Not everything goes to plan – labour and delivery included. Our Sassy Midwife Shani spills all on the importance of documenting your preferences for the big day
When it comes to pregnancy, labour or birth…anything with the word “plan” in it makes me squirm a little. Can we actually “plan” these enormous events in our lives and really, should we be trying to?
What is a Birth Plan and why have one?
The reason and best intention behind a birth plan is for you to document and share your thoughts, birthing goals, preferences and ideas with your husband and care providers. For first time mothers, this can be an especially helpful tool and exercise to incite discussion and promote questions with your medical team.
A birth plan is a great way to discuss moments of your birth with your partner in a relaxed environment, before the onset of your labour. (Note to husband, discussing the iPod playlist at the peak of her contractions is NOT a good idea!) Things like your preferences for the room environment, your preferences of pain relief, or who you would like to cut the baby’s cord.
There are many examples and templates for birthing plan ideas on the internet and they can be as simple as writing down a few ideas, to as complex as a 5 page document. No matter what, your birth plan should be true to who you are and what really matters to you and your partner. However, it is important to always remember that your baby and your labour are unique and individual. It’s much better to have flexible preferences, rather than plans.
The definition of the word plan on freedictonary.com states: “ A plan is an orderly or step-by-step conception or proposal for accomplishing an objective.”
This perhaps is too rigid a concept for labour and birth and problematic if not achieved, as it may leave feelings of disappointment or even failure. And those are the absolute last thing a new mother needs, sandwiched in between having feelings of anxiety, guilt and sleep deprivation…. there just isn’t room for it!!
If your birth goals were achieved by using a birth plan, you will of course consider the birth plan a valuable and powerful tool and be likely to recommend it to pregnant friends or even reach for it with your next children.
If your birth did not quite go according to the birth plan you wrote, then it’s likely you have scoffed at ever going through with the bother of putting pen to paper again.
The thing about a plan is that it’s only a good one if it works.
Thoughts of bad holidays, disastrous relationships, that 80s off the shoulder neon bubble dress (okay, maybe that’s just me) may start coming to mind here. Good intentioned, but without the ideal outcome.
At Hatched, we like to encourage women to have “Positive preferences” rather than “Birth Plans”. We do this in conjunction with the hospital they are attending and the Doctor they will be seeing. There is no point in having birthing preferences; due to legal policies, your Doctor and hospital may not be able to follow them.
For example in the private sector in the UAE, it is Hospital policy to monitor your baby regularly in your labour. So it is preferable to state:
“If I am monitored, I would prefer to have freedom of mobility” rather than “I wish not be monitored“.
Your care providers role is always to listen to your thoughts and aim to work with you to achieve your goals, just remember that they balance this with the policies, laws and registrations that they are bound by.
When writing your own thoughts down on paper, here are my top tips:
- First things first… don’t call it a Birth Plan, call it Birthing Preferences. Your mindset will immediately change.
- Have no absolutes, have preferences and possible choices. Make provisions for flexibility.
- Discuss your ideas with your care providers well in advance of coming into labour.
- Gear your birth preferences towards multiple outcomes, so that no matter what the outcome, you will feel you have achieved your goal. Like a map to a destination that has many routes.
- Do your research. When writing about preferences of pain relief, vaccines or other important choices, make sure you research what is best for you, not just what you have read or heard in the media.
- Your Birth Preferences should mean something to you and your husband, don’t just have one because someone told you to or it is a fad.
- Make it simple, be true to your beliefs.
- Use words and terminology that empowers you, not structures that set you up for disappointment.
- Use it in conjunction with other support tools, don’t let your Birth preferences be the only tool in your warrior armory.
- Always remember the end prize, at the end of this, not matter what the outcome, no matter how many ticks you can place next to your birth plan preferences, the end goal is having a beautiful healthy baby.
Like the song goes, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making birthing plans. Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how the song goes, but you get the point!
Enjoy and give into the process. When those newborn eyes blink their first blink at you and you instantly fall in love, your destination will be reached. The map of how you got there will seem a distant memory.
For your copy of a Hatched “ Positive Preferences” list, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.