“Birth is so unpredictable, there’s no point in writing a birth plan! It’ll just get tossed out anyway.” “Don’t bother writing a birth plan, the hospital staff will just laugh at it.” “Why do you need a plan? Just rely on your care providers to tell you what to do when you get to the hospital.” Have you heard any of these? I certainly have! Now, there is a small grain of truth here–birth is unpredictable! Each birth has an element of surprise to it, whether it’s how long/short labor is, how our bodies and/or babies respond to labor, when we give birth, or how labor progresses. So yes, writing a strict plan, “I will give birth in exactly this timeframe, this manner” is not a productive use of time. Flexibility is key! BUT! That doesn’t mean that there is no benefit to writing a birth plan.
To Educate Yourself
The main reason I encourage all my clients to write a birth plan is that it requires you to know your options. You cannot express preferences when you do not know or understand what the options are! Creating a birth plan helps you organize information and your ideas surrounding birth and also highlights areas that you need more information on. So how do you educate yourself? Research everything! Read books, articles, blogs, any information you can. Attend a good childbirth education class that is independent from the hospital, as these are often more in depth than hospital based classes. As you learn more, consider: are you okay with some medical practices and uncertain with others? What about routine procedures such as IV fluids, cervical exams, fetal monitoring? Go ahead and write down what your ideal birth scenario looks like, based on your research. Now, write down your Plans B and C–what preferences do you have in your labor needs to be induced or augmented or if you require a Cesarian section? Educate yourself on all the options here as well. Knowing your options for the what-ifs now will help you make informed choices if those situations arise.
To Build Your Relationship with Your Care Provider
A great relationship with your doctor or midwife is built on mutual trust and respect. Use your birth plan as a tool to begin the conversation with your care provider about what their normal practice looks like and what you wish for your birth. Is your provider supportive of your wishes? Are you wishes similar to how they normally practice or are they uncomfortable with your desires? Do they encourage you or do they dismiss your plan as impractical? Trusting and feeling confident in your care provider is essential to a positive birth. You want to feel confident in their care, skill, and desire to support you. If your provider is not on board with your wishes, now is the time to evaluate. Do you feel comfortable taking the chance that they will not support your choices in labor or do you prefer to seek a care provider more in line with your choices? Also use this time to ask about how other providers in the practice normally work. Will they be willing to support your choices if your provider is not on call when you give birth?
Use your plan as a tool when you contact hospitals and birth centers and take tours. Ask what their normal routines surrounding birth look like and what their birth statistics are. If laboring in a birthing tub is very important to you and the hospital does not have one, is that something you want to compromise on? If you want to be able to eat and drink during labor, is that in line with their policies? If it is not, do not expect that it will change just because it is on your plan. Nurses and doctors are bound by the policies of the hospitals at which they practice, regardless of whether they personally agree or not. Do you want the option of pain medication in labor? A birth center where those medications are most likely not available may not be a good choice for you. Find out the statistics for Cesareans, inductions, and interventions. If avoiding a Cesarian is very important to you and the rate of Cesarians is very high (WHO recommends 15-20%), your chances of having a Cesarian if you birth there increases greatly as well. Be willing to find a new location for your birth if the one you have chosen does not support your choices.
To Open Up Communication
When you are giving birth, you may meet many care providers for the first time, particularly nurses, if you give birth in a hospital setting. They have not met you prenatally and do not know your wishes for your birth. Having a concise (not more than one page!), respectful birth plan lets them know exactly who you are and what you prefer. Do you want an epidural as soon as active labor begins? Do you prefer not to be offered pain medication at all? Will you be accompanied by a doula? Want to labor in the shower? Having a plan helps them get a quick snapshot of your goals and will ideally help them support you in realizing those goals. A word here–be sure to use your words and speak to your nurse. Let her know what’s important to you or if there is something you need from her to support you. I have been blessed to see many wonderful, caring nurses who want to help you have the birth you want that just want to know what that is for you! If you feel that communication is not working with your nurse, do not be afraid to speak to the charge nurse. Communication and mutual respect is essential during birth!
Understand What You Can Control and What You Cannot
Your birth plan helps you set the stage and control what you can control: your own knowledge about all the options in birth, your choice of care provider and support people, and your choice of birth location. There are surprises in every birth, but you can feel confident that you have educated yourself and are fully equipped to make excellent, informed choices for yourself and your baby.
Would you like assistance planning your birth and postpartum time from a professional doula and mother of 3? I offer both local, in person planning sessions in the Nashville area and distance sessions via FaceTime or Zoom if you are not local. Contact me for more information!