(CNN) — Ashley Martinez has four children and is pregnant with the daughter she has wanted for years.
Last month, she posted a video online imploring doctors to prioritize her life, not the life of her unborn baby, if complications arise during labor and it comes down to that choice.
Martinez, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, is due to give birth in May and is one of several pregnant people who recently posted videos of their “will” on TikTok.
Martinez had an emergency C-section during her last pregnancy after her umbilical cord came off before her baby, a rare but dangerous condition known as umbilical cord prolapse that can deprive the baby of vital blood flow and oxygen.
Martinez described her last birth as terrifying. Eight months after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to abortion, said she worries what would happen if she were to face similar challenges again.
Since the June ruling, several US states have criminalized abortions, raising fears that doctors would prioritize the life of the fetus during a medical emergency.
Martinez lost her mother at a young age to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and the thought of her children going through a similar tragedy terrifies her.
“Having to go to another delivery where they are going to do a C-section, it scares me,” said the 29-year-old woman. “My fourth pregnancy was my only C-section. I’ve always thought about not being here 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 decision eight months ago. Abortion bans have led to legal chaos as advocates take the fight to court.
Still, several obstetricians and gynecologists told CNN that a difficult decision between saving the life of a mother and a baby during childbirth, like the one described in the TikTok videos, is highly unlikely.
TikTok’s “testament” trend unleashes strong emotions
This trend on TikTok has sparked a flurry of videos of duels between pregnant women and others. Some have posted videos telling doctors in such situations to prioritize their unborn babies first and criticizing those who expressed a different opinion.
Martinez admits that his mother, who died at 25, probably would have chosen to save her son first if she could.
“My mother, she had no choice, you know,” Martinez said. “The message I want to send is basically that no one is right or wrong in this situation. In both situations, it is a difficult decision to choose your children over your unborn baby.”
In Texas, where Martinez lives, abortions are prohibited at all stages of pregnancy, unless there is a life-threatening medical emergency.
Dr. Franziska Haydanek, an OB/GYN in Rochester, N.Y., who shares medical advice on TikTok, said she has noticed a lot of “will” videos in recent months.
In most of the videos, a woman appears next to a written message that reads something like: “If there are complications during labor, save me before the baby.” Some people, including Martinez, referenced their children in their decision and even featured them in the video.
One was posted by Tuscany Gunter, 22, a woman whose baby is due in April. Abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy is illegal in her home state of North Carolina, and Ella Gunter told CNN that she recorded her message in solidarity with others who said they would choose themselves first. .
“I wanted to make it known where I stand and to stand with other women who are being criticized online for saying they would rather be saved than their baby,” said Gunter, who lives in Fayetteville.
“As a mother of three young children, I can’t just dump the emotional trauma of losing their mother as a child on them and expect them to deal with it. While I would be overwhelmed to lose a baby, I also need to think about my other living children… And I know that the baby that passed would be safe without having to experience any pain or sadness.”
Another woman, Leslie Tovar of Portland, Oregon, said that although her state has no legal restrictions on abortion, she posted her video because she feared doctors would prioritize saving her unborn child to avoid legal ramifications in the post-Roe v. Wade.
“I have two other children at home who need mom. I can’t bear the thought of my two little boys, ages 6 and 4, without their mom,” she said.
The three women said that they had had these conversations with their partners, who agreed that they should be saved first.
Of her husband, Tovar said: “Her exact words were: ‘We could always have another baby later in life, but we will never replace the mother of my children, I couldn’t do this without you.'”
Doctors don’t choose who to save during labor, experts say
It’s true that complications occasionally arise during a pregnancy that lead doctors to recommend delivery to save the mother’s life, medical experts said.
If this is done before the fetus is viable — less than 24 weeks — the chances of the baby surviving are low, said Dr. Elizabeth Langen, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at Von Voigtlander Hospital for Women at the University of Michigan.
The reversal of Roe v. Wade made terminating such pregnancies more complicated, Langen and Haydanek say.
In cases involving a baby that is not viable, it could mean that even when survival is unlikely and the mother’s health is at risk, the priority will be saving the baby for fear of legal ramifications, Langen said.
But both doctors say that these scenarios do not occur during the birth of a viable baby. In that case, Roe v. Wade is “less involved,” Haydanek said.
“We do everything we can to save both (the mother and the baby),” he said. “I can’t think of a time when the medical team has had to make a decision about who to save in a viable labor patient. It’s just not a real scenario in modern medicine, just one we’re seeing on TV.”
Hospitals have enough resources — OB and neonatal intensive care unit equipment, for example — to meet the needs of both mother and baby, Haydanek and Langen said.
“Usually we do everything we can to take care of both the mother and the baby. And very rarely is there a circumstance where we will do something to harm the mother to benefit the baby,” Langen added.
“If mom’s health is deteriorating, ultimately she won’t be able to support the well-being of the baby,” Langen said. “And in general, what we encourage people to do is really support the health of the mother, because that’s what’s best for the mother and the baby.”
Both doctors said it’s important for patients to talk to their health care providers about their concerns and share their “will” wishes with their loved ones in case there are complications during labor that require couples to make medical decisions. .
However, those decisions will not involve doctors asking their partner whose life should come first, they said.
“Before you fight with your partner about who to choose to save, know that there is no situation where we ask you that,” said Haydanek, who called the TikTok trend “horribly anxiety-inducing.”
She said it has come up so many times in the past few months that she made her own TikTok video to reassure expectant parents.
“Please don’t feel like you have to make this decision,” he says in the video. “I know firsthand how much anxiety there can be in pregnancy… but it’s not a situation you’re going to find yourself in.”