Have you thought of writing a birth plan? Some of you may be thinking, ‘Pssh. Ya, I wrote that when I was 8 weeks pregnant.’ And some of you may be asking yourselves, ‘What’s a birth plan?’
A birth plan is a document that describes what a woman wants and envisions for her birth. It is not a legal document, nor a wish sent to her fairy godmother, nor a safety-net that prevents unexpected problems or circumstances.
But it IS an excellent thing to ponder and write up. In fact, it could make an enormous difference in your birth. Here are four reasons why you need a birth plan.
1. A birth plan is an excellent way to figure out what you want.
There’s something about writing down what you envision that helps solidify what you want. People do this all the time with list-making, journaling, note-taking, etc. Writing has a way of organizing our thoughts and, consequently, our lives. It’s no different for birth. If you don’t start writing down what you want (and don’t want) for your birth, then you’ll have no concrete ideas to pass on to your husband or birth team when they are trying to support you in labor.
Plus, as you are writing down what you’re envisioning in your birth, you start to ask questions. And asking questions is such a good thing! This opens up opportunity for education and information. Knowledge is power, friends. A woman who is knowledgeable about labor and birth is also likely unafraid of labor and birth. (Ever hear of the fear-tension-pain cycle? Birth Boot Camp encourages calm, confident, and coping to take the fear out of birth.) So open up those unexplored ideas and figure out what’s best for you and your baby!
2. A birth plan is an excellent way to discuss your desired birth with your provider.
When I was pregnant, here’s how my appointments with my provider usually went. “Everything going ok?” he/she would ask. “Yup. No problems, ” I’d say. “Ok, we’ll see you next time!” And out the door they went. Until I had a birth plan. Then I was saying things like, “Ya, I’m doing great. But I wanted to ask you about delayed cord clamping,” or “Actually, will you tell me when you think an episiotomy is necessary or when you usually do them?” These questions helped me see my providers more clearly: whether they were willing to spend time with me to alleviate my fears and provide education, what their typical practice was with a laboring woman, and what role they expected me to play in my labor and birth.
I always tell my students that a medical professional who doesn’t mind questions from their patient is a good medical professional. If your OB, midwife, RN, etc. shies away from questions, you may want to ask yourself, ‘Why? Why does this question bother them? Or why are they bothered by me asking questions in general?’
3. A birth plan is an excellent way to keep your birth team on the same page.
A lot is going on in birth, and it can be difficult for everyone to know your desires, especially if they have never worked with you before. A midwife (who doesn’t rotate call) or a doula will likely be very much aware of what you envision for your birth, and your hubby better know what you want! But, particularly in hospital births, there may be someone present who you have never met before. And they have no clue what you would like during your labor and birth.
But if you have a one-page, easy-to-read birth plan that makes it easy… voila! Now your nurse who had never seen you before understands that you would prefer to not be asked about your pain level, you like the room dark and noise at a minimum, and you want to breastfeed immediately. How cool is that? And she is going to be thrilled that you made her job of caring for you easy – with your one-page, easy-to-read birth plan. (See how I’m highlighting the fact that it’s short and sweet? Nurses, who are busy and may not have peed since they started their shift, appreciate short and sweet!)
(As a side note, it may be a good idea to have multiple copies of your birth plan if you are birthing in a hospital. With shift changes, you want to make sure you always have a copy available for oncoming staff!)
4. A birth plan is an excellent way to hope and prepare for the best.
I have seen lots of memes lately indicating that birth plans “jinx” the women who write them. Some even make fun of the women who write them – characterizing them as foolish, uneducated, or uber-crunchy.
None of that is true, and it makes me very sad.
We don’t make fun of people who plan for retirement or to go to college, or who have a bucket list. These people all intend to follow-through with their preparations and plans. They intend to be living comfortably in their seventies, or become an elementary-school teacher, or visit Germany and take a train through the Black Forest. These people are hopeful, excited, and preparing for these goals. They are putting away money each month, spending hours at the library each day, or learning German in the car while on their commute. But if one of them suddenly loses their job, or has to leave college to care for a sick parent, or can’t travel because of international security or illness, do we call them foolish? No!
So why do we do that to pregnant women?
An expecting couple who are educating themselves by taking a birth class, eating well and exercising to keep the pregnancy low-risk, and preparing for a natural birth with relaxation is doing just that – preparing. Because they have a plan in mind. They have a goal of a natural birth. Their goal is not foolish, or silly, or uneducated. They have worked hard for this. Occasionally, anatomy or emotions or circumstance will dictate that this woman not have the natural birth she planned for. Is that ok? Of course! Does that mean she was silly to hope for this to begin with? Of course not! It means that plans change.
What are you waiting for? Get started on your birth plan today!
Overall, birth plans are an excellent way for women, their partners, and their birth team to work toward the woman’s envisioned birth. So sit down today, write down what your envisioned birth looks like, discuss it with your partner, and make a one-page, easy-to-read document from it. Take it to your provider, discuss it with them, and make changes in your care team or birth plan as necessary.