September 21, 2013

The Birth Plan: 5 steps to a better informed birth experience

I wrote this piece about birth plans for RichmondMom. You can read the full article here

“My doctor told me to keep my birth plan short and to the point, how do I fit in everything I want to include? I don’t want to be too demanding.”

“You can’t really PLAN labor, won’t my care provider tell me what I need to know?”

“A friend of mine brought a bunch of copies of her birth plan to the hospital when she went into labor and no one even looked at them!”

“I’ve read online that care providers and labor and delivery staff laugh in the face of birth plans. Should I even write one?”

“My sister is a labor and delivery nurse, she warned me that moms who write long birth plans are the ones who end up with a bunch of intervention and babies born by c-section.”

As a doula and childbirth educator I work closely with women, and their partners, as they prepare for the intimate life event of birth. I encourage every family I work for to develop a birth plan as part of their childbirth preparation, and as an integral step in their personal journey to becoming better informed consumers of maternity care.

The dismissive messages that often characterize discussions around birth plans undermine their many benefits and true purpose as a communication and information gathering tool. The process of writing a birth plan serves in at least three ways:
  1. To help you to identify your needs and wants for labor, birth, and postpartum care.
  2. To begin, or continue, a dialogue about your needs and wants with your care provider in the context of her practice style, and the policies and procedures routine to your chosen birthing place.
  3. To engage your birth team to facilitate and support your birthing goals.

Reframe the value of your birth plan as the PROCESS by which the document is created and the degree to which you utilize it as a communication tool before labor begins. To merely present a birth plan document to Labor and Delivery staff on admission to your birthing place is to miss out on many of the benefits of having created the document in the first place.

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