The childbearing year: Making informed decisions


6 Questions to Ask about a Procedure, Medication, or Restriction

Barring an emergency situation, you want to ask:

1. What is involved in this procedure/medication/restriction? Just as with tests, you want to know exactly what your doctor or midwife plans to do, including how it will feel.

2. What are the benefits?

3. What are the risks or drawbacks? How commonly do they occur? There always will be some risks, although they may be minor, and the serious ones may be rare.

4. Will this procedure or medication or restriction require the need for others, or can it lead to others? Like tipping the first domino in the row, one intervention tends to lead to another. To illustrate, epidurals require an IV and continuous electronic fetal monitoring. They often lead to needing IV oxytocin to stimulate stronger contractions and to bladder catheterization. They increase the odds of a vacuum extraction and forceps delivery and can increase the odds of cesarean delivery. Each of these interventions introduces its own potential for adverse effects. Again, as with tests, you want to know all the possible consequences before agreeing or refusing.

5. What are my alternatives, including doing nothing?

6. What are the advantages and disadvantages of those alternatives? As Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer write in their book A Good Birth, A Safe Birth, “If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.”

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