What you need to know about your Patient Rights before Labor & Delivery.
I referenced my super long labor in a previous post, and promised to dedicate another post to it, well I am making good on my promise. Because my labor did not go exactly as planned, I wanted to use my experience to help other mothers (and their support people) prepare for similar experiences. While this post will share my labor story, I will also outline in detail your patient rights when in the hospital. Also, I have developed a printable PDF to bring to the hospital to help subscribers self-advocate and make the best of their labor story!
First thing you need to know is that Mama Bear and Baby Bear ended up completely happy and healthy. Second thing you need to know , Mama and Papa Bear are planners. Like big time planners. Like wake up on a Saturday morning and plan our the weekend hour by hour planners…perhaps we are a bit extreme. So, when it came to preparing for our delivery of baby bear, we had it all planned out.
Our super well thought out completely realistic plan: We hired a doula, and were convinced I would go into labor like two weeks early. I of course would be home when I went into labor, and would stay home with Papa Bear, Boogie Bear, and our super supportive doula until the last second possible. (Eating all my super healthy labor friendly snacks, listening to music, and playing board games) When I arrived at the hospital, my favorite OBGYN would OF COURSE happen to be on call that day. My delivery would be all natural, and sans medical intervention (an epidural was completely out of the question) in a reasonable amount of time (you know, like 10 hours tops). Then I would change into my super cute nursing dress/robe and start bonding with Baby Bear, who we were sure was going to be a boy……Great plan right? PSHHH. We are idiots; hopeful idiots, but idiots nonetheless.
How it really played out: Baby bear was two weeks late, I had to be induced (I couldn’t eat my stupid healthy snacks I had been saving up for a damn month). My doula was unavailable and my back up doula was busy with her own kids. The doctor with the stupid dumb head that I hated was on call, and after a day of deep breathing guided meditation and hip circles, I had to give in to pain management. Which eventually graduating to the dreaded epidural. Ultimately they deemed me as a “failed induction” and I had to be taken in for a c-section because baby bear’s heart rate was dropping slightly and I had been in labor for like 36 hours or something ridiculous. I lived in a hospital gown for the first 4 days of being in the hospital, and only changed into real people clothes once for about two hours. Oh, and Baby Bear is most definitely a girl.
What you need to know about me specifically: I have YEARS of medical trauma. I have had (including my c-section) TEN surgeries in my 29 years. I have had my legs sawed in half, hinges removed from my hips, tubes put in my ears (twice), five nasal surgeries, all four wisdom teeth removed, and of course my C. I have woken up in three of those surgeries, I have had to re-learn how to walk (twice), been in a wheel chair for months (twice). I have been given too many doses of anesthesia, overdosed on narcotics (at the hand of an over zealous nurse), aspirated into my lungs causing pneumonia, and lost more than half of my body’s blood, resulting in multiple blood and platelets transfusions. Perhaps you can understand why I so adamantly did not want medical intervention when delivering Baby Bear.
What you need to know about trauma: When someone has experienced trauma, whether it be medical, physical, emotional, or sexual, Medical and Mental Health professionals should be treading lightly as to not upset or re-traumatize these individuals. As professionals, it is usually required that they attend various training’s in trauma, and how to support individuals who are survivors. When someone is faced with an event that may trigger a negative memory/experience, they can experience severe adverse reactions. For some people it may trigger flash backs, panic attacks, disassociation, or other negative reactions; because of this it is important for providers to be gentle, understanding and be sure to take into consideration the patient’s rights and wishes. This is called trauma informed care.
What you need to know about my doctor: He was not trauma informed. If he was, he decided not to remember those training’s with me. As I mentioned previously, I already didn’t like this doctor prior to my delivery. His bed side manner was awful. When I saw him in the office and asked questions, he made me feel unimportant and his responses were needlessly blunt. He performed procedures without warning or consent, became aggressive when questioned about his medical suggestions, yelled at my nurses, and attempted to separate me from Papa Bear. All of the above are gold standard on what NOT to do with a trauma survivor.
What you need to know about my Nursing staff: They were AH-MAY-ZING. They were trauma informed, supportive, knew my rights, and also seemed to have a dislike for my stupid headed doctor. God, his head made me so angry. Luckily I never had to look at it during delivery. That’s right, I fired Dumb Head Doctor. After consulting with my nurses and explaining to them how uncomfortable he made me, they educated me on my rights. They supported Papa Bear and I in requesting to speak with the Chief of Surgery. They informed us of alternative doctors, and urged me to practice my right to refuse care with Dr. Stupid Head. After some tears, lots of breathing (I about 14 hours in and mid-contraction during this whole firing thing), and Papa Bear putting his foot down and kicking Head of Stupid, MD. out of the room, we were offered a new doctor. Dr. Wonderful.
SIDE BAR: I have to give Dr. Wonderful and his residents a shout out, (then back to the bigger issue at hand) because they all stayed HOURS after their already 24-hour long shifts to stay with us and deliver baby bear to help reduce my anxiety. Many of them even came to visit days after my surgery. We are so grateful for these amazing medical professionals; this was truly my first surgery in my life that was a pleasant experience. They answered our questions, eased my anxiety, circumvented the things that I was fearful of, held my hand, made jokes, and made us feel safe and supported. Thank you.
I would like to use my experience to inform my readers about what your rights are as a patient in a hospital. This doesn’t just apply to labor and delivery, but any time you are receiving medical care in a hospital. The information I have outlined below is all gathered from the American Hospital Association’s website and adapted to my own language. I encourage you to contact the hospital you will be delivering/having surgery at prior to your admit date and request a copy of their patient bill of rights a head of time so you have a copy for your reference. This post is a plea (and instructions) for you to advocate for yourself as a patient so that you can have the best experience possible.
What you need to know about your rights as a patient:
You have the right to ask questions!
Whenever a medical procedure is suggested to you (barring a severe medical emergency), it is your right to have the procedure, the possible side effects, financial responsibility, and recovery time explained to you thoroughly! Ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable and safe with going through with (or not) the procedure. This is where things started to go south with Dr. Dumb Dome; he wasn’t a fan of my informed questioning. TIP: I always recommend asking your medical provider if there are any less invasive alternatives before jumping into bed with any procedure. Sometimes doctors are procedure happy and forget to mention that there are other simpler interventions.
Right to refuse!
You have the right to refuse treatment. Whatever your reason may be, you have the right to say NO! (This includes comfort level, religious, or spiritual beliefs) We exercised my right to refuse medical care from Dr. Cabesa Stupido, because we did not feel safe or comfortable with him providing my care, which was the best decision we could have made.
You medical information is only to be shared between you and your medical professional treatment team. Legally, they are bound to keep your information and identity private unless your or someone else’s life is in danger. You may choose to sign the necessary documentation for releasing your medical information to another person if you desire (this includes other medical professionals outside of the hospital, friends, or family members).
Questions about your bill!
It is your right to inquire how your treatment will be paid for. It is the hospital’s responsibility to make sure your procedure is correctly submitted to your insurance, and support you with financial counseling to set up payment arrangements if you are unable to pay comfortably. It is also required that the hospital be able to provide you with a detailed bill and answer any questions related to it.
Know your doctors!
You have the right to know the identity of all your medical providers. This means you have the right to know their names, and if they are students, or the chief of surgery, and everything in-between.
Follow up care
The hospital is required to provide you with the necessary information you need for aftercare. This means that if you should be following any necessary precautions, diets, or follow up appointments the hospital must clearly inform you of this. They should also provide you with a list providers who accept your insurance for follow up care.
Now that you know what your rights are as a patient, it is equally as important to know your responsibilities! If you do not provide the necessary information, your medical team cannot give the appropriate care.
What you need to know about your responsibilities as a patient:
Your medical Information
You must provide your medical team with all necessary information that may impact your medical care. Be prepared to provide a list of your medications, past surgeries, and family medical history.
It is your responsibility to express your desires and wishes. If you would like to have a natural birth, it is important for your entire medical team to know this. If you have religious beliefs that impact your treatment, make sure your providers know this ahead of time.
Also, it is your responsibility for your team to know who is to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself. This is a scary thing to think about, but make sure your team knows this. More importantly, make sure your supports know your wishes and how you would like to be treated if you are unable to speak for yourself. It might also be a good idea to have a release of information on file with the hospital for your support people, just so that there is no confusion on what your medical team can discuss with them.
While the hospital has to follow their rules and regulations in relation to your care, please take responsibility into your own hands as well. Be a self advocate. Be prepared to stand up for yourself and make your wishes known! Because I feel so passionately about this, I have created a FREE PRINTABLE for Memoirs of a Mama Bear subscribers to help be prepared to advocate for yourself when in a hospital. I will be sending an email to my current subscribers with a password to the Subscriber Exclusives Page soon. If you subscribe today, you will receive the password in your welcome email!