In the previous post I examined some of the misconceptions about birth plans. In this post I’d like to examine the benefits of a birth plan and also talk about how to write a good one.
Benefits of a birth plan:
It means asking some tricky questions: of yourself, your support team and your care provider/s
When you sit down to start writing a birth plan you need to ask yourself some questions you may not have thought about before. Like: What does birth mean to me? What type of experience do I want? What support do I need? What risks am I comfortable with or not? It also means that you need to ask these questions of your support team and your care provider/s. Does your partner expect that you will just get an epidural? If you don’t plan to have an elective epidural this could cause problems when he finds out that you expect him to rub your back, walk around with you or support you in other ways. Same with your care provider: If you don’t want to allow an induction for being post dates then you don’t want to find out at 41 weeks that your care provider expects you to be induced at 41+3.
Your care provider and support team will have an excellent idea of how you would like to welcome your baby into the world.
I’ve had 2 births – the first I didn’t really write down a plan. The midwife I saw for the birth plan appointment told me that she doesn’t believe in plans, that I should call them birth wishes and that, because I was planning on birthing in the birth centre then I obviously wanted a certain type of birth which they provide. Fast forward 5 weeks and this midwife was my “support” during a very traumatic induction process in birth suite. I had no birth plan and she had no idea that I wanted an active birth; that I had a phobia of hospitals or that every time she suggested an epidural my panic level increased. She had no idea that I was excited about the idea of labouring and giving birth but was TERRIFIED of the hospital, interventions and possibility of surgery. She spent a lot of time pushing interventions on me and seemed to get more and more frustrated every time I shook my head and said “no way!!!” I wasn’t in a position to be having a lengthy discussion about my fears and my hopes and I had no plan to direct her to. For my second birth I wrote a kick ass birth plan. I spent a huge amount of my pregnancy researching my options and deciding what I would and wouldn’t consent to. I researched my hospital’s policies and made sure my plan included reference to them and whether I planned to follow them. I thought about what I would do in the event that I went post dates. And I also wrote down a caesarean birth plan. Then I discussed all this with my birth partner, my doula and my care providers so that they were aware, ahead of time, what my hopes and goals were for my birth. My second birth did not go according to plan. I don’t think that anything on my plan came to pass! But I knew that the reason it didn’t go according to plan wasn’t simply because no-one understood my needs. Or because someone else made decisions for me. It was simply because sometimes birth just doesn’t go according to plan. However – When we decided to go for another caesarean I was able to direct my care providers to my caesarean birth plan and this ensured they knew what I wanted. Therefore my partner never left my side, I had immediate skin to skin, my baby never left my sight. My first birth, with no birth plan resulted in far more trauma than my second.
Writing a birth plan supports informed decision making.
Regardless of whether you write out a birth plan or not you will still be required to make a variety of big decisions in regards to your pregnancy, labour, birth and post partum. Many women suggest that you “just do what the doctor / midwife says”. As I discussed in an earlier post – YOU bear the responsibility for decision making during your pregnancy and birth. Following the advice of others doesn’t take away your responsibility for the decision making. You still have to consent or not. You and your baby are the ones who bear the physical risk of the decisions that are made during your birth and every single test, procedure or intervention holds some risk. By researching and writing a birth plan you will know ahead of time what interventions may be offered to you, which ones the hospital will “insist” on and what your other options are (because there are ALWAYS options). By writing out your plan you can feel confident that you have made fully informed and considered decisions rather than making an off the cuff decision while in the throes of labour, without all the information. You can also feel confident that the decisions made have been YOUR choices, based on your own beliefs, values and health circumstances rather than decisions made by the hospital because “it’s policy” or “it’s just how we do things here”.
Having a birth plan isn’t just an outcome – it is a process. It starts with asking questions, thinking about scenarios, researching options, writing the plan and then sometimes something will come up during your pregnancy which will send you back to more questions, more research and amendments being made to your plan. It’s vital to remember that your plan may need to be amended several times over the course of your pregnancy and this is okay. By the time you go into labour you should have a very relevant, well researched plan which your birth partner, doula and care provider/s are well versed in.
Please feel free to comment below with any of your own ideas about birth plans. Did you have one? How did you feel it benefited you and your baby? If you are a care provider please tell us what you think are the benefits of a well thought out birth plan.
In Birth Plans Part 3 we will look at how to write an awesome and relevant plan and I’ll provide some templates you might like to use to kick start your thinking.