Have You Been Put Off Making A Birth Plan?

Bumps, Births and Babies

I really cringe when I hear talk of making a birth plans come up in mummy circles. Not because someone is talking about their birth plan in preparation for their baby’s arrival, but because of the stock responses I’ve heard so many times I’ve lost count. Things like,

“Oh I’m not bothering to do a birth plan because birth never goes to plan anyway.”

“I trust my ob/gyn and I’ll just go along with whatever they suggest. They know how to deliver babies better than me.”

“You can’t plan a birth.”

“What’s the point in making a birth plan? You’ll only be disappointed when it doesn’t work out.”

“I’ll probably end up with a c-section anyway, that’s just what happens.”

“If the dr says he needs to give me an episiotomy to get my baby out safely, then I’ll just have to deal with it.”

“I’ll just go with the flow and see what happens. I’m not one for planning stuff.”

The list goes on. And it makes my heart hurt.

I’m not saying there isn’t some logic in some of these responses, or at least well-meant intentions. Of course you want to have trust in your ob/gyn and hope that they know what they’re doing. Of course, you would do anything to ensure your baby arrives safe and healthy.

But that’s not what a birth plan is for.

And before we go any further, a slight readjustment of wording and you might see things in a different light.

What if we called it your birth preferences instead of a birth plan?

Doesn’t seem quite as final now, does it?

making a birth plan

A birth preferences document offers a degree of flexibility and sets out what the mother (and partner) would prefer to happen – but in the knowledge that birth is unpredictable, complicated and very often takes a completely different course to what we expect will happen.

A birth preferences document, if done well, should:

Set out your preferences for every stage of labour when making a birth plan

Do you want to stay home during the early stage, or have a walk, a bath etc.? Do you want to be at the hospital at the first sign of a twinge because you know the drive is over an hour?

What about the actual birth – who do you want in the room with you?

Would you like any music playing or your favourite snack to keep your energy levels up?

This also gives you the opportunity to discuss with your care providers – in some facilities there are options to have your own music playing, even in the surgical room if you have a c-section!

But this also gives you the chance to check any ‘rules’ the hospital might have about eating and drinking during labour as some have very strict policies. It’s better to know this sooner rather than later, as it might even make you consider an alternative facility if your wishes can’t be met.

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    Make sure that everyone in the birthing team are on the same page

    Your birth partner, doula, midwife, doctor, and anyone else involved should know who you would prefer to receive the baby, which position(s) you would like to give birth in, whether the baby’s gender will be announced by midwife/dr/mum, delayed cord clamping, first feed etc. etc.

    Again, this also lets you discuss options with your care provider. In some facilities only the medical team can ‘catch’ the baby due to insurance reasons, whereas in other birth centres there can be much more flexibility if the situation allows. Do you know what your options are?

    Other things like how quickly the baby needs to be weighed and checked after delivery, whether you want them to have a bath immediately, or whether they will have all / any their vaccinations on the first day – all of these are things that you CAN have a discussion with your care provider about.

    If you have strong preferences about any of these areas (and it’s absolutely ok if you do!) then it needs to be discussed up front. Some hospitals have very strict policies about weighing and washing babies immediately, even though there is often very little or no advantage to the baby or the mum. An hour of skin on skin contact can be much more beneficial (and enjoyable) than having your perfectly healthy baby whisked away by strangers for unnecessary procedures.

    But, the bottom line is – ASK and DISCUSS with your care provider. It’s better to know where you stand as early as possible.

    making a birth plan

    Include all kinds of details that might be needed for your baby’s delivery

    This includes things like medical insurance card, who is responsible for packing ID, food, etc, the name and number of your doctor and the hospital, any allergy information and anything else that you don’t want to be hunting around for on your baby’s birthday!

    This is also a good opportunity to discuss with your birth partner how you will handle communicating with your family and friends. Believe it or not, this can be quite a controversial topic amongst many couples. The mum might not want to let anyone know she is even in labour because she has already had so many ‘is the baby here yet?‘ text messages. Whereas the dad is just so excited that things have started he might want to message everyone he knows immediately!

    Just have the discussion between yourselves and try to agree on the best outcome for everyone. But remember that as the mum, your desires and needs should be a top priority.

    It might not feel right that your husband is in the hospital corridor letting his friends know of every contraction, when you just need him by your side.

    Or you might find that your husband expected his mum and sister could come to the hospital to be with you while you’re giving birth, but that’s the last thing you want (and again, that’s totally ok!).

    Again, be honest and discuss clearly what your preferences are.

    How making a birth plan Enables the birthing mother to focus on the actual business of giving birth

    Ideally she shouldn’t be bothered by hospital staff asking for things like insurance details and whether she plans to breastfeed – she should be left to be in her birthing space and have the time to focus on bringing her baby into the world in a way that feels right for her.

    making a birth plan

    Create an honest and open communication channel

    Those around you – including your partner, and birthing team need to know your expectations about each step of your delivery and what your preferences are. Until you have these discussions, you might find that both you and your partner have very different expectations and beliefs – this isn’t the kind of thing you want to be discussing in the delivery room – things like breastfeeding, circumcision, delayed cord clamping, if baby needs to go to NICU who should go with them, if you need a c-section etc etc.

    This might seem like a lot of work – giving birth IS a lot of work! Especially if you want to have the best possible experience for you and baby.

    Something my doula said to me during my first pregnancy was that giving birth could be seen like running a marathon. Would you ever even consider attempting a marathon if you’ve never run before, without some serious preparation? Things like knowing the route, which path to take, which shoes to wear, how to build up your running stamina. If you approach giving birth in the same way – i.e. preparing what you need to in the months before your baby comes, it can only be a good thing. Nothing can absolutely guarantee anything in birth, but why not give you and your baby the best possible preparation you can?

    So I really hope that instead of being put off making a birth plan, you feel encouraged to start a discussion about your birth preferences. Because it matters to you and to your baby to put yourself in the best possible position for a positive experience.

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