Understanding birth plans
Creating a birth plan is ultimately about the process of exploring your birth options and clarifying what is important for you in your birth experience. It leads you to feeling more confident that you have done all you can to communicate your wishes and desire for woman centred collaboration with your birth team.
It needs both your head and heart in the process and it’s well worth you effort. It’s not setting you up for failure, it’s setting up you to be aware of your rights, your choices, your feelings, your thoughts and help you work with your birth team to create your best birth possible.
Although you don’t know what exactly will unfold on the day you give birth, you will have a better sense of control and power because of your engagement in the process of asking for what you want. This can feel uncomfortable for many because we are not used to being respectfully assertive, or even for asking for what we want. But remember this birth is happening with your body, your baby and you live with the experience! You have a right to decide what is best for you and your family.
The birth plan process aims to equalise power by reminding us that with respectful communication the birthing mother and their partner can consider the pros and cons of the different skills, beliefs, practices and attitudes of their different birth team members – self, partner, midwife, doula, doctor etc. We are relating human to human not just doctor to patient.
So use your pregnancy time to read up and research about evidence based care and common obstetric interventions. Talk to your partner in depth about what you both want, what your expectations of each other are are and how you might navigate your birth experience together in care and consideration of your similarities and differences.
Use your antenatal visits to discuss your birth plan with your care provider (use the checklist as a guide). Find out what happens in the hospital you’re birthing at and how your care provider practices. Aim to understand their perspective on your health care and weigh up what is evidence based and specific to your individual care as opposed to policies and habituated practices.
Going through the process of researching, communicating about and writing your birth plan helps you feel into the emotions that may come up for you when you respectfully assert yourself. During labour this can be hard to do if you don’t already have a sense of your right and power to birth your way. It may be helpful to seek quality emotional support to process, practice and integrate positive emotions into your sense of self during your pregnancy in preparation for birthing your way.
Use the check list to prompt you about common practices in maternity care today. Write up a simple end document that you can give to all the people who are a part of your care during your labour. Give a copy to your primary care provider. Take a few copies with you to the hospital. Politely ask any new staff to read your birth plan before discussing your care. Naturally an emergency situation compromises this process but do what you can to communicate what is important to you.
If you have other support people with you in labour, such as a doula or friend, the birth plan offers them a point of reference to advocate on your behalf if need be.
Creating a birth plan by doing the preparation during pregnancy means you are more likely to be able navigate your options more calmly and with more confidence. You are more likely to have a team that understands how to best support you and take into considerations your individual needs. It’s an empowering practice. It’s a life skill that helps you become the mama and papa bear that will help you care for your baby and strengthen your family bonds.
Realise your potential to creating the birth you want!