As a pregnant woman, you'll have to make lots of decisions about your care and eventual delivery. It helps to understand your basic rights. From The Boston Women's Health Book Collective's Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era
In the United States today, essential health care is not guaranteed for all women and infants, nor are scientific data about best maternity care practices consistently applied in maternity care services. More important, women are not routinely given complete information about the benefits and risks of drugs, tests, or treatments. Often we are unaware of our legal right to make health care choices for ourselves and our babies.
The statement below, adapted from the Maternity Center Association, outlines a set of basic rights for childbearing women. It applies widely accepted human rights to the specific situation of maternity care. Most of these rights are granted to women in the United States by law, yet they are not always honored.
Every Woman Has the Right to:
- Choose her birth setting from the full range of safe options available in her community, on the basis of complete objective information about the benefits, risks, and costs of these options.
- Receive information about the professional identity and qualifications of those involved in her care, and to know when any are trainees.
- Communicate with caregivers, receive all care in privacy (which may involve excluding nonessential personnel), and have all personal information treated according to standards of confidentiality.
- Accept or refuse procedures, drugs, tests, and treatments, and to have her choices honored. She has the right to change her mind.
- Leave her maternity caregiver and select another if she becomes dissatisfied with the care.
- Be informed if her caregivers wish to enroll her or her infant in a research study. She should receive full information about all known and possible benefits and risks of participation, and she has the right to decide whether to participate, free from coercion and without negative consequences.
- Have unrestricted access to all available records about her pregnancy, her labor, and her infant; to obtain a full copy of them, and to receive help in understanding them, if necessary.
- Receive maternity care that is appropriate to her cultural and religious background, and to receive information in a language in which she can communicate.
- Receive full advance information about risks and benefits of all reasonably available methods for relieving pain during labor and birth, including methods that do not require the use of drugs. She has the right to choose which methods will be used and to change her mind at any time.
- Enjoy freedom of movement during labor, unencumbered by tubes, wires, or other apparatuses. She also has the right to give birth in the position of her choosing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The Boston Women's Health Book Collective, the author of Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era (Copyright © 2005 by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective), aims to empower women by providing information about health, sexuality, and reproduction. Advisory board members include Teresa Heinz Kerry, Susan Love, and Gloria Steinem. To learn more visit www.ourbodiesourselves.org.
- Buy the Book, Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Generation
- Read the Introduction to Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Generation
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