Many people falsely assume that women don’t
care about their modesty during childbirth because they are
in too much pain, but that is simply not true. There are many
women who feel that their modesty during childbirth is extremely
important. Some women and husbands don’t want a male ob/gyn
or any other male medical professional to be present for the
birth of their baby. All too often families have their wishes
for modesty violated as they gave birth. The birth of your child
should be a joyful time and it is tragic how violations of modesty
have made birth experiences traumatic. Even female ob/gyns can
be insensitive. Some female doctors have ignored women's wishes
for privacy and allow medical students to be present for all
parts of birth even when asked otherwise.
Home (or birthing center) births with a midwife
attending is an excellent choice for healthy women with low
risk pregnancies. Giving birth is a natural function, not an
acute illness. You are often treated like a sick patient at
the hospital, while home birth is much more natural. You are
free to eat, drink, and walk around. You choose who is there
with you – family, friends, or neighbors. There are no
externally-imposed visiting hours in your home, before, during,
or after the birth. Women's wishes for modesty in hospital settings
are disregarded routinely. Unnecessary medical interventions
are common. The list is huge, but a few examples are: too many
pelvic examinations, episiotomies and unnecessary C-sections.
Medical students strive to do as many pelvic exams as they can
for their requirements and many women are taken off guard because
they have medical students coming into their room uninvited
doing these invasive exams and other procedures without asking.
Midwives do fewer pelvic exams and always ask first. With respect
for you as a laboring woman, you will reduce your chance of
having these unnecessary interventions.
If you choose an out-of-hospital birth, look
for an appropriate back-up plan, preferably with an all female
ob/gyn practice to deliver your baby. Always be prepared
for complications that could happen that would require you to
be transported to the hospital from a birthing center or your
home so it is very crucial that you prepare a back up plan ahead
of time. Make it clear to your midwife that you don't
want a male gynecologist. Many midwives even do breast examinations,
pap smears, gynecological examinations, and even some procedures
for women who are not pregnant.
For a planned hospital birth, (or unplanned
as in the case of a transport from home or birth center), if
a birthing mother wishes for an all female team and maintain
that her husband is the only man present, she will need to choose
an all-female ob/gyn practice that doesn't rotate with other
practices of male doctors. Keep in mind that all doctors in
a practice rotate. There are many wonderful female ob/gyns in
mixed practices, but you usually cannot be guaranteed a female
ob/gyn in a mixed practice. If you use a practice that has two
female doctors and two male doctors, you have a 50% chance of
having a male doctor deliver your baby unless you have a scheduled
C-Section with one of the female doctors.
Discuss with your ob/gyn your desires for an
all female medical team for the birth of your baby. You should
also visit the hospital and meet the nurses especially the nursing
supervisor to let them know your desires. Remember that the
team may consist of the female ob/gyn doctor, nurses, anesthesiologist
and/or nurse anesthetists, and surgical scrub technician. If
you need an epidural, you will need an anesthesiologist. It's
best if your team consists of all females, a female anesthesiologist
or nurse anesthetist. Many hospitals employ at least a few nurse
anesthetists. Nurse anesthetists are often able to administer
anesthesia without an anesthesiologist. If it isn't possible,
speak to the doctor and nurses and request that they keep your
private parts covered while the anesthesiologist or anesthetist
is present to protect your dignity and modesty. If you must
have a Cesarean Section, you will be required to have a catheter
inserted. You should ask that the male anesthesiologist or anesthetist
stay out of the room until all of the prepping for surgery including
insertion of the urinary catheter has been done.
One of the goals of Medical Patient Modesty
is to help women succeed in having a respectful, all female
team and be more assured of having modesty protected. We hope
to educate medical professionals, including female gynecologists,
about the importance of patient modesty and how they can protect
a women’s dignity and make a hospital birth more joyful.
A number of hospitals in the United States, especially rural
areas, have mostly male ob/gyns and few or no female ob/gyns.
We consider this is a very serious problem. Many women don’t
want a male gynecologist to deliver their baby and feel violated
by most of them. Far too many hospitals cannot assure families
that their desires for modesty will be met. We want to contact
those hospitals and set up dialogue about this issue. All hospitals
should offer this choice for women, to be able to birth with
a woman. There are a number of wonderful all female ob/gyn practices
in the United States that work hard to accommodate patients’
wishes for an all female team. Unfortunately, it is hard to
find an all female ob/gyn practice in small towns so women who
reside in those areas have limited choices unless they are willing
to drive to a bigger city. Before 1990, there were not many
all female ob/gyn practices so women's choices were very limited.
About 80-90% of current ob/gyn residents are female so there
will be an increase of hospitals that can guarantee a woman
a female OB/GYN for the birth of her baby in the years to come.
Important Tips For Pregnant Women Concerned
About Modesty During Childbirth:
1.) Choose an all female ob/gyn practice that
doesn't rotate with other practices that have male doctors.
2.) Visit the hospital that the practice delivers
at and ask to speak to the nursing supervisor or the manager
for the Labor & Delivery unit. Discuss your wishes about
who you want to be present and how the nurses can protect your
modesty in case a male anesthesiologist or pediatrician is required
to be there for some parts of the birth. Make sure you indicate
if you don't wish for even female medical students to be there.
Some women who want an all female team are open to female medical
students observing them giving birth.
3.) Request that the amount of vaginal exams
be kept to a minimum. Vaginal exams cannot tell you exactly
how close you are to giving birth. They can increase the risks
of infection even when done carefully and with sterile gloves.
4.) Speak up immediately if you feel your wishes
are not being honored.
5.) Create a birth plan. Make sure that you
include who you want to have present. If you don't want medical
students or male medical professionals to be present, indicate
that on your birth plan. Make sure you come up with a plan in
case the unexpected happens. One web site that offers a good
example of a birth plan is: BirthPlan.com.
6.) Consider hiring a doula to provide support
during your labor. She is an advocate who can help you to speak
up for your wishes about modesty if you are birthing in the
Some Important Links:
Not Disturb: The Importance of Privacy in Labor
Decision Making, Informed Consent or Refusal
The Myth of a Vaginal Exam