As you are preparing for the birth of your sweet babe, you have probably stumbled upon this concept or have been told or even asked by your provider,
What is your birth plan?
Do you have a birth plan?
Anything you specifically desire for your birth?
So, what exactly is a birth plan, or as some women like to refer to it as, birth desires? Should this be something to have in place or should you just go with the flow?
A birth plan is a list or outline of what a mother desires to have or not have during the course of her labor and birth. There are various templates that exists out there with several different categories of preferences that you can list, circle, or write out. The purpose of the plan is to help those who are in the room with you during your journey to be on the same page with your desires and hopes for this birth. This can be especially helpful for moms who are going to be giving birth in a hospital since you may not know the doctor or midwife who will be on call (if you are a part of a large practice) and you most likely will not know the nurses who will be on call as well. Even if you do know the nurse, shift changes happen, doctors can get called for emergencies, call times change, people get sick, and so on. This is why the concept of birth plans has become a popular thing among hospital births.
In addition to helping your entire birth team be on the same page, writing out your birth desires has many other benefits.
Helps you to know your options
There is a lot of information between books, blogs, podcasts, courses, and the internet when it comes to options for labor and birth, and for many moms this can be overwhelming. Knowing your options will make a difference. I say this especially for moms who are giving birth in the hospital system, since hospitals are not as well equipped for a normal, low-risk birth. By design hospitals are meant to treat patients and heal them, making them better from whatever alignment they have. They do this wonderfully and have saved many people's lives and helped them to live better, healthier, and longer lives.
However, pregnancy and birth are not an illness to be cured.
That being said, some providers will be antsy if your labor isn't going at the pace, they want it to go or want to give you something because they don't know what else to do to help make your comfortable. Even if you do want medication, it's not a guarantee to work and help in the way you want or expect. About 8-23% of epidurals don't work, resulting in moms being confined to their bed from the medication being administered, but not reaping any of the benefits they expected.
This is why it's important to know ALL of your options surrounding labor, birth, and your newborn.
Here are just some of the options:
-artificial rupture of membranes
-yes or no to cervical checks
-intermittent or continuous monitoring
-shower or bath
-eating and drinking
-vitamin K or eye drops for newborns
-delayed cord clamping
-active or passive management of the placenta
and the list goes on.
By getting a template for a birth plan that divides these topics into different sections, it can make looking up and researching these different topics less stressful and overwhelming and help you to feel in control of your birth.
Remember, you don't know what you don't know, and knowledge is power. You are in control of what you learn and the questions you want to ask.
Helps to know what to expect
By looking up different possible procedures that can happen in the hospital, you won't be as deer in the headlights when a nurse or your provider asks you certain questions while you are in the hospital. More importantly, your husband won't be as deer in the headlights since he will most likely be answering more of the questions since you will be focused and in labor land. Looking to resources such as Evidenced Based Birth and their articles (their old articles are fine; I can't endorse their new podcast episodes since they unfortunately have become more into the woke culture of pronouns and birthing person). Their old articles have a lot of great information for risks and benefits in an easy-to-read format for many procedures that can happen, especially on the newborn during the first few hours of their life.
Unfortunately, much of the information that hospitals practice are outdated from what is recently recommended. An example is eating and drinking during labor. Most hospitals will only want the laboring mother to have a liquid diet, because they are afraid that in the small chance, she needs to have a true emergency c-section and will need to go under anesthesia, she will asphyxiate from her own vomit if has food in her stomach. The most recent data states that women should not be limited to what she can eat and drink to help sustain her during the marathon of labor. However, new studies and research can take at least 10 years to implement into the hospital system, and even then, older providers are reluctant to change their ways from how they have practiced for years. So be mindful!
Have a plan in the event of a transfer for homebirth/birth center
It is still good to have a plan even if you are planning for a homebirth or a birth center birth. While you know who will be in the room with you for sure and have already talked about your desires with your team, it is good to have a transfer plan in place in case of an emergency or a prolonged labor where you may need some additional assistance.
Planning for a transfer or a c-section doesn't mean you will have one. This will again help you to know what your options are going into the new plan so you can still have some say and control of your birth, even if it isn't going the way that you originally planned.
Helps you to know how to prepare before going into labor
Whether you are desiring a medicated or unmedicated birth, community birth or hospital, you need to prepare ahead of time. I'm not talking about packing the bag, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually preparing. How do you feel about birth? What are your thoughts? Are they positive, negative, fear based, excited, anxious, or joyful?
Are you someone who like to visualize, listen to music, have people talking in the background? Do you like praise and worship, chant, or silence? Do you like words of affirmation or physical touch? Does water help you to relax, whether it's in the shower or bathtub?
These are things you can think about and even practice using before labor. Labor is the worst time to learn something new for the first time, so if you want to use it during labor, do so now!
Remember, we can't control birth
Ultimately you are working with another human, so you are not in control of your birth. Things change, different tools may be used than what you expected, different styles of pushing may happen based on what your baby and body need, positions may feel good or terrible, baby's position may be great or not. You can't control your birth.
But you can have hopes and desires for it.
So do what you can to make those desires happen. Control what you can control.
Your environment (to a degree)
Your team (to a degree)
So, dream up your birth plan! Know what your options are. Keep it short and polite for the hospital staff. You don't want to make demands but let them know what your desires are. Have a conversation with them (dad this is more your role) to let them know what your hopes are for this birth and how you are wanting the room atmosphere to be like. Have a plan for c-section/ transfer to the hospital.
This is your birth mama.