Tips for Consent and Choosing a Healthcare Provider

Empowering clients to self-advocate is a key part of being a YWRC doula. Working on birth plans, providing information about their rights during birth, and talking through options with clients are ways we help them prepare for conversations with healthcare providers.

As part of Black Maternal Health Week, our doulas wanted to share a few tips to consider when regarding consent and choosing a healthcare provider.

Here are four tips for mothers to consider:

1. You are in control of your body. 

First and foremost, all mamas should know – you do NOT have to do anything you are not comfortable with. You are in control of your body and have complete autonomy.

Anything you do not want to happen to your body, you can say no to. This includes: blood pressure readings, taking your weight, multiple cervical checks, any tests offered, etc. We always encourage collaboration with healthcare providers, but also want all our young moms to feel empowered to do what they feel is right for the benefit of themselves and their baby.

2. It’s okay, and good, to question your healthcare providers.

It’s important to voice concerns and question your healthcare providers when you have doubts.

“As a doula, I have seen black mamas specifically be asked to take a glucose test multiple times to check for gestational diabetes. These tests are sometimes taken multiple times because of the stigma related to black people and diabetes. Not all black mothers have diabetes, nor does it run in every family.” – Klarque, YWRC Childbirth and Perinatal Specialist, Doula

3. Know all of your options.

If you have any questions about your labor, c-section, or concerns about pain, ask! Feel free to ask whatever questions needed for better understanding.

If you are not comfortable with having an epidural , you do not have to get one. In some situations, we’ve seen mothers  being told “ the epidural is coming” and not even being asked if it was something they wanted. This is completely up to the mother. Part of our doula program includes creating a birth plan based on each mom’s wishes, and our doulas work hard to ensure they are not scared or pressured away from what they want.

4. Advocate for yourself.

It is especially important for Black mamas to consider the power of consent and carefully chose their healthcare providers. Women of color are more likely to experience mistreatment or disrespect in maternity care than white women. (Source: Vedam et al., 2019 )

“Health care providers and even nurses sometimes will try to brush black mamas off. Black mothers may be belittled into believing their pain is not valid or even sometimes that they are imagining things. Frustrations may also rise between the mother  and the health officials, but there is nothing wrong with standing your ground and standing up for yourself and what you believe in as a Black mother.” – Klarque

Raise your voice, take up space and say what is on your mind, especially when it feels right.