Pregnant women, fearing childbirth complications, post ‘living wills’ on TikTok

Pregnant women, fearing childbirth complications, post ‘living wills’ on TikTok


Ashley Martinez has four sons and is pregnant with the girl she’s wanted for years.

Last month, she posted a video online pleading with doctors to prioritize her life, not the life of her unborn baby, if complications arise during labor and it comes down to that choice.

The San Antonio, Texas resident is due to give birth in May and is one of many pregnant women who have recently posted “living will” videos on TikTok.

Martinez had an emergency C-section during her last pregnancy after her umbilical cord came out before her baby, a rare but dangerous condition known as umbilical cord prolapse that can rob a baby of blood flow and muscle. vital oxygen.

Martinez described her last childbirth as terrifying. Eight months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending a constitutional right to abortion, said she was worried about what would happen if she faced similar challenges again.

Since the June ruling, a number of US states have criminalized abortions, raising concerns that doctors are prioritizing the life of the unborn child during a medical emergency.

Martinez lost her mother to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at a young age, and the thought of her children going through a similar tragedy terrifies her.

“Having to go to another delivery where I’m going to have a caesarean, it scares me,” the 29-year-old said. “My fourth pregnancy was my only caesarean section. I always thought about not being there for my kids just because of what I went through growing up without my mom.

More than a dozen US states have banned or severely restricted access to abortion following the Supreme Court ruling eight months ago. Abortion bans have led to legal chaos as defenders battle it out in court.

Even so, several obstetricians/gynecologists told CNN that a difficult choice between saving the life of a mother and a baby during childbirth, like the one depicted in the TikTok videos, is highly unlikely.

This trend on TikTok has sparked a wave of videos of duels between pregnant women and other people. Some posted videos telling doctors in such situations to put their unborn babies first and criticizing those who expressed a different view.

Martinez admits her mother, who died at 25, probably would have chosen to save her child first if she could.

“My mother, she had no choice, you know? says Martinez. “The message I want to send is simply that no one is right or wrong in this situation. Either way, it’s a tough decision to choose your children over your unborn baby.

In Texas, where Martinez lives, abortions are banned at all stages of pregnancy except in life-threatening medical emergencies.

Dr. Franziska Haydanek, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Rochester, New York, who shares medical advice on TikTok, said she’s noticed a lot of “living will” videos in recent months.

Protesters gather at the South Carolina State House in August 2022 as lawmakers debate a near-total ban on abortion, with no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

In most of the videos, a woman appears next to a written message saying something like, “If there are complications during delivery, save me before the baby.” Some people, including Martinez, reference their children in their decision and even show them in the video.

One was posted by Tuscany Gunter, 22, a woman whose baby is due in April. Abortion after 20 weeks pregnant is illegal in her home state of North Carolina, and Gunter told CNN she filmed her message in solidarity with others who said they would choose each other. ‘on board.

“I wanted to let people know where I am and stand up with other women who are getting hit online for saying they’d rather be saved than their babies first,” said Gunter, who lives in Fayetteville.

“As a mother of three young children, I can’t shake off the emotional trauma of the loss of their mother on them as children and expect them to pull through. While I I would be devastated to lose a baby, I also have to think of my other living children… And I know that the baby who died would be safe without ever having to feel any pain or sadness.

Another woman, Leslie Tovar of Portland, Oregon, said that even though her state had no legal restrictions on abortion, she posted her video because she feared doctors were prioritizing saving her child. unborn to avoid legal ramifications in the post-Roe vs. Wade era. .

“I have two other kids at home who need a mum. I can’t bear the thought of my two young boys aged 6 and 4 without their mum,” she said.

All three women said they had these conversations with their partners, who agreed they should be rescued first.

Of her husband, Tovar said: “His exact words were, ‘We could always have another baby later in life, but there’s never a mother replacement for my boys, I couldn’t. do this without you. “”

It is true that complications sometimes occur during pregnancy, leading doctors to recommend childbirth to save the life of the mother, medical experts have said.

If this is done before a fetus is viable – less than 24 weeks – the chances of the baby surviving are low, said Dr Elizabeth Langen, a maternal-fetal medicine doctor at Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital in England. ‘University of Michigan.

Roe’s Inversion c. Wade made terminating these pregnancies more complicated, according to Langen and Haydanek.

In cases involving a baby who is not viable, this could mean that even when the baby is unlikely to survive and the mother’s health is at risk, the priority will be to save the baby for fear of legal ramifications. , said Langen.

But the two doctors say those scenarios don’t happen when a viable baby is born. In this case, Roe v. Wade is “less involved,” Haydanek said.

“We are doing everything in our effort to save both (mother and baby),” she said. “I can’t think of a time when the medical team had to make a decision on who to save in a patient in viable labor. It’s just not a real storyline in modern medicine – just a storyline we see playing out on TV.

Hospitals have enough resources — obstetrics and neonatal intensive care teams, for example — to meet the needs of mother and baby, Haydanek and Langen said.

“We usually do our best to take care of both mother and baby. And there is very rarely a circumstance where we will do something to harm the mother in order to have the benefit of the baby,” Langen added.

“If mom’s health deteriorates, ultimately she won’t be able to support baby’s well-being,” Langen said. “And so generally what we’re encouraging people to do is really support mom’s health, because that’s in the best interest of mom and baby.”

Abortion rights protesters hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington after the court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

Both doctors said it was important for patients to talk to their healthcare providers about their medical concerns and share their ‘living will’ wishes with loved ones in case there were any complications during labor that required partners to make medical decisions.

However, those decisions won’t involve doctors asking your partner which life should come first, they said.

“Before you argue with your partner about who they choose to save, know that there is no situation where we will ask them that,” said Haydanek, who called the TikTok trend “horrifyingly anxiety-inducing.” .

She said it had come up so many times in recent months that she made her own TikTok video to reassure expectant parents.

“Please don’t feel you have to make this choice,” she says in the video. “I know firsthand how much anxiety there can be during pregnancy…but it’s just not a situation you’re going to find yourself in.”

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