Birthplans have been the topic of much debate over the past few years. I’ve seen so many reasons given for why we shouldn’t write them: they set you up, they give you false expectations, they are rarely read anyway and mean nothing to medical staff, just to name a few. But I honestly believe in writing a birth plan, and I think every expectant mother should write one.
Okay, SHOULD is perhaps a little more prescriptive than I intended, but I think birth plans are important if only for one reason: They make you think about birth, and make you take some responsibility and an active role in your birth rather than birth being something that happens to you.
I’ve heard it said that people will spend more time researching what car radio to buy than how to give birth, and I find that pitifully sad. I’ve seen it even – a woman coming in to labour ward in labour, spots a poster on the wall and says to her partner, “Oh wow, you can give birth in any of these positions?’
So, I believe that your birth plan is there to help you consider your options, and to help you decide and prepare. It’s also there to give your birth attendants an idea of what you are hoping for. It is not a script, however, and for everything to fall into place, a lot of preparation, planning, research and a little bit of luck are needed too.
Some thoughts on birth plans
Some people recommend having two birth plans – one with your ideal scenario, another with alternatives. For example, say you’re planning a home birth, but end up with an emergency c-section, having an alternative birth plan can allow you to research the alternatives too. For example you can request to have your baby with you while you’re being stitched up ( assuming s/he’s okay) and so on. I’ve heard many transferred homebirth mothers say that the reason it’s been so hard for them is that they simply had no idea what to expect when they went in for their operation. I know that would have been the case for me. Knowledge, true knowledge, and true preparation, means knowing your rights and alternatives even when things don’t go to plan.
Also, be sure to discuss your birth plan with your care provider before you go into labour. If your midwife arrives at your house when you’re already trying to push, she may not have the chance to read it. Make sure your birth partner who will be assisting you at the hospital is very familiar with your wishes too, so that they can be your advocate and speak up for your choices when you might not be able to.
With all of that now established, I’ve used as my foundation a birth plan that our local drugstore-parenting-club gives out, and with my last pregnancy I adapted it to suit my needs. I’ve done the same again this time.
Over the coming weeks and possibly months, I will be ‘writing up’ my birth plan by looking at each of the following questions in no particular order, and really examining what they mean.
1)The name you’d like to be called?
2)My preferred birth partner would be… Who is my…
3)I’m happy to be photographed/video taped during labour, yes or no?
4)During labour I would like the following pain relief:
5)I would like to use the following during labour:
6)My preferred positions in labour are
7)Am I happy to have students present?
8) I am happy to have my baby’s heartbeat continually monitored, yes or no?
9) I would like to be in the following position to give birth
10) My thoughts on having my waters broken artificially
11) I would like to be told when to push or push when it feels right?
12) My thoughts on having an episiotomy
13) I would like my birth partner to cut the umbilical cord, yes or no?
14) My thoughts on being given an injection to contract my womb before the delivery of the placenta
15) I would like my baby to be delivered straight into my arms or wiped first
16) Would like my baby to be given Vitamin K, yes or no.
17) I want to feed my baby by…
18) My special requests…
So… what am I missing? What should be included here? What should I still ask?