Is It Illegal to Avoid the Doctor or Prenatal Care While Pregnant?

Is It Illegal to Avoid the Doctor or Prenatal Care While Pregnant?

There are quite a few reasons why someone might avoid the doctor while pregnant. Those without medical insurance already face a mountain of medical bills from the birth alone, let alone the high cost of prenatal care.

Then there are those that prefer a natural approach instead of western medicine. Some also believe that their faith will see them through pregnancy, and rely on prayer instead of prenatal care.

These are all wonderful options, but a lack of prenatal care can result in complications due to medical conditions, and you’ll miss out on a few important screenings that new mothers will need.

There is also the law to consider. In most places in the United States, it’s not illegal, but it’s important to research the laws in your own state. 

Prenatal Care Options

There is a wealth of prenatal care options available to mothers that can go hand in hand with their beliefs. Holistic doctors that prefer complementary medicine are available, as are doctors that solely practice western medicine.

Regardless of the type of care that you would like to receive, there are more options now than ever before. 

Physician

Some people opt-out of choosing an obstetrician for their prenatal care. Instead, they choose to stick with their primary care provider.

A primary care provider may be well-educated in prenatal services and may be willing to provide those. It’s important to discuss this with your primary care provider, as well as whether they are able to deliver the baby.

doctor

Obstetrician

Most women that opt for a modern medicine approach prefer to see an obstetrician for their prenatal care.

An obstetrician has a wealth of experience in delivering babies because they specialize in pregnancy, childbirth, and everything else to do with a woman’s reproductive system. Most obstetricians are also gynecologists. 

Midwife

A midwife specializes in helping you during childbirth, pregnancy, and providing aftercare. The primary difference between an obstetrician and a midwife is their level of training and the type of training.

A midwife will receive training and education that’s more similar to a nurse whereas an obstetrician will receive training that is more in line with a physician.

Most people that would like home birth, water birth, or all-natural birth select a midwife. Midwives can provide holistic prenatal care that offers low intervention and minimal use of technology.

This allows those that do not prefer western medicine to have proper screenings but avoid unnecessary medical intervention. 

While these are the most common medical professionals that you’ll see for prenatal care, there are always other options. Remember to choose what you feel is best for you and your baby. 

Common Barriers To Receiving Prenatal Care

If you haven’t received prenatal care during your pregnancy, and it’s not due to your faith or aversion to medicine, it could be because of certain barriers.

Most women without insurance don’t receive prenatal care for an extending period of time. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I did not see a doctor until I was five months pregnant due to a lack of insurance.

There are quite a few barriers that prevent prenatal care in women that would love to see a doctor, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have options. 

No Insurance

If this is the case, which it often is, it’s not too late. There are a lot of options available for those that are pregnant but can’t afford the medical bills.

Income-Based Insurance

You can apply for government insurance that is income-based through your local family services department. In order to qualify for this insurance, certain eligibility requirements have to be met, such as a specific income level.

gynecologist

Community Health Centers

Community health centers, such as Planned Parenthood, offer free or low-cost prenatal care. Most communities also have their own community health centers that can provide health care at a low cost or on a sliding fee scale based on your income.

Not only are community health centers a wonderful place to receive prenatal care, they usually can provide a wealth of resources for expectant mothers, such as places that can provide diapers, parenting classes, and other things. 

Dislike Of Prenatal Care Or Not Preferred

While we all have things that we do not like, it’s important to not suck it up and do something you aren’t comfortable with when it comes to your body or your baby.

Personally, I’ve had several doctors. While it’s probably not the best practice, it has resulted in me having a team that I am comfortable with.

I recently switched my daughter’s pediatrician to one that aligns perfectly with my own beliefs regarding medicine as well. If you’re not happy or comfortable with something regarding your prenatal care, speak up, or find a new doctor when possible.

If you’re not comfortable speaking up, take a trusted family member with you to speak on your behalf. 

Other Barriers

Other barriers that moms might face include language barriers, transportation, and more that might not be documented.

If you’re experiencing any of these barriers, it’s important to reach out to those around you, doctors, health clinics, or your local job and family services office to determine if services are available to help you get the prenatal care that you need. 

Risk Of No Prenatal Care During Pregnancy

It’s important to address and overcome barriers of not having prenatal care during pregnancy. Even if you choose to have prenatal care with low intervention, it’s still beneficial to both you and your baby.

Risks of no prenatal care range from nothing happening to a miscarriage. 

Neonatal Death

Most babies that are born to women that didn’t have prenatal care during their pregnancy are more likely to die.

Some of these babies are born prematurely, but babies that didn’t have prenatal care are more likely to have a fatal outcome than premature babies born to mothers that did have prenatal care, according to this publication

Low Birth Weight

Babies that are born to mothers without proper prenatal care are more likely to have a lower birth weight than mothers that did have prenatal care.

Low birth weight can lead to having to have a special formula for increased calorie intake, special diet, and health problems, such as getting sick easier.

Because babies often lose weight after being born, it can be concerning because they might not have enough weight to afford to lose one or two pounds.

pregnant woman looking at womb

Lack Of Information Regarding Possible Medical Conditions Your Baby Might Have

When a mother and/or father could have a specific medical condition, doctors do what is called genetic testing. Some doctors do this regardless to ensure that the baby is healthy.

Then, if the baby is likely to have a specific condition, doctors and parents alike know to watch for symptoms after the little one is born. 

For example, genetic testing revealed that my grandson was at high risk for developing cystic fibrosis. Because of this, my daughter knew what to watch out for before he was even born.

Thankfully, he doesn’t have cystic fibrosis, but she was prepared in case he did. Imagine having this thrown at you soon after your little one is born? That’s what happens without genetic testing. 

Other medical conditions that can be found in pregnancy include, but aren’t limited to: 

  • Down syndrome
  • Tay-Sachs disease
  • Occasionally cleft palate
  • Abnormal limb growth
  • Spina bifida
  • Heart defects
  • Kidney problems
  • Problems with the placenta

Undiagnosed Or Treated Pregnancy Complications

This is one of the biggest risks of no prenatal care. When you see a doctor on a regular basis, they can ensure that your little one is growing at a healthy rate, and make sure that you are healthy.

Common pregnancy complications that require a medical diagnosis include, but are not limited to: 

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Anemia
  • Infections
  • Breech position
  • Vitamin deficiencies

Most of these are easily treatable, but some can be fatal if misdiagnosed. Pre-eclampsia requires medical treatment or it will result in a miscarriage because it is caused by a problem with the placenta.

It will require constant monitoring and may require an emergency c-section. Those that develop anxiety and depression during pregnancy are more likely to develop postpartum depression as well.

When a doctor knows this and keeps an eye on the mother, they can make sure that both the mom and baby are safe.

Anemia can cause a pregnant mom to feel extremely tired and fatigued, but most pregnant women brush this off as part of being pregnant. When you see a doctor, both you and your baby are safer. 

Can You Have A Healthy Baby Without Prenatal Care?

While there are risk factors associated with you not receiving prenatal care, it’s possible to have a healthy baby without prenatal care. However, it’s a roll of the dice.

We advise that you don’t take any chances when it comes to the health of your baby or yourself during this blessed time in your life.

woman with gynecologist

Is It Illegal To Not Go To The Doctor While Pregnant?

Technically, it isn’t usually illegal not to go to the doctor while pregnant, but there are some serious risks involved in making this choice.

Unless having a home birth all by yourself, you’ll have to go to the hospital at some point. This can result in being referred for a mental health evaluation, etc. if the doctors are concerned about the lack of care during your pregnancy.

It can also result in an investigation via Children’s Services to ensure that the baby will be taken care of. 

If there’s something wrong with the child when it’s born that could have been otherwise prevented by proper medical care while pregnant, it can result in anything from a stern talk from a doctor to another CPS investigation. 

Here’s the catch. The sooner you head to the doctor, the less you have to deal with it. You more than likely will not be charged with any type of neglect because you are in the middle of solving the issue. 

If you’re not heading to the doctor because of religious beliefs or because you don’t agree with prenatal care, it’s important to understand that it’s a roll of the dice. 

Please keep in mind that this is my personal opinion based on my own research. State and local laws do vary from state to state, so it is important to do your own research. If possible, consult an attorney (most offer free consultations). 

5 Months Pregnant No Doctor

If you’re in five months pregnant no doctor situation, try not to stress. It’s not too late to find a doctor! Scroll back up to the section regarding barriers to address why you might not have a doctor.

pregnant woman

Then, address those and book your appointment. Most doctors will ask why you didn’t seek prenatal care sooner, but if you did not have medical insurance, have knowledge of free clinics, etc. they won’t be too hard on you.

They’ll more than likely be happy that you chose to find prenatal care versus showing up at the hospital in labor. 

Risks of not having prenatal care far outweigh any benefits that might go hand in hand with not heading to an obstetrician or midwife.

This is why it’s important to seek prenatal care sooner instead of later. If you’re at a loss of what to do, contact a local obstetrician, planned parenting center, United Way, or other local resource and ask them.

Most of these organizations will not turn you away without at least giving you some helpful advice. 

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