Birth Plan: Why You Need One
Two articles came out recently discussing the need for women to prepare more for childbirth. One article in the L.A. Times discusses a recent study’s finding that fewer than 30% of expecting mothers attended a prenatal birth class with their first pregnancy. Whew! The article and research point out that women receive less information from OBs instead of midwives about their options. Additionally, it demonstrated that younger OBs considered epidurals routine and expressed more concern about vaginal birth than older OBs. A scary trend!
The second article is on Babble.com and it’s an interview with one of my heros, Erica Lyon. She is the author of “The Big Book of Birth” and founder of Realbirth Center in NYC and a veteran of 20 years in childbirth education. She talks about how education opens up choices for women, including the option of a more natural birth. She also emphasizes that women should feel safe, loved, and respected during the vulnerable time of childbirth.
1) Read these articles.
2) Encourage your friends to make a birth plan.
People hear “birth plan” and think it necessitates medicine-free birthing. Not true! It just means sorting through you and your partner’s desires as to how your birth center will handle your labor, delivery, and post-birth. If you know you want an epidural, write that down. If you know you want your mother present, write that down. If you know you want skin-to-skin contact with the baby right away, write that down. The healthcare providers aren’t telepathic and they will do their standard operating procedure (whatever that is) unless you present them with your birth plan ahead of time. If you think you’ll have lots of time to figure this out WHILE in labor, you’re mistaken. Plan ahead.
3) Be open to changes.
I’ve heard mom’s say, “Well, it’s up to the doctor” or “Why make a plan when things might change?” and most frequently, “I’d like a natural birth, but at some point want drugs if it’s too tough.” Clearly you are not in charge of what happens once your body is in labor (either of its own accord or due to induction), so roll with it. If you had planned out a signal term to your partner that it was time for drugs, and then think you can go a little further, that’s okay to change your mind. The midwives, docs, and nurses won’t be mad (or shouldn’t be at all disgruntled) if you don’t want the drugs. Nor should your doula and partner be disappointed in you if you do change your mind. The point is, be flexible with the plan you’ve created. Making a plan does not mean you must follow it.
4) Write it down; sort it out.
By fashioning a birth plan ahead of time, you will discover inevitably that you and your partner have a different approach to an item or two, i.e., does your partner want to cut the cord? Do you want anyone else present in the room? Do you want the baby to room in with you or stay in the nursery with the nurses? Write it down; sort it out. Better to compose the ideal birth scenario before you are at your birth center, than to be scrambling there and adding any stress to an already intense time.
My hospital provided me with a birth plan to fill out. My doula also had a template of her own. It’s not just a “medicine-free” birth thing. It’s in your file, able to read by your healthcare providers, and it’s one less surprise between you and your partner!