So, your birth goes ‘off plan’- how can a birth plan help?
Many people question the idea of a birth plan- arguing that ‘nothing goes to plan anyway’, or ‘the midwives know what they are doing, leave it to them’, or ‘what use is a birth plan if no one reads them?’.
But I strongly urge you to question such opinions. Lets start by addressing the first objection.
So, your birth goes off plan- how can a birth plan help? ’. Let me explain…
A birth can (and often does) go off ‘plan’, and this is why I like to call this document a ‘Birth Preference’ instead of a plan. It outlines what your preferences are and this is where I believe knowledge is power. One of the recommendations of hypnobirthing is to visualise and focus on birth being a positive and natural event but that’s not to say you shouldn’t prepare for your birth by understanding and knowing your choices and options. I recommend that all of my clients should investigate all areas of their birth preference so that they know their options should they be thrown a curve ball. Where would your choice of birth place be if first choice is not available? If discomfort is a concern of yours, what pain management options do you want to consider? Learn about interventions so that if complications arise, you know what path you want to take and the medical direction doesn’t ‘throw’ you. This is different to listening to traumatic birth stories that contradicts the positive birth you are planning. By spending a bit of time talking, discussing, researching and understanding every option available and surrounding birth, you will feel prepared no matter what path your labour takes. Equally, it might not be circumstances that causes plans to change. Did you know you can change your ‘plans’ at any time leading up to or during your labour? If you’re planning a home birth but decide to go in, you can (and vice-versa), if you wanted pain relief but change your mind -you can (and vice-versa). So, the more you know about your options the more control you have, the more empowered you feel and the more positive your birth experience. So, on or off plan- you’re covered!
The midwives know what they are doing… yes! They do… but that doesn’t mean to say they know you.
Every mother and baby are different and should be treated so. Your birth preparation may be very different to your friends, mothers or colleagues for many reasons. You or your baby’s health can impact the type of birth you will have, your outlook on birth being natural or medically managed will have an impact, your view on pain management, personal control or medical assistance will also have an affect on the type of delivery you will have. But, how can your midwife/doctor/ medical support team know this if you don’t tell them? They are not mind readers, you have to inform them of what it is you are planning on or how your pregnancy/health may impact your labour, or how else can they facilitate this?
I often teach second time mums who claim that they lacked control during their first labour and that this is something they want to ‘take back’. A birth preference enables you to have this; to explore all of your options so that you know what you would like in different scenarios, to hand over a document that informs the medical staff of your wishes so that they don’t have to keep asking you questions and interfering, leaving you to get on with birthing your baby. Your birth preference can outline your wishes if plans change, asking for support and pain relief (or not), it’s up to you, it’s in your control. But, arriving at the birth centre/hospital/home birth without a document outlining your wishes means that you’ll be the one that has to communicate these wishes verbally. Will you remember everything you want? Do you want to be asked at every step of your labour your next wish? Do you want to be directed by the midwife who will potentially ‘just go through the motions’ because ‘they know what they’re doing’?
And the final myth- they don’t read them. This is simply not true. At around 35 weeks you will have a midwife appointment where they will ask you about your birth plans and this is a great time to share your preferences. When you arrive at the hospital/midwife centre or labour begins at home, you can share your birth plan with the midwife who is assisting you. And if they don’t read it and simply keep asking you questions, tell them to read it- because I promise you they will! You can even make it pictorial using the (free!) ‘Pinter and Martin’ birth stickers. Choose 5 of your key preferences and stick them on the front of your birth notes and at the top of your birth preference. So, if a midwife/doctor really doesn’t have the time to read it, they can simply look at these 5 simple pictures and quickly understand what it is you’re trying to achieve. I have attached some sample birth plans for you to look at.