Childbirth is often referred to as a miracle. It’s supposed to be the happiest moment in a parent’s life. For some, however, childbirth is an absolute nightmare. A recent social media campaign that is fighting to bring women’s experience to light is working to expose the abuse and unnecessary procedures doctors are imposing on pregnant women.
If you scroll down the #BreakTheSilence hashtag on Facebook or Twitter, you will see an endless stream of photos of women, and even a few traumatized men, holding up hand-written signs that describe their child birthing experience. All of these photos contain shocking and disturbing stories from women across the nation about their abusive doctors.
Obstetric Violence is More Common Than You Think
Obstetric violence is a relatively new concept in the U.S. that is only now revealing a very outdated treatment of women in the medical community. It is essentially described as the dehumanization of pregnant women, which may also include forced mediation during labor, verbal and emotional abuse or taking away the ability for women to choose and consent to any procedures performed.
Yahoo! Parenting published an article on a New York mother who suffered from PTSD and anxiety due to her second childbirth. The doctor refused to wait two hours through the labor, instead opting to bully both parents into unnecessary and quicker procedures. The doctor condescended to the mother, lectured her and invasively checked her without consent. When these methods failed, the doctor barged into the room with a piece of paper for the mother to sign that stated the mother acknowledged she did not care if her baby’s brain was damaged or if the baby was braindead. The doctor went on to imply the mother’s first child was mentally challenged (which, she isn’t). The final time the doctor entered the room, she handed the phone to the mother’s husband so he would not intervene when she leaned over to the mother and told her if she refused to sign a consent form for a cesarean section (C-section), the doctor would call down people who would make the mother sign. During the procedure, the doctor snidely remarked on how “opinionated” the mother was.
Ultimately, the mother filed a lawsuit and consulted experts who explained there was absolutely no reason the mother needed a C-section, and the doctor should have continued with a natural birth. The expert continued, saying the alleged brain damage the doctor was threatening the mother with is rare and only occurs in 1 in 12,000 newborns.
Soon after in California, a video went viral of a very nervous woman who also experienced a traumatic birth and unnecessary procedure. Due to her anxiety, the mother requested the nurses keep her informed and be gentle with her to keep her calm. Instead, she was given an epidural, a sedative, strapped into a bed and her legs were put in stirrups. After almost an hour of pushing, the on-call doctor strolled in and decided it was time for an episiotomy (a widely dissuaded procedure that includes cutting the perineum). Without even discussing the procedure, the doctor informed the mother he was going to perform the procedure then and there, which was audible in the video. He reached for the scissors, while the mother explicitly said, “no, don’t cut me.” The doctor made 12 incisions for a small baby of only 6lbs. The outraged internet community contributed to a crowd fundraiser that allowed the mother to seek an attorney to file a claim against the doctor for emotional trauma, physical pain and the likelihood of permanent damage.
Doctors in Any Field Often Perform Unnecessary Procedures
Ultimately these two doctors, along with thousands of doctors across the U.S. in a wide spectrum of practices, are lying and bullying men and women into having unnecessary procedures performed. In some cases, patients specifically refuse to consent to procedures, or are simply not told about them until after the fact.
In our health care system, doctors and hospitals receive revenue for every procedure, which motivates them to put more people under the knife without regard to consequence. These unnecessary procedures can have negative, long-lasting emotional and physical effects on patients.
What Can I Do to Protect Myself Against Doctors Who Bully Patients into Procedures?
If you feel you are being bullied by a doctor or told inaccurate information to pressure you into a procedure, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Bring a recorder with you to any doctor visits. Most are built into cell phones, so it does not have to be conspicuous. In the event your doctor bullies you or performs a procedure without your consent, you have the event recorded as proof of unethical behavior. You can also bring a friend or family member with you to exams or consultations. If the doctor refuses to allow them in the consult room or seems agitated with their presence, it may be best to choose another doctor. If you have any doubts at all about whether the procedure being recommended to you by your doctor seems a little extreme, contact another doctor outside of that practice for a second opinion.
“Love doesn’t harm a neighbor. Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10