Whether you’re giving birth in the hospital, at home, or at a birth center, creating a birth plan is an important part of having the birth experience you want.
Guest post by Shannon of Growing Slower
Creating a birth plan is a great opportunity to research all of your options and discuss them with your partner and your care provider. Although usually called a birth plan, it is also a postpartum and newborn care plan.
For Hospital Birth
Your birth plan can serve as talking points for discussing your planned hospital birth with your care provider at your prenatal appointments. You also need to be able to communicate your birth plan with changing shifts of nurses, on-call doctors, and hospital staff that you may have never met before and that may or may not share your birth philosophy. It would be unrealistic to try and communicate your birth plan to each of them verbally while coping with contractions. Instead, your birth plan can help communicate for you.
For Out-of-Hospital Birth
If you’re planning an out of hospital birth under the care of one or two midwives, chances are you’ve already spent lots of time discussing every aspect of your birth preferences. Ideally you chose these care providers from the start because they share your philosophy on birth.
Even if you are planning to give birth at home or in a birth center, there is still a small chance that you or baby could end up transferring to the hospital for some reason. (The best midwives have a transfer rate of about 5 percent. The vast majority of these transfers are non-emergencies.) In this case, you should have a birth plan ready that represents your best birth in a worst case scenario. I’ll share an example at the end of this post.
Here are 4 simple tips for creating a birth plan that gets read:
1. Keep it Short
When you’ve been doing tons of research while pregnant, you could probably write an entire book on exactly how you envision your birth. However, hospital staff are extremely busy. Unfortunately they just don’t have time to read pages and pages about your ideal birth experience. Do your best to keep your birth plan to one page.The most important things to include in your birth plan are those that may go against standard procedure. For instance, if you have done your research and you know you want your newborn to have all of the routine exams and procedures, you probably don’t need to include that in your birth plan.
2. Keep it Simple
Use short bullet points instead of long paragraphs to make your birth plan easier to read. This will help ensure that everyone providing care to you during your birth will have time to quickly scan and understand the document.
3. Keep it Sweet
Families who write birth plans are sometimes criticized, though often unfairly, for being inflexible. In my opinion, it is part of being prepared and determined that will help you achieve your ideal birth experience. However, you don’t want to put your care providers on the defensive. Try to use language in your birth plan that is both firm and respectful.
4. Keep it Sincere
There are many templates, checklists, and sample birth plans available online to help you prepare your birth plan. However, every family’s situation and desires will be different and so should their birth plans. Make sure you do your own research and know what every item on your birth plan means.
Also be sure that each item represents your ideal birth, not someone else’s. Be sure you can discuss each item on your birth plan with your doctor or nurse and why you have chosen it. If you’ve asked for no episiotomy, do you actually know what one is and why it is unnecessary? If you write that you don’t want an epidural, have you learned natural methods and positions to relieve pain instead? It’s much easier for nurses to advocate you when you’re prepared and clearly know what you want.
Did you create a birth plan? What did you include?
Shannon writes about pregnancy, parenting, and simple living at GrowingSlower. She and her wonderful husband are parents to one energetic toddler and are expecting the arrival of Baby #2 in August. She’s currently working on her first book, a collection of positive natural birth stories.