Do I need a birth plan?

DSC_0068At a recent doula meeting, a member wondered aloud at the fact that many a well written birth plan is tossed aside when the parents are actually in labor. There is a great debate within the birthing community about the value of birth plans, how they should be created and presented, and who they should be given to – even if they should be written at all.

In reality, a birth plan is all about replacing fear with learning. Creating a birth plan helps you recognize what is important to you, address your fears, find a voice, learn about options, and organize your preparation. It is not a piece of paper, or a contract, but a PROCESS that can be hugely beneficial. It fosters good things like security, confidence and knowledge, and reduces unpleasant feelings like fear, uncertainty, and ignorance.

Some parents may create a 3X5 card with a bulleted list, some a tome of 12 typed pages with footnotes and diagrams, some an artfully decorated note on patterned paper accompanied by a basket of chocolates.  Some parents never produce a tangible product at all; but each of them goes thorough the process – with the learning and self discovery that it entails.

A parent with a birth plan (whether on paper or in their head) goes into delivery with a level of confidence in how things will progress. This creates a feeling of control,  provides reassurance  and eases fear.

If you look at a birth plan as a process rather than a product, you can release your concerns about  what it should look like, who should have it, and how closely it must be followed. If you enter the birthing process with best intentions and an open mind, it no longer becomes a concern if the birth followed your plan to the letter. You can begin to understand and accept any decisions you may make in the moment that do not reflect your plans.

A comprehensive birth plan has five parts

  1. Important Issues, Fears and Concerns – what about me, my family, my baby – our experience – can the staff expect to be different or special.
  2. Normal Labor and Birth  – what our our wishes and expectations in a best case scenario. – Get input from your caregiver on your plans and wishes. You may be happy to learn that something you feel very strongly about is already routine hospital procedure. Don’t forget to include your wishes for AFTER delivery!
  3. Newborn Care – what is important to us about the care our newborn receives. In considering your options, balance concerns for your baby’s comfort and well- being with the potential benefits and risks of each procedure.
  4. The Unexpected – in the event of an unplanned Cesarean, health concerns of the baby or other unforeseen events, what is most important to us?
  5. Postpartum –  who will provide the help you will need to get rest, eat well and have one on one time with your baby?  Do you have a plan for breastfeeding support? How will you handle visitors?