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What to Expect When You're Not Expecting to Be Sued by Your Doctor

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I was one of about 67 American women who made it through the childbearing phase of my life without reading the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It’s not as if I was without the mandatory cultural indoctrination that made me feel irresponsible for recklessly taking on something as perilous as pregnancy and birth in the first place. I regularly read my copy of OMG Why Would You Ever Procreate: Your Week to Week Guide to Ways Your Fetus is Struggling to Survive Inside You.

I was able to procure a copy of the second edition of WTEWYE published in 1991 for one dollar at a thrift store last week. When faced with the tough decision between WTEWYE and five pairs of used panties, I opted to (go commando and) find out what the big deal is about the book.

Frankly, the book wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I mean, sure, it repeatedly says that cesarean section is safer than vaginal birth, equating the surgery to a tonsillectomy and stating that “the major reason for the increase in the cesarean rate is not bad medicine, but good medicine.” There is a sharply critical tone throughout at any mention of those types who might question medical authority or practices and strongly encourages women to not really worry if that procedure was unnecessary. If your doctor felt it was necessary, it probably was, so rest assured! The authors call natural birth advocates of the 70’s and 80’s “singleminded women [who] waged war on recalcitrant physicians” then ends the same paragraph with a mention of how “unmedicated birth is still considered the ideal.” I’m still skipping around the book, but I had gathered that there is a lot of good information slathered in thick, creamy medical propaganda.

And then I happened upon the following section. The reason I am posting this so late at night is because I’m afraid to go to sleep and have nightmares about it.

On page 16 of the book in the first chapter entitled “Are You Pregnant?” the authors included a prominent text box. The section, “Protecting Yourself Against Malpractice” can be found under the subheading “Making the Most of the Patient-Practitioner Partnership.” Somehow, the authors found it important to preemptively blame and mock the victims of malpractice AND indulge in a little game of Shock the Preggo into Submission within the first chapter of the book.


Protecting Yourself Against Malpractice

Recognizing that the modern obstetrical practitioner-patient relationship is a partnership, and that when there is a less than perfect outcome it isn’t always the physician who’s at fault, doctors are no longer allowing themselves to be sitting ducks while patients take malpractice pot shots at them. They’re fighting back and even in rare instances turning the tables and charging with malpractice the very same patients who are hurling malpractice charges at them. Still, though a few doctor vs. patient countersuits are actually coming to trial, you needed worry that you will have to pay your doctor a million doctors if you don’t take the vitamins he or she prescribes. What you do need to worry about, however, if you are guilty of malpractice, is that you and your baby will pay the price in possibly more devastating ways—with health and even life being the cost.

If you want to be a patient whom no one can charge with malpractice, take the following precautions:

*Tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Don’t give your practitioner a false or incomplete medical history. Make sure he or she knows about any drugs—prescription or non-, legal or illegal, medicinal or recreational, including alcohol and tobacco—that you are currently taking as well as about any past or present illnesses or operations.

*Don’t reject necessary x-rays, test, or medications unless you have an authoritative second opinion that back up your decision.

*Follow instructions carefully when undergoing a medical procedure. You can’t blame the radiologist for a blurred x-ray if you moved when you were told to stand still.

*Follow your practitioner’s recommendations as to appointment schedule, weight gain, bed rest, exercise, medication, vitamins, and so on—unless, again, you have respected medical opinion that advises you otherwise.

*Do not allow anyone who is clearly under the influence of drugs or alcohol to treat you. Doing so makes you an accomplice to his or her crimes. [Emphasis mine]

*Always alert the practitioner to an obvious adverse effect of a medication or treatment, as well as to any other worrisome symptoms that you experience in pregnancy. Also speak up if you believe your practitioner’s instructions may be incorrect.

*Never threaten or otherwise alarm a physician in a manner that could interfere with the treatment you are receiving.

*Take good care of yourself, following the Best Odds-Diet, getting adequate rest and exercise, and absolutely avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and other nonprescribed drugs and medications, once you find out you’re pregnant, or better still, once you start trying to conceive.

If you feel you can’t follow your practitioner’s instructions or go along with his or her recommended course of treatment, right or wrong, you clearly have little faith in the person you’ve chosen to care for you and your baby during your pregnancy, labor, and delivery. In such a case, all sides will be better served if you find a replacement.


And so will YOU be better served if you find a replacement for What to Expect While You’re Expecting. [Edit: Or at least the second edition]

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Reader Comments (31)

I hate that book

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi

In all fairness, this isn't in my current edition. There are many, many problems with the book, but quoting something that's nearly 20 years old and not in any current edition isn't a fair argument.

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBlue

Blue, it would be a problem if I hadn't clearly disclosed that it was from the 1991 edition. Or maybe it would be misleading if I had used the current cover for the picture.

January 4, 2010 | Registered CommenterJill

never read that book. didn't really have a desire to. a good friend sent me the pregnancy book and the baby book by dr. sears. So I read those instead. I also love love love The Pregnany Journal by A. Christine Harris PHD. It's very enlightening and encouraging in it's day to day updates on pregnancy and how baby is doing. I've pulled it out all 3 pregnancies (using the same book to write in the due date and count backwards.) It mentions breastfeeding, home births, water births, other birthing customs in other countries/tribes. And it has places to record how your feeling that day. Weight, and measurements if you want to write those down. As well as in the back an area to write down your thoughts regarding the birth. All around a pretty neat little journal. It's informative without being negative.

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermommymichael

This may be an older edition, but the illustrates perfectly the overall mindset of the book, and why a lot of us object to it. "How To Be Exactly What Your OB Expects When You're Expecting".

I mean, it's not inherently evil. I have the second-to-most-recent edition, and like anything else with me, I took what I needed from it and chucked the rest. It actually had the most information on placenta previa than any other book I owned (I had a previa up until week 34), and I realIy appreciated that. I still keep it around as a resource, because ya never know. But I still feel there are some overall philosophical differences between myself and the authors - differences that this early edition demonstrates clearly.

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDou-la-la

Argh, "the" was supposed to be "this example" in that first sentence there. Forgive me, it's an noncaffeinated Monday morning.

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDou-la-la

I guess I am #68 then... I bought this book at the start of my first pregnancy (and never opened the thing). I then proceeded to buy Dr Read's "Childbirth Without Fear"... Unfortunately, I didn't do as much research as I thought I was doing and ended up with my c/s... That being said, I finally opened it on curiousity a few months ago as I began my second pregnancy which I fully expect to conclude with a VBAC (hopefully HBAC)... and All I can say, is check out "What to Expect when you are Expected" a parody of this book, and ROFL funny.

Cheers & Happy New Year!

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I think there's finally been a backlash against that book. I didn't touch it because everyone we know, including my OB, warned us against it.

I'd heard good things about What to Expect the First Year, but so far I've been disappointed by it. There's definitely philosophical differences between me and the authors.

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

Non-reader number 63 here.

I was in a thrift store the other day and bought every copy they had of the GOOD birth and breastfeeding books. I'm always wanting to unobtrusively help pregnant women by innocently lending them non-mainstream books that will hopefully open their eyes, as a result of which all my own books are gone. Now I have cheap used copies to continue my campaign and I won't mind so much when they never find their way home.

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Dou-la-la, there is nothing evil about the book and I think it's a good idea to read lots of different types of books during pregnancy to figure out what fits. I missed this book the first time around and read the What to Expect the First Year but was far from enamored. My eyes popped out of my head when I read the section about how to be a good, compliant patient so that your doctor doesn't turn around and sue YOU for malpractice in the case of a bad outcome. Because that's what a bereaved parent needs... a countersuit because they should have known that they were being treated by someone who'd had too much to drink and that's why their baby is injured.

January 4, 2010 | Registered CommenterJill
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