed treatment/procedure in an unbiased manner; you must also be given unbiased information about other options if you ask for this; you must be given time to consider this information; and you must have freely decided to give your consent.

You have the right to be treated with respect and dignity and to continue to receive maternity care that is provided with reasonable care and skill, which meets relevant professional standards and is responsive to your needs, whether or not you consent to a recommended treatment or procedure.

Questions that could assist you to make an informed choice about medical treatment.

  • Is this an emergency or do we have time to discuss this?
  • What are the benefits/expected outcomes of this treatment/procedure?
  • What are the disadvantages/potential side effects?
  • If we do this, what other procedures or treatments might we end up needing?
  • What else could we try – alternatives?
  • What would happen if we waited for an hour or two before deciding? Thanks for the information, we would like some time to discuss this in private.
  • What would happen if we carried on without this treatment/procedure?

The acronym B.R.A.I.N. may help you to remember the questions you should ask and

the factors you should take into consideration before making an informed choice.

  • Benefits?
  • Risks?
  • Alternatives?
  • Intuition
  • Not now thanks