My Wife Has Worried Herself Sick About Being Forced To Have A C-Section With No Anaesthetic. Can Someone Provide Reassurance?

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mintypastrychef | 04:52 Wed 23rd Feb 2022 | Health & Fitness
16 Answers
I don’t know if I should post this in “law” , but for now I’ll post here because maybe there are some health professionals here.

I am worried for my pregnant wife. She has read some horror stories of women being cut open for c sections with no pain relief. After doing some research I found that indeed women are often abused and ignored and treated disrespectfully in labour and I did find a disturbing number of stories about c sections with no anaesthetic, including ones where the anaesthesiologist refuses to help or ignores the woman. There are plenty of studies that show that general anaesthesia is appropriate in emergencies and in case of fetal distress and yet many stories of women being denied that and forced to go through terrible terrible pain.

My wife has understandably scared herself by these stories. It is bad, so much she has terrible anxiety, nightmares and panic attacks. She can’t eat properly because she is always so anxious it causes her nausea.she can’t focus on anything but her fear. She is generally afraid of pain so this has really terrified her. She is healthy physically and very fit, exercises regularly. We have plans for a waterbirth at a birthing center with a private midwife, but she is worried in case there is An emergency and she is transferred to a hospital.

It’s not late to terminate the pregnancy now and I told her to consider it if she is that scared. It’s her choice. her being healthy and well is more important to me.

But I also want to provide her with some reassurance if she doesn’t want to terminate. I told her she was my priority and I wouldn’t let it happen to her and even if there was a risk to the baby or an emergency and even if she was in a very vulnerable position I would stand up for her and demand she be put under for surgery, I also said I wouldn’t let them strap her down until we were sure anaesthetic was working. I also told her we would address the issue with our private midwife and I have discussed it with my sister who will replace me in case I get sick with covid and can’t be there.

As far as I know legally doctors are not police or judges, and are not allowed to touch a patient, pregnant or not, without their consent unless they be incompetent.

Anyone here with legal knowledge/experience in obstetrics could give evidence based advice? If I and my wife say no, I don’t consent to surgery unless given adequate anaesthetic, is that enough? If the anaesthesiologist refuses to amend the situation, can we ask for a different doctor?

I would like to ask to please refrain from comments about the pain being unimportant and that trauma is forgotten once a woman sees her baby etc and other rubbish of that nature. While it may be true for some women, my wife is obviously not ok with this and neither am I. Motherhood is not a panacea for trauma and many women live with horrible mental health problems and even commit suicide because society expects them to be ok with any level of pain and harm “as long as the baby is ok.”

I am happy to have a child and come to love them/see them grow. but don’t know this child, as of now there is no connection except biology which I don’t think is important in itself. I know and love my wife and am not ok with her being treated like a disposable, dispensable vessel for babies.

I would appreciate compassionate answers. Thank you.


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Your wife is best served discussing her fears with her midwife. They will put together a birthing plan nearer to term. Honestly my epidural was the best thing ever. I can't recommend it highly enough. I'd advise to say off the Pethidine (sp?) - it made me sick as a dog.
08:18 Wed 23rd Feb 2022
Where on earth are you getting the information from. There is no way a woman would be forced to undergo major abdominal surgery without pain relief in the civilised world.

I elected to have an epidural as my chosen method of pain relief and it served me very well. When it transpired that I needed an emergency C section I was warned that I would be put under completely if the epidural wasn't found to have sufficiently anaesthetised me in order to proceed with C section. Luckily the epidural had done its job splendidly and I was anaesthetised from the waist down.

Your wife has a right to chose her own birthing plan.
Are you in the uk?
Question Author
Hello LadyCG thank you for taking the time to answer. I am happy that you had a good experience with your anaesthesia. Everybody deserves to be treated humanely. I had the same reaction when I saw the stories my wife read, that surely this wouldn’t happen in a civilized country.

Unfortunately it does happen. There was a quite public lawsuit in California from a woman who was just cut open because the anaesthetist wasn’t answering the phone/busy (an embarrassment of a hospital I’m sure you would agree). There are stories of people getting c sections with inadequate anaesthetic on birth trauma organisations’ websites (UK, Australia and New Zealand orgs all have such stories) and on social media. Recently, a few cases were caused by understaffed hospitals due to covid. I understand these are still rare cases and such shocking situations usually get more attention on the internet so it may seem more common than it is, but even one case is too many in a civilized industrialised country. It is inhumane and should never happen. It is not the zombie apocalypse.

Cases of this happening are also listed in actual scientific studies done on obstetric violence. My wife speaks a number of foreign languages and has found an actual study on why some anaesthesiologists deny women general anaesthetic in case of failed epidurals in France (also a civilized country). My wife js a very intelligent woman with a PhD . She is not going to freak out for no good reason.

So what I need is actionable legal and practical advice so I can protect my wife from this kind of situation and reassure her so she can relax, it hurts to see her so stressed and scared.
Question Author
Boto - yes.
Your wife is best served discussing her fears with her midwife. They will put together a birthing plan nearer to term.

Honestly my epidural was the best thing ever. I can't recommend it highly enough. I'd advise to say off the Pethidine (sp?) - it made me sick as a dog.
Unfortunately your wife being intelligent and educated has found what is probably a few cases that have appeared in multiple research papers. Because of patient confidentiality it's not always possible to determine if new individual events are reported or collated from elsewhere . This can give the impression of a far higher incidence.

She needs to talk through her fears with her team, and maybe they will consider a plan for an elective c section under general anaesthetic if she decides that she really can't cope with the thought of trying to deliver naturally risking a conversion to a section although even that can't be 100% guaranteed as circumstances can change. She should be reassured by knowing that her body has evolved to carry a baby and give birth and emergencies are rare and even then the staff are trained to manage them and in the UK there should always be an anaesthetist on call should the need arise.

I worked for many years on a labour ward and never was a c=section done without anaesthesia of some form. General anaesthesia is used as little as possible as it also affects the baby. Epidural with extra sedation is most common. There are many horror stories but how many of them are completely true. Where are you. Who is giving your wife ante natal care doctor or midwife. Where is she giving birth, hospital or birthing centre. You need to stop feeding her fears. She needs to speak to a specialist, maybe find a doula. Labour is hard work and there will always be some pain. An "emergency" can occur during any delivery but the health of mother and child is always put first. Your wife really needs to enjoy being pregnant, make a birthing plan and talk to someone about her fears
// Unfortunately it does happen.//
no this doesnt happen - in the UK
I think this is a troll

In the UK - women go to ante-natal classes and get a bit by the anaesthetist. They will get an epidural if they ask for one. Everyonne gets antenatal care

If they need a c-section, then they will be given an appropriate anaesthetic by a trained anaesthetist. If they are asleep they will be woken up and then spend a little time in recovery

I know this because I did it for 35 years - England

No I dont want to discuss what might have happened to a women in the Fortean Times in California and or Alaska.
-- answer removed --
Question Author
I do not understand why my question is met with such rudeness and gaslighting from you Peter.

People like you are the problem. People that are in the medical field and refuse to acknowledge that abuses of power and terrible treatment of women happen. Obstetric violence is recognized by the UN as a threat and as a human rights violation. In some countries such as Venezuela, obstetric violence has become criminalised. There are ngos in multiple countries where people share the stories of what happened to them. It is very real no matter how much you wish to deny it.

Myself and my wife both recognize that the cases are much less frequent than it may appear - in fact I mention this in my initial question.

Regarding disputing the veracity of claims - do you think a person doesn’t know if they are in pain? Do you think that women have any benefit from making such stories up ?

If anything it is likely this happens more frequently than we think because there is a stigma around birth trauma.
Because it is hard to find an attorney to represent a case like this and because many cannot even afford to sue. There is no benefit,monetary or social, to a woman claiming she was cut with no anaesthesia.

My wife will certainly bring it up with her team. But gaslighting her and making silly jokes about her concerns is not helpful to anyone.

Where do you and wife stay ?
I can only endorse the excellent posts above by people who have knowledge in the field of Midwifery (except of course by the posts of PP)

In any respected Obstetric unit . wherever it may be in the world, staffed by competent Anaesthetists, no woman will have a painful operative procedure . There are reported cases of patients who feel pain during surgery in the past and these have been dealt with in a sympathetic and scientific way until at this moment such incidents are rare.
Medicine and Surgery are not exact sciences, but safety and relief of pain are fundamental.

Whether or not you can convince your wife is quite another matter, but I sincerely hope that it doesn't come to a termination of pregnancy.

Bothe regional and general anaesthesia will be considered and offered at the appropriate time should it be assured.
If that happened in the UK the mother would sue the hospital - and rightly so.
Question Author
Anneasquith - we are in London.
why don't you discuss it with your midwife? or GP
Minty. You and especially your wife will have to educate yourselves about obstetrics available in London. I will not give you my experience of operative delivery in London. ( I wouldn’t bore you with it, and fail to see any benefit it would give you. ) Get educated or try another country, . Good luck .

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