There are some strong opinions out there on Birth Plans.
Some people will say: "You MUST have an EXTREMELY detailed birth plan to ensure your birth goes your way"
Others spout the horrible saying, "The longer the birth plan, the longer the cesarean incision".
So it can be hard to determine if you should put the time and effort into a birth plan or if you should just "wing it" and have complete trust in your providers.
I first want to clarify: Birth is unpredictable. Things can happen that no one planned for.
Which is exactly WHY birth plans are so important.
When I think of a birth plan, I don't just think of a 3 page list of do's and don't's that I hand to every nurse and physician on staff. I think of the opportunity for mom to learn her various choices, and make educated decisions. Being well educated on options allows you to ask the right questions, especially in a situation where things go differently than expected. Being well informed gives you the autonomy to advocate for yourself and your baby. This way, even if your ideal birth doesn't happen, you know you were part of the decision making process and you weren't made to feel like a bystander watching things go "wrong".
Tips To Writing a Successful Birth Plan
1. Write a three page plan.
Wait, Jaimie... Didn't you say that's NOT what you immediately think of? Yup. But its part of the process. Write a long, detailed plan. Your options for each potential intervention and why you do or don't choose it. Write down the factors that might change your mind. This is the education process. This takes time. This is the research. From IVs to Epidurals, Episiotomies to Forceps, Music to Squat bars, eating, hydrotherapy, and so on... figure out what your IDEAL birth is.
2. Chop it in half.
Once you know what you want, break it down and make it concise. There are some great Imagery Birth Plans on the inter webs that allow for a great concise, simple communication tool. There are so many resources and ways to format your birth plan. You don't need to write paragraphs on paragraphs for your providers.
3. Plan A, B, and C
Plan A - Your ideal birth. Coping mechanisms. Interventions. Environment. Third stage management... Put it all here.
Plan B = BABY - Newborn Care Plan: Skin to skin, feeding method, vaccination decisions, eye ointment decisions, feeding decisions, circumcision decisions... put them all here.
Plan C - As much as most of us hate to think about it, with the culture of birth in the U.S., especially in my local region... we have to have a conversation about Cesarean Delivery. Over 30% of babies in the United States are born by cesarean, so I always recommend having an "Ideal cesarean plan" on your Birth Plan: This would include things like: "I prefer to be awake", "I want my husband present", "I want a clear drape" (or don't! Whatever works for you), "I want Skin to skin in the OR" "So-and-so should stay with baby if separation is required" and so on. You can ask that conversation (not regarding the surgery) be kept to a minimum, and sometimes can even request music to be played. Some doctors support Delayed Cord Clamping in the OR and *occasionally* will even let dad cut the cord.
4. Remember you are the ultimate decision maker.
Hospital policies are just that: policies. They are not laws. No medical procedures are mandated by law.... In some states they do mandate things like eye ointment, but that can typically be declined with an AMA (against medical advice) form.
5. Be flexible.
I don't like to be that person to tell a mom not to hold her birth plan dear. I think birth plans are important. They're part of the learning process and they are empowering. But do realize, sometimes you have to be flexible. It's okay to mourn the loss of your ideal birth, but it's also ok to make decisions that stray from your Plan A. The ultimate goal is that you are an informed part of that decision making process. (Notice I didn't say, "the ultimate goal is a healthy mom, and baby"... of course that's what we all want... but a with awful birth outcome trends in the US, and mental health concerns, being an informed decision maker is part of ensuring a healthy mom and baby. Also note: alive does not equal healthy.... but this is all a different conversation for a different day).
At the end of the day, birth plans are all about exercising Informed Consent, and reducing fear mongering that can, in some environments, be so common. Empowering mothers requires educating them. That is why I'm so excited to announce that I will be sharing more and more birth related information in addition to breastfeeding info!
Stay tuned for more information on writing your birth plan!
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**NOTE: I am not suggesting that you shouldn't trust your provider. The best way to build trust is open discussion. As always LITTLE BEAR SERVICES LLC is not providing any specific medical advice, and acknowledges and respects that each situation and family is unique with individual needs