There has been a major push by the obstetrical industry to ensure that women are given the right of informed consent before any treatment or procedure is done. Basically, this means that women understand what is being done, why it is being done and the risk it entails.
The problem is that many women are not given the information they need during labor to ensure true informed consent. During labor the mother may not be listening to what is said, or have the attention span to listen to all the other options. There may not be time during labor to explain everything the woman needs to know.
It has become increasingly important for a woman to do her own research into the options available for handling labor and the birth process. This is not only due to the impossibility of learning everything she needs to know during office visits, but also because standards of care and the common interventions vary not only between communities, but also between caregivers. Never underestimate the value of a second opinion.
What do you need to know to give informed consent?
What is being recommended to you?
Is this a test, a medication or a procedure? Is this a one time event, or will it require several visits or administrations?
Why is this being recommended?
Is this something that is recommended to everyone, or is there a reason to believe it will be helpful in your situation?
What is this expected to do?
Is this going to relieve a problem, improve your health, manage discomfort or something else? In short, what should be different after you receive this.
What are the risks of this?
The list of risks will vary with every procedure and medication. Do not accept the answer, "There is no risk involved." Every procedure has a risk, many procedures have a very small risk and it is easy to see that the benefits outweigh the risks, but that doesn't mean there is no risk.
It is also important to remember that some risks are not "physical." There may be no physical risk to wearing a hospital gown, but many women report that it changed the way they felt. So there is an emotional risk involved in wearing a hospital gown.
What are the other options and their risks?
There is always another option, even if it is just to do nothing. Remember that the other options have risks too.
What will we do if this doesn't have its desired effect?
No procedure, medication or intervention (natural or medical) is 100% guaranteed to work. What will be the next step if you decide to go ahead, and it doesn't work. How will having used it change the other options available to you?
Be sure to check out the Birth Messages, information about interventions in labor from Robbie Davis-Floyd.