When you are pregnant, you start to hear a lot about people's birth plans. You may wonder if you should make one yourself. The use of birth plans is a great idea for pregnant people as they prepare to have their baby. This post will help expectant parents learn why having a personalized birth plan is essential.
What Are Birth Plans?
When you are planning to have a baby, it can feel like your experience of birth is out of your control. Birth plans are a way to take the experience into your own hands and consider which interventions you are open to and which you’d like to avoid. For example, you may be open to an epidural, but you want intermittent fetal monitoring instead of continuous. A birth plan can help you specifically state these preferences and make you feel in control.
Why Would You Want a Birth Plan?It Increases Your Awareness of the Birth Process
One of the most overlooked benefits of birth plans is that the process of creating the plan invites you to learn all about your options, and it acts as a conversation starter with your provider BEFORE you give birth.
Research has shown that birth plans lead to more neonatal health outcomes and maternal satisfaction. One review of the research even noted “Therefore, there is no harm to the mother and baby when birth plans are used, and there may be benefits for the babies of first-time mothers.” Being aware of your options and exercising your agency is empowering and healthy for you and your baby.You Can Fully Personalize Your Plan
Everybody has different hopes and expectations for how their birth process will go. The good news about a birth plan is that it helps you think through all your goals for the day and carry it out on the big day.
Relying on the hospital’s policies isn’t enough, because there are standard hospital policies that are NOT created for the health of you and your baby, but are based on protecting the hospital from litigation. Two good examples of these policies are food and drink during birth and continuous electronic fetal monitoring. Creating a plan for these interventions will help you find a provider you feel comfortable with, who aligns with your preferences.
Your birth plan entirely depends on what you want your childbirth experience to look like, and takes any complications into account. If you have any health conditions that may impact the delivery process, creating a customized birthing plan is essential. Talk with your health care provider about any specifics that can help you have a happy and healthy baby.You Can Be As Prepared As Possible
Whether you are having your first baby or your fifth, you'll want to be prepared coming up to your due date. Having a bag packed already and being able to envision your baby's birth can help you feel mentally prepared on the big day.
Having all of your decisions laid out beforehand can help you avoid decision fatigue. If you have specific expectations for the day, like whether you prefer delayed cord clamping or for your provider to obtain verbal consent before doing a cervical check, planning as much as you can in advance and having your team on the same page as you will prevent you from having to make split-second decisions in the moment that you may regret.Your Plan Can Speak For You When You Can’t Speak For Yourself
Once you're in the delivery room, there are times you may not be able to speak for yourself. There are so many different situations where your partner or family members may be asked to speak for you. Having a written birth plan can help your team know exactly what your preferences are in any given scenario, and prevents anyone else from making decisions that go against your preferences.
Planned hospital births and home births can both go awry at times. A birth plan can act as very effective communication of helpful information in the case that you won't be able to speak for yourself. This can also help if you have any complicated family dynamics, like a family member who may try to enter the room against your wishes. Things like that completely vary from person to person, and can absolutely be included as part of your birth plan so your medical team can handle it instead of you.
Common Mistakes to AvoidStressing Out About Your Plan
So many people have different ideas of what the "ideal birth" looks like. There are disagreements about home births vs. hospital births, what kinds of pain relief are okay, and so many other factors. If you try to research every single part of the process, you can really stress yourself out. There is so much information out there, and a lot of it is conflicting. You may feel pressure to make decisions you don't prefer, like having a natural birth when you'd prefer pain management or vice versa, or get lost in the weeds of everything you want in your hospital bag, and start feeling behind on everything.
Being stressed about all the details about your birth plan can cause insomnia, high blood pressure, and other symptoms that are not healthy for you or the baby. If creating a rigid plan is causing you anxiety and making you question yourself, it's okay to step back, relax, and consult your provider.
A way to help reduce anxiety about all the interventions is to hire a doula. They can walk you through each intervention and help you to start conversations with the rest of your birth team. A doula will also know the policies of the hospitals in your area, as well as the providers that will align with your ideal birth experience. You don’t have to do this alone!Not Including Your Healthcare Professional in the Birth Plan
Believe it or not, how you are treated by your care team is one of the biggest predictors in how you’ll feel about your birth experience. Whether you have chosen an OBGYN, a midwife, or another type of healthcare provider to deliver your baby, it is their primary responsibility to make sure you and your baby are safe. The best kind of healthcare provider has years of expertise and your best interest in mind. You deserve to have professionals on your side that you can trust to make the best decisions for you and your baby.
If you develop a birth plan on your own, it's possible that you will have certain things on your birth plan that your medical team will disagree with, either for standard protocol or due to your specific medical conditions. This can cause them to feel stuck between what they believe is right and what you want them to do, which can prevent them from making what they believe are the best decisions for you and your baby.
To avoid this issue, you can create your birth plan in collaboration with your whole team in advance. This approach will help you make a plan that you are both comfortable with ahead of time. If you feel supported and heard in your decisions, great. If you feel belittled and talked down to, consider a new provider and create a plan with them.Holding Your Plan Too Tight
You know when you plan out a day of errands, a vacation, or your coffee order down to each detail, and then it doesn't go the way you planned? It can be really upsetting, and sometimes you'll wish you never made a plan in the first place.
In the same way, having a detailed birth plan can lead to disappointment when the birthing process inevitably doesn't go as planned. There are a variety of reasons your plan may need to be altered or thrown away entirely to keep you and the baby safe.
For example, even if you plan to have a vaginal birth, you still may need to have an emergency C-section, or if you plan to have a natural birth, you may actually benefit from some pain control you planned not to have. In these circumstances, you might catch yourself feeling like creating the plan was a waste of time.
Seeing your birth plan as your preferences for the day rather than a play-by-play of what will happen and having a backup plan in case of emergency can help alleviate that disappointment.
At the end of the day, what your birth plan looks like and whether you even have one is an entirely personal decision. Talk to your delivery nurse or midwife about your preferences in advance to make sure everything will go as smoothly as possible. Remember, the most important thing is that you and the baby are safe.