Stumbled on this gem of an article today and thought I’d share it here.
While all providers are bound to respect the right to physical autonomy as well as expressed and informed consent, not all act in accordance to their professed ethic. To complicate matters, hospital protocols mandating the practice of frequent and routine vaginal exams unwittingly enable the ethic of consent to be sidelined. After all, do we really want women saying no?
I’ve also seen care providers strip membranes without explanation, nevermind consent. Once fingers are in the vagina, some providers do what they will to “hurry” labor along. No need to tell the mother beforehand that sweeping the membranes may hurt, a lot. No need to scare her. No need to offer her the option to refuse or stop the sweep mid-point should it hurt too much. Forget about explaining the benefits or contraindications of the procedure.
After describing the birth of her first child that included the rupture of membranes without consent, Elizabeth from Norfolk, VA states: “The whole situation was really traumatizing and I processed it very much like a sexual assault.”
Most importantly, when it comes to routine vaginal exams and procedures during labor, no one involved in birth work should forget that this is a woman’s vagina. This is her most intimate physical space. She has the right, each and every time, to agree to a vaginal exam or procedure – or refuse it.
And what if she refuses?
How then would care providers meet the hospital protocol for documenting routine vaginal exams? Is receiving true and informed consent such a burden? Are vaginal exams even necessary?
There’s a link to part 2 at the bottom of the original article.