Conscious Agreement and Informed Consent

This post is part 2 of my CAPPA Re-Cap series.

During their general sessions at the recent CAPPA conference, Laurel Wilson and Tracy Wilson Peters both advocated a process called “Conscious Agreement” in working with pregnant couples. The basic steps are as follows:

  • Separate yourself from external influences
  • Get quiet and pause
  • Listen in (including mentally checking in with your body and how it feels)
  • Choose and commit

I especially appreciated Tracy’s observations that this process of conscious agreement goes beyond informed consent and, as birth educators, we need to make sure to “marry the two every time,” rather than focusing solely on informed consent. Why? Because there are several things wrong with informed consent as it is practiced today:

  • It fails to address the importance of conscious decision-making
  • Informed consent is made with the mind or intellect (and ignores feeling and intuition)


  • You can “consent” all day long and not feel good about it.

The last point is the crux of the issue to me. When I cover informed consent in my non-birth classes, I always emphasize that the corollary is informed refusal. If “consent” as it is practiced by your hospital means saying yes and there is no option of saying no, it does not qualify as consent! A choice without the option to refuse is NOT a choice at all (see The Illusion of Choice). My students have almost never heard of the notion of “informed refusal” and seem shocked to even consider the possibility! Since I’ve had a special interest in this topic for a long time, I really connected with the idea of conscious agreement, especially when paired, as Tracy suggests, with informed consent information.

Another handy tip offered by Tracy during her presentation was to use HALT before entering into any agreement (or confrontation). Check in to see if you are…

  • H–Hungry
  • A–Angry
  • L–Lonely
  • T–Tired

(Also, consider whether the person you are trying to communicate with is any of these things. This is especially good to remember with children.) And, she shared this little poster:

This little sign may have been made especially for me. I have a terrible problem with getting crabby and snappish and plain old hangry (hungry + angry)—and then having to apologize. You’d think I’d have it figured out by now! (though, I do think nursing exacerbates it)

5 thoughts on “Conscious Agreement and Informed Consent

  1. Pingback: CAPPA Re-Cap | Talk Birth

  2. Pingback: Can I really expect to have a great birth? (updated edition) | Talk Birth

  3. Pingback: Information ≠ Knowledge | Talk Birth

  4. Pingback: Bits of the (Birth) Net | Talk Birth

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