Expert Advice

Can I Refuse to Have Medical Residents at My Birth?

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When you give birth in the hospital, you may find either the labor or delivery room—or both—has a stream of assorted hospital staff coming in to check you, baby, and your private parts. Many are probably medical residents gaining invaluable training on their way to becoming full-fledged doctors. But some women ask if they can refuse to have residents at their births.

Medical residents are doctors that have completed their MD schooling and are now applying that knowledge to gain experience. In a teaching hospital, supervised residents do a lot of the heavy lifting of medical care. This is how your skilled doctor first learned, too.

Though they’re still gaining experience, medical residents are usually young. That means they could have a modern perspective that more seasoned doctors may not.

For you, though, residents attending your birth can mean a revolving door of strangers walking in the door just as you’re using all your focus to breathe through another contraction. Or it could mean someone new examining you afterward who may not be perfect at their job yet.

A degree of lost privacy is part of what’s expected in a hospital, and some women roll with it without missing a breath. But for some the arrival of yet another curious face throws off the concentration needed to manage contractions, which can increase pain or even stymie labor’s progress. 

Yes, you can refuse to be treated or examined by a medical resident. You can even ask that they not watch as a doctor or nurse examines you. If you want this, it’s important that staff know – be sure to talk about it during your prenatal appointments when you plan your birth.

This is a good option to discuss at the hospital tour you make during your birth planning process.

Some hospitals will work with you more easily than others, depending on how much they rely on medical residents. Including a statement in your final birth plan (the one on your hospital bag checklist) about limiting or excluding medical residents in your room will remind staff of this birth preference.

Can I Refuse to Have Medical Residents at My Birth? - Best Ever Baby - besteverbaby - birth plan - Content by SP Turgon, Certified Labor Doula and Certified Ghostwriter

Medical residents may have modern perspectives that seasoned doctors do not

Which hospital to choose

If you don’t want medical residents handling your care then you need to plan your birth in a community or private hospital.

But if your only choice is to go to the one hospital in your area and that is a teaching hospital, supervised medical residents will be doing most aspects of your care—although only experienced ones will do the more complicated procedures. The understanding at teaching hospitals is that you agree to lend your body to the education of future health care practitioners.

Maybe there’s a way to work with the staff so both you and the medical residents win. If there’s someone new all the time, ask the head nurse if only one does your care. If there’s a small pack of residents following the doctor around, ask if they can wait outside while you’re examined.

If that’s not possible, ask if you can get a little advance notice before they come into the room. Or that they’re silent when they enter when you’re dealing with contractions.

Your partner or doula can do this for you while you handle contractions. In fact, part of their job is to run interference for you, to the best of their ability.

Just remember that there may be a tradeoff if you refuse medical residents’ care. Though you’ll have more privacy and expertise from your assigned RN, that person may not be able to see you very often.


To learn more about breastfeeding tips, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.

This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.

Published: December 26, 2017 | By SP Turgon, Certified Labor Doula | Reviewed by: The Best Ever Baby Expert Team | Last reviewed: December, 2017 

Sabriga TurgonCan I Refuse to Have Medical Residents at My Birth?

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