I want to start my post out by saying this: birth can't be planned! You're going to have to make lots of choices as you prepare for the birth of your baby, but at the end of the day, birth is like playing a round of cards: you've gotta do the best you can with the hand you're dealt and you won't know what you have to work with until that day comes. When I talk with clients about “birth plans” I encourage them to rename it to birth preferences and to think of it like assembling a tool box when you're unsure of what you'll be asked to do on the job. The goal is to have as many tools as possible in your tool box so that when the work of labor comes, you can pull out the tools you need.
Writing a Birthing Plan
So what is a birth plan? Most importantly, writing down your birth preferences is a way for you to learn about the topics that will come up for you and baby on the day your baby is born. Most parents who are having a baby aren't familiar with many of the birth related choices they have to make in the hospital or during a home delivery. What medications will you want for you and baby? How do you feel about an episiotomy? Will you want to use a birth ball? Do you want to use the golden hour for skin-to-skin with your baby? Who do you want to cut the umbilical cord? Some of these things can be chosen ahead of time by the parents and some choices will have to change based on how the delivery goes, but your birth preferences are a way for you to let your healthcare providers know which options you want to choose.Once you find out you're pregnant, there are several important decisions to make about your baby's birth day. The very first thing is to decide where you want your baby to be born: in the hospital, at a birth center, or at home. There are pros and cons to each location and knowing your preference will help with the next decision, which is choosing your provider. I think choosing your provider is a crucial step and can have the most impact on how you feel about your birth afterwards.
We all have certain ideas of what we want birth to be like and it is so essential to find a provider whose ideals align with yours. In everyday life, we often take recommendations from those we love, but this may not be the time to do that. If your friend or sister had a great experience with their doctor but your friend or sister wanted an epidural and you want a natural birth, you might want to find a different provider. If you want delayed cord clamping or a scheduled c-section, you need to find a provider who will support you in those choices.
While all doctors can provide care for any kind of delivery, most have their own way of doing things, the way they're most comfortable providing maternity care. Midwives tend to do more natural births, but hospital based midwifery practices will also offer epidurals and other options that you won't have outside of the hospital. Studies have shown that birth satisfaction is linked to how much a person feels involved and in control of the birth setting, so having a provider that values the same things you do can help you with your feelings about your birth, even if it doesn't go as planned.
When you're writing your birth plan, remember that you can not predict how your delivery will go. Remind yourself, your partner, and your healthcare provider that these are your preferences--assuming mom and baby are doing ok, this list of options is what you would like to happen. The benefit of learning about the topics in your birth preferences is that if your birth doesn't go as you'd hoped, you will have already learned about the topics that you'll be having to make decisions about along the way.
My favorite online resource for making a birth plan can be found on the Mama Natural website
. As you use their online tool, you will make selections for the options you want. When you're finished you can print out a visual birth plan that you can give to your doctor, nurse, and/or midwife. This simple graphic-based birth plan is easy for everyone to read at-a-glance and be informed about what choices you would like to make about your delivery.