About 5 years ago my wife, Jo, and I experienced the full magnitude of birth intervention, or what it is to have control of your health, and that of your unborn child, wrestled from you. We have always been very careful to acknowledge with patients that although they seek us out for help and answers, the decisions about what to do for the best are their own. Every step of the way we look to empower people with answers and support their health choices; we may make recommendations, but there is never an authoritarian “do as I say” approach.
However, as we had been informed that we must attend the hospital due to Jo’s “abnormal” high blood pressure, we duly turned up in the evening only to be told that she would be staying in “until baby is born, most likely by induction”. Our reaction was initially complete surprise: no one had at any point said that the visit would be for anything other than monitoring and advice. Suddenly we were on what seemed like a one way street to a birth process far removed from our initial birth plan (Jo was to ideally have our son in a midwife-led birth centre). I did what any protective partner and father does, and asked them to explain exactly why we had moved so swiftly from monitoring to intervention.
At this point the game changed, one registrar and a nurse became one consultant, one registrar and a nurse, all keen to rig Jo up to monitors and book her in as we tried to discuss the whys and wherefores, even the options. To little avail. Thankfully the outcome was a healthy baby boy, Isaac, but not before some very nervy moments as the induction led to foetal distress and an emergency C-section. I feel that the outcome was good, but the end very much did not justify the means.
The moral we can take from the above story, I believe, is that we are all able to make choices, and should strongly uphold that right. There are times when advice is right, there are times when we need to follow our own path. In healthcare these days we are often beholden to the system, but it is us as individuals who must make wise choices, because it is our health, not the system, that should always be the priority. That is real “patient choice.”