It's your body, your baby—why shouldn't you be in control of your own childbirth experience? Mapping out your ideal vision of childbirth nirvana can result in frustration and disappointment if your labor doesn't proceed according to the plan. Preparing for the unexpected can help you create a realistic birth plan.
Plan vs. Preferences
The term "birth plan" is a misnomer. It is difficult to plan a birth, because every birth is different. While parents can prepare for a textbook labor and delivery, variations in the duration and speed of labor may require modifications to the plan. It may be more realistic to think of a birth plan as a set of birth preferences. While you can prepare for childbirth, it is nearly impossible to truly plan for it.
Before you begin drawing up your birth plan, educate yourself about the stages of childbirth, types of interventions and when they are necessary. This will help you get a handle on things you have control of during labor and let go of things that are beyond your control.
Use your birth plan as a way to establish trust and open communication between you and your obstetrician and obstetrical nurses. Before you get to the hospital, discuss your wishes with your doctor and try to be flexible about issues that are less important to you.
Here are some helpful tips for writing your birth plan:
- A birth plan doesn't have to be an official document, signed by your doctor and included in your chart. It can be an informal list of preferences that you discuss with your obstetrician and present to the nurse when you arrive in the maternity ward.
- Begin your birth plan with a statement that summarizes you childbirth philosophy. Try to sum it up in a sentence or two.
- Try to avoid sounding defensive. You, your partner and hospital staff are a team. An "us" against "them" mentality can build tension and hamper open communication.
- If giving birth without pain medication is important to you, include your wishes in your plan. Practice relaxation and coping techniques until they become second nature.
- Find out about your hospital's labor and delivery practices. For example, if the obstetrical staff encourages walking during labor, there's no need to specify that in your birth plan.
- Tour the hospital before finalizing your plan. Learn about the layout of the labor and delivery rooms and the equipment available before making specific requests in your birth plan.
- Keep it brief. It will be easier for obstetrical staff to read and understand your wishes if they don't have to scan paragraphs of information.
Your Top Priority
Keep in mind that it may not be possible for the staff to accommodate your wishes if they feel your or the baby's health may be compromised. If complications arise during labor or delivery, you may have to scrap the birth plan, or at least modify it. Remember that the most important part of any birth plan is assuring the healthy delivery of your baby.