Consent vs Coercion!!

Would you know the difference?


For health care professionals to write informed consent given, THEY ACTUALLY HAVE TO SUPPORT AND PROVIDE THE INFORMATION FOR YOU TO DO THIS! In too many cases this doesn’t actually happen - why?

Sometimes consent and coercion are impossible to tell apart especially when you are in a healthcare setting. There is often a power imbalance as we view health professionals as the people who know what is best and surely they know more than you? Right?


Yes, they may have X amount of years of practice, various degrees etc but they also have to follow hospital policy! Plus unfortunately knowingly or unknowingly HCPs feel like they have the advantage because of all the above. They are also concerned that you will regret your decisions and end up blaming them (this is a legitimate concern sometimes, but this concern is for HCP's to pick apart, not you). They can be pretty good at ‘guiding’ you to the right decision. Many truly feel that their expertise will guide you to the right decision for you and your baby, even if it means being coercive about it. But you know yourself, your body and your baby best you have one huge thing that no healthcare provider has and that is your intuition! If it feels like bullshit, sounds like bullshit and you want to run a mile - guess what? it probably is bullshit!!

So what are some of the red flags?

  • Lying - you are not allowed to, you can’t, we have to…..

  • Only presenting you with the worst-case scenario

  • It's best for the baby…..umm what about you?

  • Excessive questioning and wearing you down

  • Making care conditional - you can have your birth partner present after we have done a vaginal examination

  • Emotive language - making you afraid - if you don’t do this you will harm your baby

  • Bargaining with you - if you come in we will have the birth pool ready and you can have your twinkly lights.

  • Body language - standing over you, with hands-on-hips or arms folded

  • Gaslighting - oh no we don’t do that here

  • We just want what is best for you

  • Relentless bullying even after you have made your choice - endless phonecalls (we really need to discuss the risks with you again)

  • Assault - giving you a sweep (with no prior consent) during a vaginal examination and or not stopping when asked

All of the above are red flags. The health care professional caring for you should be openly honest with you and they can have a frank conversation without scaring the shit out of you! They should present you with the facts and the figures. If they are talking about risk ask them for the figures - what is the 1: x chance of this happening? It should never be in my professional opinion, this once happened to me...

So what can you do?

Ultimately you hold all of the power in your hands and I know that this can feel daunting but I urge you to ask questions. Use the brain acronym to help you make a decision and access individualised care. What is right for you may not be right for the next person. We all perceive risk differently!

Where possible have somebody accompany you to appointments. When this is not possible (thanks covid) don’t ever feel pressured to make a decision there and then on the spot (unless it's life and death). Leave the room, go for a walk, ring/ talk to your birth partner and call them back with a decision.

Obviously, if you have done an antenatal and hypnobirthing course with me I provide ongoing support, especially for the above scenario. I can help you understand the conversation, look at the evidence and help you work out what is right for YOU and YOUR baby.

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