If you've been around the internet at all during your pregnancy you've come across the controversial topic of birth plans. I've read everything from "birth plans don't work" to "you NEED a birth plan!" So who are you to believe? Hopefully I can help you sort through the controversy to shed some light on the real impact and importance of birth planning.
So what is a birth plan?
A birth plan has commonly been a document written by the pregnant person and their partner to articulate their wishes for their birth. It is a tool that has historically been used to communicate the 'plan' of the family in lieu of having a full discussion while doing the work of labor.
The controversy lies in the belief, that some people hold, that we cannot plan for birth. Others believe that planning for birth will inevitably leave the birthing person feeling that they have somehow 'failed' if their plan does not come to fruition exactly as they laid out.
Those in favor of birth plans see the document as a way for a woman in labor to have her voice and to clearly communicate her wishes for her birth.
I have identified 5 ways in which planning for birth can make for an empowered and healthy experience for both Mom and Baby.
5 Tips for an Amazing Birth Plan
- DON'T write a birth plan! DO write a Birth Preferences Letter. Think of this letter as a way to communicate how you would prefer your labor to be assisted by your team. Fight the urge to make a bullet pointed list of "NO" statements and stick to the positive by envisioning your experience exactly as you would want it. Your letter should be no longer than 1 page in length and should be personal to you! The process of writing your preferences is about educating yourself and communicating your priorities to your care team- not about being closed off or rigid against things that may come up during your birth.
- DO bring a draft of your letter to a prenatal appointment with your care provider. This is a great way to start the discussion prenatally to discover whether or not your care provider shares the same philosophy surrounding birth as you do. Think of the calm and comfort you will feel when your provider reads over your letter and says they commonly practice all of the elements of your preferences regularly.
- DON'T bother fighting over elements of your preference letter. See this as your way to learn if you click with your care provider prior to birth instead of discovering you disagree on major elements of your birth during labor. You don't need to convince anyone and if you discover that you and your care provider differ in philosophy you can always make a change to a care provider who practices in a way that supports your birthing philosophy.
- DO include important personal elements at the top of your letter. Allergic to latex? Put it at the top! Have an intense fear of needles? Explain that at the beginning with instructions on how to best support you in case you do need an intervention that includes needles in your birth. Partner have a history of fainting? This is good information for your care team to know!
- DO Get attached! One of the reasons I encourage a 'birth preferences letter' is so the mama can visualize her most satisfying birth and really OWN it as an active member of the birth team. Your birth will inevitably have twists and turns you didn't plan on, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't envision and manifest your best case scenario! Dream big, think big, and then adapt and sway with the winds like the strong capable mother that you already are and that you will be.