I’ve been thinking a lot about birth plans lately. I often see the questions floating around the internet “What is a birth plan?”, “Do I need a birth plan?”, “What are the benefits of a birth plan?” or, “Will my Doctors and Nurses even look at my birth plan?”
So, let’s get started “What is a birth plan?”. Here is a little back story to the birth of the “Birth Plan”. Birth Plans were essentially nonexistent before the 1980’s, at this time there was a general “us against them” (the medical staff) notion that was born out of fear of the birthing person not being heard, and their wishes not being respected in their birthing space. As soon as Birth Plans became more main-stream a few years later, birthing plans quickly were viewed as ‘demands’ and not preferences. In general the medical model resisted adapting to these small pieces of paper that represented hopes, dreams, and birthing desires. Over the next 20+ years Birth Plans became generally accepted and now they are almost anticipated.
“Do I need a birth plan?” Let’s dig a little deeper into this one, there are a few things that I really love about Birth Plans, and there are a few things I really don’t love about them. First off, I don’t love that they are called Birth ‘PLANS’. I believe that there is a false sense of security that comes with the word ‘plan’. When I was 18 I planned to go to Culinary school, to become an amazing Chef and to open a restaurant in New York City, all while being featured in the Bon Appetite magazine. Once I got to Culinary School, and after I graduated I realized that my “plan” was simply that—a plan, not MY reality. Along the way I realized that my plan no longer brought me comfort, joy, or happiness. Luckily, I was able to veer from my plan, and live the life I actually PREFERRED. Focusing on a “PLAN” might create dissatisfaction and unhappiness in a birthing space. OR when a birth doesn’t go according to ‘plan’, we might actually open a door that we prefer!
So let’s call it “Birth Preferences”!
“What are the benefits of Birth Preferences?” What I love about creating a list of “Birth Preferences” is that it get’s you thinking! It gets you preparing! It opens the door to research, and it starts the conversations. WHY do you want to have free movement during your birthing time (intermittent monitoring)?, HOW would laboring in the water help you feel more comfortable? WHAT type of pushing positions do you want to utilize, and why? What DO you understand about delayed cord clamping, and the list goes on. Birth is an ever evolving topic. Women have been birthing for thousands of years—but, about every 5 years or so something will become ‘main stream’ and everyone will all of the sudden start talking about it. Doing your research is key. Birth preferences EMPOWER you, when you LEARN your options.
This brings us to, “Will my Doctors and Nurses even look at my Birth Preferences.” Knowing who, at what time your Birth Preferences are written for is essential. The biggest misconception is that your Birth Preferences are written for the Doctor in the birthing space. The best time to show your Doctor your Birth Preferences is well before the baby is being born! This is a great way to do your homework. Before baby is born, as you show your provider your Birth Preferences you can go through all your preferences and ask “Is XYZ standard at the hospital I am planning to give birth at?” Go through everything, from I.V ports, to the ability to eat and drink, to being on a continuous monitor or being monitored intermittently. Different hospitals even in the same city might have different “standards”! Find the hospital that aligns itself best with your Birth Preferences.
Are your Birth Preferences written for your nurses? Almost every single birth I’ve ever attended, my client has handed their preferences to the nurse, she/he may peruse the “newborn care” bit— I.E information on vaccines, delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin. However almost instantaneously afterwards, the piece of paper gets buried under charts and paperwork. This may sounds shocking, but rarely do nurses use your Birth Preferences as a quick reference guide in your delivery room. With all of that being said, don’t be discouraged. Your birth preferences ARE important and they do play a big role during your birthing time. In fact, your doula is thrilled to use your Birth Preferences as a quick reference guide! Your doula wants to know, and remember how you prefer to spend your birthing time. Your doula will suggest ideas and positions on your Birth Preferences, to ensure that your hopes, and dreams are acknowledged and remembered! Your doula will be the ‘keeper’ of the birth preferences!
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