When it comes to birth more and more women are realizing the rights and the amount of choices they have. We are slowly seeing a shift in provider and hospital protocol in our country towards respecting the rights of the mother to make choices in her care and that of her baby. Birth plans and questionnaires are becoming more common and hospitals are tiptoeing their way into care that places the respect and love for mothers and babies ahead of profit and efficiency. It’s very slow, yes. We are far from where we need to be but the movement has been growing for years and is finally making some headway in mainstream birth. But just as it is true that mothers have the right to a dignified birth and true evidence based care, they also have a right to that when it comes to miscarriage.
Regrettably, this is not always the case and in the midst of shock, fear, grief, and ignorance, the mother suffering a miscarriage is swept into a medical system that may or may not be giving her proper individualized attention and care. She often feels like she doesn’t have a choice in her treatment or course of action. She often doesn’t get valid answers to her questions or because she is in the midst of grief, doesn’t think to even ask them. Very rarely are options presented to this vulnerable mom so that she can then make the choices that are best for her in her circumstances. There are countless mothers and fathers who, looking back upon the loss of their baby, wish they had done things a bit differently. Because of this, while of course we hope and pray the information is never needed, it’s important for women of childbearing possibility to know their rights when it comes to having a miscarriage before it happens. So, below are a list of rights that a woman has when it comes to miscarriage and stillbirth. This list is not exhaustive and I welcome you to add any others in the comments below.
During a Miscarriage…
You have the right to another ultrasound to confirm beyond any doubt that your baby has passed.
You have the right to request a copy of the picture.
You have the right to a funeral for your baby.
You have the right to bury your baby.
If the baby’s body passes in the hospital or the remains removed via a D&C, you have the right to your baby’s remains. Be aware that in some states there may be laws governing how his or her body is released. (Funny how in some states this same “blob of tissue” in some laws is now considered human remains and cannot be released without a funeral director’s oversight.)
You have the right to ask to be tested for progesterone levels and an immediate prescription for supplements if there is a chance it could save your baby.
You have the right to know all the short term and long term risks of a D&C procedure. For some women a D&C may be the smartest option however women deserve to know that it has the risk of causing infertility or compromising a future pregnancy, weakening the cervix resulting in a future premature birth, or complicating a future birth because of scar tissue.
You have the right to refuse a vaginal exam. If baby is still alive, it can increase the risk of a membrane rupture and preterm labor, compromising the life of the baby. They also carry the risk of infection to the mother.
You have the right to have the father, a doula, and/or other support person present during any medical exams or treatment.
You have the right to hold your baby’s body and not be rushed.
You have the right to choose some sort of pain relief.
You have the right to take personal time from work.
You have the right to say no.
You have the right to choose to do nothing.
You have the right to opt to deliver the baby’s body at home.
You have the right to ask questions.
You have the right to trust your instincts.
You have the right to not have any concerns dismissed.
You have the right to be treated with respect and dignity and at any point you have the right to change providers or ask for a new staff member.
You have the right to name your baby, grieve your baby, and talk (or not) about your baby.
Especially when a mother and father are grieving, they deserve to be treated with compassion, evidence-based care, and have their voices heard and respected. Maybe, slowly, as more and more people share their stories and stand up for better care, we can make a difference, not stopping until every mother and baby receive the care they deserve.
Please feel free to comment with your thoughts on or additions to the list below.