Once unheard of, it is now routine to hear “this is a copy of my birth plan” as a woman is admitted to L&D. There is a lot of info (and opinions) out there about birth plans. This post is intended as a primer to get you pointed in the right direction. Often explained as a document outlining how you wish your childbirth experience to go, the birth plan is much more:
The birth plan is way to prepare for your birth: properly prepared, it will require discussion with your care providers and likely personal research and reading. It will allow you to seriously consider how you feel about medications, interventions, procedures, and yes, emergency situations should they arise. It will give you an opportunity to talk with your partner about his/her hopes and fears and to communicate about what is important to you both.
The birth plan is a communication tool: hopefully it will clearly and succinctly spell out your wishes and expectations not just for your childbirth experience, but for the safety of your baby and yourself. It can function as a reminder to your care provider of things you may have talked about weeks before. The birth plan can have the power to speak for you despite staff shift changes, whether or not you have an advocate there for you (partner, family, friend or doula) and whether or not you are in a condition to speak for yourself.
The birth plan is not a frivolous wish list: it is a simple one page statement outlining what you are ok with and what you are not ok with. Birth plan detractors seem to feel that a birth plan reflects a selfish mom’s over-attachment to her own experience. However, we all have the right to informed consent when it comes to medical procedures and your birth plan should focus on this aspect rather than getting caught up in small details like whether or not you want to have your ipod in the room.
The birth plan unfortunately is not a legal document: there will be hospitals and staff members and births where the birth plan does not get followed. Make sure to go over it with your care provider ahead of time. Is your care provider comfortable with the plan? Find out if the points you’ve made are even possible at the place where you are delivering – does hospital protocol even allow everything you’ve outlined? Bring multiple copies with you to give out. Be prepared for shift changes. Remember that circumstances might arise that you didn’t consider ahead of time and some parts of the plan might not get adhered to.
The birth plan is not a road map: no one can really plan out their birth. Birth is almost always surprising in some way. It is hard not to get caught up in your vision of the ideal birth but birth is unpredictable. Remember to account for things you hope will not happen. The birth plan should not become a way to cling to control. Carefully consider the points on your birth plan and thoughtfully write it out. And then, hand it to your partner and let go of the plan so you can embrace the unknowable aspect of birth.
Here are a couple of good online birth plans to check out. You can fill them out online to print and take with you, or just use them as a sample or starting point to write your own.
And finally, a couple of great books to get you started on your research:
Creating Your Birth Plan – The Definitive Guide to a Safe & Empowering Birth
Marsden Wagner, M.D., M.S.
Creating Your Birth Plan helps expectant mothers make informed decisions about the assistance they’ll require for childbirth. Designed to encourage collaboration between pregnant women and their caregivers, it includes information on:
Marsden Wagner, M.D., M.S, is an independent consultant on maternity care and the author/editor of eight books. He is a former director of Women’s and Children’s Health for the World Health Organization.
The Thinking Women’s Guide to a Better Birth
The newest procedures. The latest information. The complete rundown on modern pregnancy and childbirth…for women who want the facts.
Every intelligent, informed woman is used to gathering the most complete information she can get before making a decision. But when it comes to one of the most important decisions in her life—how she will give birth—it can be tough to get the complete picture, even from an obstetrician. Surprisingly, much of the latest research goes against common medical opinion. Certified Lamaze instructor and activist Henci Goer brings women the carefully researched facts they’ll want to have. Based on the latest medical studies and literature, The Thinking Woman’s Guide To A Better Birth offers clear, concise information on tests, procedures and treatments—and gives advice about: