How to Say No To Your Care Provider

During any health journey, but especially when you’re pregnant, you need to be an active participant in and a vocal advocate for your care. You choose the care provider most aligned with your own health care philosophy (to the greatest extent possible within the health care system we have) and ideally, of course, there should be a level of trust and open communication there. But you may on occasion be sent to another office for a particular test, see a back-up provider, or need to go to the ER for some reason. Sometimes in these situations, where emotions and worry may already run high, it can be hard to remember you CAN say no.

I know this from experience. It’s intimidating to be sent to the ER for an ultrasound because of bleeding in pregnancy. The doctor there told me he was going to do a pelvic exam. Um, no. I was there because I had had some bleeding, I just wanted an ultrasound to make sure baby was OK, I did not want anything in my vagina, thankyouverymuch. I was honestly surprised this was something I’d even have to stand my ground about. I then agreed to a blood draw but then the nurse taped the needle down and when I asked her what she was doing, she said they wanted to keep access to my veins in case they wanted to use contrast in the ultrasound. Um, NO! We will cross that bridge if and when we come to it, I did not agree to this hep lock, I will not consent to contrast, I was not told of this plan in advance and I do not consent. I want it removed immediately, thank you. Good grief. It shouldn’t be so hard, right? And I had the advantage of having the experience of birthing three babies and a miscarriage plus training as a childbirth educator and doula! Every week I taught people the importance of communicating with their providers and yet I still had to be very proactive in getting information relevant to my care and I had to repeatedly say NO.

If you feel you aren’t being heard or you feel you need to arm yourself (or your partner) with a few different ways to say “no” politely but firmly, here are a few suggestions:

  • I’m not comfortable with that at this point.
  • No, thank you, I will not be doing that today.
  • I would prefer another option.
  • Thank you, but I’m going to decline that at this time.
  • I understand, but I won’t be choosing that just yet.
  • Can you tell me what the Benefits / Risks / Alternatives are?
  • We’ll certainly consider that if baby has not arrived by _____.
  • Thank you for the information. I’ll discuss it with my husband / care provider / spiritual advisor.
  • I don’t think we’ll use that option today but we’ll keep it in mind.
  • I’d like to do some research on that, and any alternatives, before I consent.
  • You’ve given us something to think about. Thank you.
  • That doesn’t work for me.
  • That’s really not my thing. I prefer something else.
  • I don’t feel that’s the right choice for me or my baby right now, so I think we will (continue to) do _____ instead.
  • No, thank you.
  • No.
  • I do not consent.

Plain and simple, those last four words are the most powerful ones you have. Hopefully you won’t need to use them because you have a provider who will discuss your options thoroughly with you and answer your questions and work with you and the decision you feel is best for you. But we all know there are cases when that may not happen….


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