Q & A: Do I Need a Birth Plan?
Q: My provider has not said anything about me preparing a birth plan. Do I need one? I’ve heard people say that you can’t control birth, so there’s no point in making a birth plan.
A: People are absolutely correct that we cannot control birth. It is a process of nature that unfolds differently for each woman and with each pregnancy. That being said, there is MUCH we can do to support a more comfortable, efficient, and beautiful birth, including the important act of creating a birth plan.
Creating your birth plan isn’t about controlling birth – it is about having a clear understanding of options available to you, determining your preferences from among those options, and communicating your preferences in a clear and concise manner to your chosen birth team. A birth plan is not just a sheet of paper – the act of creating and discussing your birth plan will not control your birth, but it will pave the way for a beautiful, empowering, transformative birth experience, no matter how your birth unfolds. So…how do you begin?
Step One: Education
Find out about your full range of birthing options starting with prenatal choices all the way through newborn procedures and care. Understand that you may not be able to get the full picture in your prenatal appointments or through a hospital provided checklist. Enroll in a quality birth class that is independent of the hospital to discover your full range of birthing options.
Step Two: Determine Preferences
Seek out quality information – dig in to what research has to say about various birthing options. Ask questions – Why is antibiotic eye ointment routinely used in the hospital setting? Why are IV fluids so frequently administered – what are the risks and benefits? What does the data say about continuous fetal monitoring in labor? As a low-risk birther, should I really avoid eating in labor? Do I really have to give birth on my back, or are there safer, more effective alternatives to consider? Gather the information, and then ask yourself what is right for you and your baby.
Step Three: Communicate
Create a clear, concise document using correct terminology that outlines your preferences and begin discussing your preferences with your care provider during your second trimester. If your provider responds negatively, is dismissive, avoids discussing birth choices, or you feel that they may not be able to provide respectful, evidence-based, family-centered care, find a provider who will. Use your birth plan as a tool to make sure everyone is on the same page – you, your care provider(s), nurses, and your partner or support person should all be working together for a safe, healthy birth AND one that respects your preferences.
Need some help getting started? I offer private birth planning consultations designed to help you with each step of the birth planning process. Based on our discussion, I will create a clear, concise birth plan reflecting your preferences that you can use to communicate with your chosen birth team. Please reach out – I’d love to help you prepare for your birth!