Unplanned Cesarean Birth: Can the Quality of Consent Affect Birth Experiences?

Unplanned Cesarean Birth: Can the Quality of Consent Affect Birth Experiences?
Paul Burcher,Shazneen Hushmendy, Meredith Chan-Mahon, Megha Dasani, Jazmine Gabriel, Erin Crosby
AJOB Empirical Bioethics, 18 September 2020
Background: Unplanned cesarean birth is associated with high levels of patient dissatisfaction and negative birth experiences, which in turn can negatively impact birth outcomes. Previous research has demonstrated that issues of physician-patient communication, mistrust, fear of the operating room (OR), and loss of control contribute to patient dissatisfaction with unplanned cesarean birth. We hypothesized that altering the nature and structure of the informed consent prior to the surgery might improve patient satisfaction and birth experience. Specifically, we explored whether educating resident physicians in counseling skills could shift the focus of informed consent from a checklist merely informing the patient of the risks, benefits, and alternatives to a discussion that informs the physician of the patient’s concerns and fears. By approaching consent in this manner, the goal of informed consent expands beyond autonomy rights to include beneficence as well. Methods: Residents received education to discuss issues of communication, fear, mistrust, and loss of control when seeking consent for an unplanned cesarean birth. Patients were randomized to receive either additional counseling that encouraged a discussion or a standard informed consent for cesarean birth. Participants were interviewed two weeks later and scored their satisfaction using a Likert scale on the four themes: communication, mistrust, fear of OR, and loss of control. Results: Both groups had very high patient satisfaction scores; there was no statistical difference between them. Conclusions: Both groups exhibited significantly higher levels of birth satisfaction than present in prior research. Training residents to discuss these issues while seeking consent for an unplanned cesarean birth may have improved patient satisfaction for all participants in this study. This suggests that educating residents to engage patients in a dialogue during informed consent counseling is more important than a specific script.

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