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Find out your legal rights during pregnancy & childbirth - new Mumsnet & Birthrights factsheet

(51 Posts)
MylinhMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 19-Mar-13 11:04:02


Judging from countless MN threads over the years, it's clear that many mothers are unsure of what their legal rights are during pregnancy and childbirth, and how they exercise those rights. Questions range from "Can I have a home birth?" and "Can I refuse an antenatal check-up?" to "Can I request an elective caesarean after a vaginal birth?"

We've been working with a new charity, Birthrights, to bring you this Factsheet on your legal rights during pregnancy and childbirth. We hope that you'll find the factsheet useful and, for new mothers especially, empowering.

We also think that, if pregnant women are clearer about their rights, it will make working life easier for hard-pressed midwives and obstetricians. So this is by no means anti-midwives, in fact Birthrights works closely with midwives and doctors as well as with patients to provide them with support and information.

Take a look at the factsheet now or post your thoughts/feedback below.


KangarooKaz Wed 02-Oct-13 22:38:35

I think the guidance is helpful and I would add that I think it needs to be expanded and then promoted as available to women at antental appointments though I suspect the potential for lots of informed and more demanding women might be a challenge for the current system.

I wonder if my story so far is helpful to share. I've been advised I should deliver by week 39 (and I accept this advice - i'm healthy but I am just over 40 and there is a risk of still birth post week 39 for us oldies). Here is what has happened to me.

When I started to research birth options it became apparent to me that it is important to understand my rights but also the difference between routine generally applied intervention and life saving medical opinion. Initially I researched hypnobirthing, homebirthing,birthing pool, and pain relief options to support me in spontaneous labour should it happen pre week 39.

I asked at an antental appointment if I could consider a water / home birth with hypnobirthing as my first preference. I was told by a registrar that I would need to deliver in hospital and have continuous monitoring. I felt disappointed but took it and then asked could I deliver in the MLU and was told that that I could not go to the MLU because I am over 40 and considered high risk. I was told that I would likely bleed heavily and my baby or I could die ( and I was told like that). I decided to talk to more senior personnel as I am in good health and only just over 40 and gained agreement that I could go to the MLU and had to arrange this with my consultant and the head of the MLU and get this in writing. I also gained agreement that I would not be bed bound and continuously monitored routinely that I would be listened in to on a regular basis and could wear a cordless monitor if it came to that. I also gained agreement that if I was unable to birth on the MLU for any reason (they were busy or because of my situation) that I would be able to have midwife led care on the consultant led unit meaning that rather than having a trail of DRs doing their rounds and coming in on a regular basis that the people in the delivery room would be kept to a minimum and the midwife would be responsible for updating the DRs outside the delivery room.

Had I not probed and asked more questions I would likely have spent the last months dreading a delivery where I would potentially not be mobile and where I was being continuously monitored.

Next I looked at what would happen if I did not spontaneously labour. After having spoken to many friends, talked to the midwives etc and read lots such as on mumsnet I concluded that for me induction was an option for me BUT only with a 24 hour pessary ( first stage on induction). I decided that if this did not work ( bearing in mind at week 39 my baby might not be planning to come for another 3 weeks) that my preference would be to go straight to C section rather than enter a drawn out labour ultimately involving a syntocinin drip, epidural, forceps and emergency c section. I know I cannot plan the future but this has happened to many people I know and I feel it will be distressing for baby and me and its just not the start I want.

In my NHS trust I found that the 24 hour pessary has to be given on an inpatient basis whereas in many other trusts they let you go home. Again because I am just over 40 I have been told that even if they did let people go home they would not let me go home because of that. Now don't get me wrong. I am really pleased to be looked after but when you are given the pessary procedure is that you are monitored for 30 minutes and again after 12 hours and then 24 hours so I question why I need to remain in hospital if all is OK at each stage. Having questioned this I have been told if I don't stay in they won't give it to me. Had I not asked questions here and been naughty I could have gone in and had the pessary and then discharged myself and gone home anyway and come back for the checks but I felt this was disrespectful to the medical staff who would have to deal with the fall out of me leaving. I have no desire to disrespect medical staff.

So I have decided that if I am going to have the pessary I want to be as confident as I can be that the chances of my body reacting to it are favourable in that my cervix has softened before I have it. If my cervix has not softened pre-pessary the likelihood of a drawn out delivery with further intervention is more probable and I don't want that and therefore my view is to default to c section.

In gaining agreement to this plan which I finally have I had to go through more conversations under the NICE guidelines where I felt pressure to do induction regardless and also to agree to forceps delivery instead of c section should there be an emergency and I am going through a normal birth. However now I feel happier that I have in writing a plan I can refer to that has been agreed by a number of consultants and will avoid pressure in labour to take interventions I disagree to without strong reason arising at the time.

I do put my baby first, that's why I have agreed to 39 weeks, to deliver in hospital and to follow emergency advice but I have also been keen to ensure that I am healthy of mind through the process to have a safe place where I feel I can labour, where I can be unobserved, not pressured when I am in delivery with pre agreed options to hopefully deliver a healthy happy baby.

I feel quite exhausted by this and wonder how the system would cope with more women like me.

Finally I have to say that all of the midwives I have encountered have really been supportive of me, my questions and my plans all along and this has helped me to have the confidence to get to where I am today.

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