Having a birth plan is one of the most important things during pregnancy and labour. In this article I give you 3 reasons why it is so essential.
There are people who say “You can’t plan a birth, it just happens” and a part of me agrees with that statement. Of course, a birth is unpredictable and a lot of things can happen. But in my eyes this makes it even more important to think about all the possibilities beforehand. Write down what your ideal birth looks like. And then have a plan B. And a plan C. If you just “go with the flow” you might be disappointed in the end because I think everyone has at least a few ideas what their birth should look like.
And no, a “healthy mum and baby” are not the only important things. The whole birthing experience contributes to your (and baby’s) well-being afterwards. Have you ever asked yourself why there are so many mums with post natal depressions? Although they are “healthy”? Each birth is a once in a lifetime experience, even if you have ten children. For the baby itself it is the way it comes into this world. I am certain it will shape his or her life immensely. So why plan a holiday, buying a car or what to eat for dinner but not think about this unique day?
Equally important is the visualisation process. The clearer the picture of your ideal birth is in your head, the more likely it will happen that way. Where does it take place? What does the room look like? Is there music in the background? What does it smell like? What positions do you want to be in? In which position do you want to give birth? What does it feel like? Are you vocalising a lot? How are you breathing? Do you have to scream? Where are your support people? What exactly are they doing? What do the first few minutes after birth look like? Can you already see your baby looking up at you, the two of you staring lovingly into each others eyes?
Make sure to know exactly what you want. And again: have a plan B and C in case everything turns out to be different. This way you are still prepared for other scenarios and don’t end up being disappointed that you couldn’t have your dream birth.
Here are my top 3 reasons to write a birth plan:
1) Writing it down makes you more aware of what you want
Thinking about all the different scenarios that can arise during birth might make you feel a bit overwhelmed. But it is important to know what will happen to you and your body once you go into labour. By writing down your birth preferences (as some people like to call a birth plan) you actively deal with all the possibilities and therefore become aware of what you really want (and what you absolutely don’t want).
Unfortunately not every birth goes according to plan. At least not according to plan A. Therefore you should have a plan B and C as well. If you are set on a natural birth and have never thought about a c-section, It will come as an even greater shock in case you really need one. Thinking about all possible scenarios made me come to terms with an unnatural birth – I want to avoid it at all costs but I still want to make the best out of it, even if it’s not the birth I dream of anymore. Here is a great article about gentle Cesarean.
2) It is your body, your decisions
No matter what doctors say, in the end it is your body and your decision. No-one can make you do anything you don’t want. But to know what you want you have to have thought about it beforehand and you have to have done enough research. Only then you can make an informed decision. Having a birth plan shows that you are aware of all possibilities during birth but you have actively decided to give birth one way or another. If you really think you want an epidural, go for it. But don’t just have one because it is the only option you know. When your birth plan is very clear and people can follow it easily, you are way more likely to get the birth you are dreaming of. No need to start discussing things in the middle of labour.
3) Your birthing partner, midwife and doctor have to know what you want
If you are planning to give birth in a hospital, you will most likely end up with a midwife and doctor you have never met before. Giving them a written piece of paper is so much easier than trying to tell them what you want and don’t want while you are in labour. Just make sure (or have your birth partner make sure) that they actually read it and follow it.
If you are planning a homebirth or birth in a birth centre, you are most likely dealing with the same few people throughout your whole pregnancy: your partner, a midwife, maybe a doula or other family members. Writing a birth plan is still useful because people cannot remember every detail that might be important to you. Or they forget what you were telling them. If you write everything down, they can read it beforehand and hopefully support you to have your dream birth.
A birth plan becomes essential in case you get transferred to the hospital. How would you feel if you had planned a natural, intervention free birth but as soon as you arrive at the hospital you get Syntocinon (artificial oxytocin) even if it is not absolutely medically necessary? Also think about the probability of a c-section: Bad enough if you need one when you were aiming for a vaginal birth, but even worse if they don’t know that you want to see what’s going on while your baby gets born or they take him or her away because they don’t know that you want skin-to-skin (or at least your partner to hold the baby) anyway.
Interested to know what my birth plan looks like? You can easily download it here and get some inspiration.
P.S. You will also find out the name of our baby 🙂
General tips on how to write a birth plan
In order to get read, a birth plan should be short and clear. I like the idea of having a short statement in which I express my general idea how everything should happen but then I use only bullet points.
I thought a lot about the wording too. Some people like to say “I would like it to be like this and that”. Instead, I have decided to say what I WANT. I think it underlines the fact that I have thought about it a lot and am set on things happening in a certain way. “I would like” sounds just a bit too wishy-washy for me. To say what I want doesn’t only emphasise that I have a strong opinion but I’m sure it also helps in actually achieving it. The moment I say “I would like” I also leave room for it to happen in another way.