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We all know and believe that very human being has the right to bodily autonomy.

To be far no one can touch you without your consent. No one gets to decide what happens to your body but you. Even when you’re unwell, a medical professional can’t touch you, medicate you, order tests or scans, have their hands on you or inside you etc. until they have (1) explained to you what they’re recommending and why; (2) gone through the details of the procedure including how it is done, and any potential risks, benefits, and side effects that may occur; and (3) asked if they may proceed AND you have given your clear consent.

Often friends and family tell of us instances when a medical professional has given advice that doesn’t quite sit right and we tell them to get a second opinion, to take some time and look at all the alternative options before making a decision, that medical professionals are not all equal, they are not gods, but human, and that they can make mistakes. Or we hear of medical professionals that have violated someone’s bodily autonomy and we’re angry and horrified (and rightly so!) and tell them it’s not acceptable, and encourage them to make an official complaint and never see that person again. That ultimately, you always have the final say. But, bizarrely, when you become pregnant, all that seems to go out the window…There’s so much ingrained social conditioning and belief that when you become pregnant you must just accept that your body is no longer yours. That they know best. That you need to just submit and hand your body over to a stranger (or even multiple of them) and they will poke and prod you, give you unending tests and scans, and have their hands on you and inside you whenever they deem it necessary. That you “leave your dignity at the door”.

That ultimately, they will have the final say.This belief is unacceptable. It’s infuriating. It’s degrading. It’s demeaning. It needs to stop. You still have the right to bodily autonomy. Your body is still yours, and yours alone. You are still more than capable of taking in information. You are still allowed to seek second opinions. You are still able to look at all the alternative options before making a decision. You still get to decide if/when something will be done to you and/or your baby. Ultimately, you still have the final say.But (there’s always a but) all of this is easier said than done. A lifetime of social conditioning to be “good girls”, to not make a fuss, to not rock the boat, to just let things go and give people the benefit of the doubt, to believe that others only have our best interests at heart etc makes it harder for us to advocate for ourselves and “just say no”. Know your rights, aim to birth in a space where ultimately you won’t be backed into a corner and need to say no, because those present already know your rights, know your wants and needs, and will respect them and hold that space for you. The reality is that this is actually quite hard to do in a hospital or with an OB, not impossible, but it’s genuinely rare.*Edited to add that if you feel there are people in your life that need to hear this, I’ve posted this publicly on my personal profile and you’re free to share it on yours so they can get the message.

By Bec Collier

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