Birth plans get a bit of a bad rap, mainly because labour and birth is so unpredictable and people often think birth plans are detailing the one and only way you’ll be happy for your birth to go; which isn’t the idea behind birth plans. Birth is unpredictable, but it isn’t unpreparable and the power of birth plans is in all the knowledge you gain along the way.
If you’re going to a coastal holiday destination you don’t avoid looking into the local options for fun outdoor activities just in case it rains. Birth plans should be viewed the same, it’s okay if it doesn’t go to plan. But a birth that could have gone the way that you wanted but didn’t because you weren’t aware of your options may be something you’ll regret. Most people who make birth plans are second time parents hoping for a better experience.
They should be a key part of your pregnancy preparation. Birth plans encourage you to look into your options and decide for yourself what you want out of your birth. Like most people, your main goal for your birth is likely a healthy baby. But that doesn’t have to be your only goal, a birth that you can look back on positively and a healthy baby are, in most cases, not mutually exclusive.
So what should be in a birth plan?
There are many online tools for filling out a birth plan, these are great for a guide even if you don’t plan on writing it down. If you search ‘birth plan template’ on Google, you’ll get a number of great resources. We recommend going through each point and deciding using the below if you aren’t sure what you’d like in labour and birth:
- Do I know why this is in a birth plan? If no, before you take it out we recommend Googling ‘the pros and cons of…”. A great resource that you may be directed to is ‘Evidence Based Birth’ – this website will lay out the statistical and scientific pros and cons of everything that would show up in a birth plan. If the science and statistics aren’t for you, you can always skip to the ‘outcome’ and it should be a quick summary which should help you make up your mind. Another great source would be any ‘Cochrane reviews’, they too have all the research for you and an easy conclusion for you to skip to.
- What makes me comfortable and happy? In your day to day life, what makes you feel calm, happy and grounded? Think about how you can adapt that to your labour environment. It is important for the progression of labour and production of oxytocin that we feel calm and at ease during labour & birth. So if you know that harsh/bright lighting has the opposite effect, dim lighting during birth would be important for you. If you find loving affirmations and ‘talking through things’ helps you feel calm, you may ask your birth support team to do this for you in labour. Whereas others feel calmer when they are left alone and can focus on themselves. It’s all about how you feel.
- Wouldn’t a medical professional know to do this, if it’s for the best? Some things on birth plans seem like they shouldn’t be there, because wouldn’t a medical professional know to do this? Whilst the answer is mostly yes, every medical professional is different and sometimes they can be so focused on other things it doesn’t seem like a priority. Take a warm compress on your perineum for example, this has been shown to reduce the severity of tearing whilst you are pushing. But it’s not something that comes stock standard, it’s often something you need to request and when you’re in the moment, it doesn’t always occur to you or you may not have the ability to speak in the moment. So if there is something like this you’d like but are thinking about taking off because they’ll know anyway, it’s best to still include it in your birth plan.
The way you approach your birth plan will be individual to you. Some people won’t want to have it written out and that’s okay if you’re doing it for you. But it’s important to know that what ever your model of care is, no matter who is telling you that you ‘have to’ have something done, you have the power to choose otherwise. I find people sometimes don’t want to write it down for fear of seeming like they’re being ‘hard work’, but this isn’t the case. It helps your birth partner and medical team to know what you’d like when it comes down to it, so there can be minimal disruptions and questions when you’re in the zone.
You’ll see in our other blog posts about my two births, that I am a big advocate for birth plans and a big regret from both of my births was that I didn’t look into my options or advocate for myself better. I hope this helps someone out there to prioritise this for themselves before their first or next birth.
Let us know, did you create a birth plan?