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15 Reasons To Ditch The Birth Plan

Ah, the birth plan. Moms know they’re “supposed” to sit down and write it all out. But, they’re not completely sure why. All their mommy-friends tell them that it’s absolutely, positively essential.

Creating one helps moms-to-be work out their pre-delivery worries and makes sure that everyone (yes, that’s everyone from their S.O. to the third shift nurse’s aide to their mother-in-law’s nosey BFF who insists on being in the waiting room for the duration of their labor) knows what’s up for the big birthing day. After all, most women want to be as prepared as possible?

They’re all about nesting right now. Not only are they organizing the zillion teeny tiny onesies that they got for their shower, but they’re also trying to iron out every aspect of their life. And their baby’s birth is one major element (or rather – THE major element) that they want to organize.

So, moms-to-be make a majorly detailed birth plan. They list what they want to happen, their goals, theiur dreams, their hopes and their must-haves. They add sections on meds (do they want them or not?), who they want in the labor and delivery room and what they expect from the doctor-patient relationship. In the end, mos-to-be have the “War and Peace” of birth plans, and they’re ready to go! Or, maybe not.

Birth, like just about everything else in life, has a funny little way of not exactly happening as expected. Whether mom-to-be is making the conscious decision to toss the plan or circumstances beyond her control make it moot, moms need to check out why they may decide to ditch the birth plan.

Keep in mind, switching it up and straying from what the original plan was doesn’t mean that mom isn't in charge of her birth or that it’s any less special. The whole point of her birth plan is to explore, know and state her options. Don’t forget, ditching it is always an option too.

15 Mom Changed Her Mind

Birth plans are all about options. There’s a reason that you’re not chiseling it out into a stone tablet. Okay, so there are more than a few reasons why you’re not doing that. But, in general a birth plan is more of a guide than an absolute.

Even if you don’t hate the plan, you may get into labor and change your mind. Sure, you spent hours, days or even weeks putting together the perfect plan. At the time you thought, “Well, this is 100 percent for sure definitely what I want.” Now you’re more like, “Um, I think I’d rather not do it this way.”

Unless you’ve had an undoable major change of heart (such as deciding that you really want to be in the birthing center across town after you’ve been in the hospital for four hours – and are already in active labor) chances are that you can ditch the plan and go with what you’re feeling now.

14 She Wanted To Go Natural, But Pain Sucks

The thought of your precious newborn entering the world in a drugged out haze makes you want to vomit. There’s absolutely, positively no way that meds could possibly ever be part of the birth that you envision. Your pain threshold isn’t exactly on high. But, you’re totally against taking a pill or getting an IV of something that will dull your senses (and affect your baby).

Or, maybe you just want to experience everything that a natural birth has to offer. Even though an epidural won’t hurt your baby (or drug you out), it does numb you. So, you set up a birth plan that doesn’t include meds – of any kind. You specify that going natural is what you want. That is, until the contractions start.

Let’s face it, there’s no way to understand the pain of having a baby until you’ve actually done it. Those crazy-bad period cramps are nothing compared to what it feels like when your uterus is trying to push another human being out of it. If you get part way through labor and suddenly decide that natural isn’t for you, it’s perfectly acceptable to throw that non-medicated plan out the window and ask your doctor for help.

13 Mom Needs A C-section

So some women actually plan for C-sections. But, that doesn’t mean an elective Cesarean (that is, a C-section when the woman wants it and not because there is a maternal or fetal medical issue or complication) is a myth. It’s estimated that 2.5 percent of births in the U.S. are a result of C-section by maternal request, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Even though it’s possible to choose a C-section for no real medical reason the ACOG doesn’t support it, noting that the risks for both mom and baby outweigh the benefits.

Elective C-sections are obviously not the only planned Cesareans. If you know that you have a complication or have had past C-sections, your doctor may recommend that you schedule one.

Okay, these aren’t exactly reasons to toss out your birth plan – they’re more like the actual birth plan. But, when you plan to deliver your baby vaginally and it just doesn’t happen, your doctor may insist that you ditch your plan and go with the surgical option.

12 Mom Hates It

This is the birth of your baby. With that in mind, it should be magical – to you (and your partner or baby-daddy). Let’s say you write out what you think is “the” plan. You’ve included everything that you think you want out of the birthing experience. You’ve listed your preferences, your options and the people who you really, truly want around you.

Now you’re in labor. You put that birth plan into motion. And, you hate it. Maybe you thought that you’d completely love bouncing on one of those birthing yoga balls or that you’d want your hubby, his mom, your mom and your BFF along for the ride. Everything is going as planned, but you are starting to realize that your vision of labor and delivery aren’t your reality.

Hey, it’s your prerogative to change your mind. If your birth plan just doesn’t seem right (or worse, you absolutely can’t stand it), then ditch it. You tried. It didn’t work. That’s okay. This birth is about your baby, and not about your plan.

11 It’s Crazy Long

No, no one is calling you crazy. You’re sane. Or, at least as sane as a woman who’s been growing another person in her belly can be. What might be crazy is the length of your birth plan. And, it’s not only longer, it’s super-complicated. There are lists, charts, graphs and multi-page directions.

There’s no shame in over-preparing. Some of us are just totally into making room for every possible eventuality. That’s exactly what you’ve done. But, when it gets to the big ol’ day, the plan is making you dizzy. You’ve included so many points in your plan that you kind of don’t know where to start. So, skip the plan. Or, at the very least, skip parts of it.

Chop that plan down and go with the short and sweet version. Having a baby is tough enough. Why complicate it with something that looks more like a multi-chapter how-to guide than your own personal birth plan.

10 The Doctor Steps In

Should the doctor (or any other medical professional) railroad you into something that you don’t want? Nope. But, there may be times when the expert is – well, the expert. A doctor pushing you into an elective option (such as an epidural) when you don’t want it should be a no-go. A doctor insisting that you need to take their medical advice for your or your baby’s health and safety is a go all the way.

You’ve got this plan, and it’s beautifully crafted. But, it doesn’t take into account that your water broke and your contractions just aren’t up to snuff. Nothing’s happening and your doc says it’s time for Pitocin (a drug commonly used to induce labor). They’ve tried everything else in their labor-inducing arsenal, and your baby is staying put.

The doctor is worried about an infection setting in and wants to get the baby out safely (and hopefully without a C-section). Your plan called for absolutely no meds whatsoever. Okay, so hold off on the narcotics for now. But, let the doctor help your baby with the much-needed medication.

9 It Wasn’t Realistic

Oh, the mystery of childbirth. You educated yourself through classes, books, blogs and talking to plenty of other mamas. You thought you knew what your labor should look like and were pretty darn sure exactly how delivery would go.

The contractions start, your water breaks and it’s finally happening. It’s an all go right now for that birth plan. That is, until you realize it’s not exactly realistic. You can prep for what to expect before having the baby, but you won’t truly know until you’re actually in it.

If you find that your plan is more fantasy than labor and delivery reality, ditch it and go from there. That said, it’s entirely possible that you’ll be able to keep parts of the plan. Some of it may be fairly realistic (or at least realistic enough to pull off). You may just need to adjust some of it or add/subtract pieces.

8 It's Too Detailed

You want the works. This is a magical moment (or, more like many magical hours) and you want everything that you can get. You want the birth ball, a water bath, music, massage and much, much more.

Okay, so maybe you don’t really want everything that you’ve listed in your plan. You’re just not exactly sure. Instead of going bare bones with it, you want the Porsche of births (all the extras, but still small and speedy). This doesn’t necessarily mean that your plan is too long. Your bells and whistles-filled list may only be half a page long.

And, that’s it. But, when you get into the actual labor process, you realize that you don’t need all of the extra ‘stuff’.

What next? Get rid of the plan and go sweetly simple. As you make your way through your baby’s birth you’ll realize which parts of the plan are totally unnecessary and what you might want to keep.

7 Mom Doesn’t Have Time For It

Your plan details what will happen (or what you want to happen) for each part of the labor and delivery process. There are specific songs that you want to hear, yoga poses to strike and hours of childbirth relaxation options to try.

You figure that you have the better part of a day (or the whole thing) to make your way through childbirth. So, you’ve prepped for a long labor. And then, it happens. Your baby is on overdrive and wants to meet you immediately. She simply won’t take no for an answer and isn’t slowing down one bit. Your labor day suddenly switches to under an hour. There goes your birth plan!

As long as your baby is developmentally ready to come out (meaning that she’s not preterm), slowing labor down to stick to a birth plan is pretty much unthinkable. Toss the plan and get super-excited to meet and greet that brand new baby, hours before you thought you would.

6 Mom Winds Up In Premature Labor

You’re 34 weeks pregnant and suddenly you’re water is breaking. You’re having contractions and the baby is coming. Right now. You rush to the hospital, only to be told that you’re in premature labor. As if you didn’t already know that.

Even though you’re holding onto some sort of hope that the pros can do something to make it stop, it’s your baby’s birth day. This is going to happen now, and your birth plan really may not matter. What does matter is the health of your baby (and of course, your health too).

Preterm (or premature) birth happens when a baby is delivered before 37 weeks. Babies born prematurely can have a host of problems, such as breathing issues, feeding challenges, cerebral palsy, hearing or vision problems or developmental delays.

Going into labor before 37 weeks changes the game. Your doctor may need to take precautions or come up with a treatment plan to keep you and your baby safe. This may not exactly mesh with your birth plan.

5 Mom Has Been Misinformed

If it’s on the Internet it must be true. Right? Well, not so much. If your birth plan comes from information that you’ve gotten from your doctor, midwife, nurse or other childbirth pro then it’s a go. If the info comes from current (within the past few years) books written by doctors, midwives, nurses or other childbirth pros then again, proceed without too much caution.

But, if the plan comes from ‘facts’ you’ve gotten from Mother Hen’s baby days website, you might want to think again.

Review your plan with an expert. That is, review the plan with your expert. Your doctor or midwife (or other medical pro) knows you and your situation. Above that, the expert also knows the most up-to-date medical techniques, standards and procedures. If the plan is factual, use it. If the plan is packed with misinformation, ditch it in favor of something that’s based on real info.

4 Someone Pressured Mom Into Her Current Plan

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Many mamas-to-be make birth plans so that no one pressures them to give birth in a way that doesn’t meet their needs. This includes doctors, nurses and even family members. The birth plan exists so that everyone around the soon-to-be mommy knows what the woman who’s moaning with labor pains wants and expects from the childbirth experience.

But, that doesn’t mean every woman creates her birth plan without outside influences. Whether it’s your significant other, your mother-in-law, your sister (who has six kids and knows everything possible that there’s to know about labor and delivery) or anyone else, if someone has pushed you into creating a birth plan that you don’t feel fully comfortable with it’s time to ditch it.

These plans are individual, private and meant to come from you – the mother. If your plan is partly your wants and partly what your BFF insists that you add in, don’t do it. The plan needs to be yours and yours alone.

3 Mom Has Preeclampsia

This serious pregnancy complication is characterized by excessive swelling (especially in the hands, feet, face and neck), protein in the urine and high blood pressure. If the pregnancy isn’t far enough along to deliver the baby, the doctor may prescribe bedrest or even hospitalization. The only real ‘cure’ for preeclampsia is delivery.

Preterm babies are delivered as soon as they can safely survive outside of mom. Full-term babies are delivered as soon as the diagnosis is made.

Why does a preeclampsia diagnosis mean you may need to ditch the birth plan? To start with, it’s not likely that your plan included an induction. But, your preeclampsia treatment plan will. You may also need medications to control your blood pressure or prevent you from having a seizure.

Whatever you birth plan says, this condition is potentially life-threatening and trumps anything that you’ve already chosen to happen.

2 It’s Doesn't Effectively Communicate Mom's Needs

Behind the birth plan is the idea that it will facilitate communication between you and the medical or childbirth staff. It gives your doctor, midwife, nurse or whoever else is delivering your baby the chance to know what’s up with your wants and makes it clear how you want the whole process to go.

Even though you had the best intentions going into it, it’s possible that the plan may not fully facilitate an open dialogue between you and the experts. In some ways, a hyper-detailed plan may seem critical of modern medicine or distrustful of doctors. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have the birth that you envision.

But, when the doctor who’s cared for you over the last nine months or the midwife who has spent hours educating you feels alienated, labor and delivery become infinitely more challenging. If this plan is putting up roadblocks when it comes to communication, you may need to adjust it or swap it out for something that fosters a positive communication environment.

1 It Makes Mom Feel Bad

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Natural birth is your thing. It’s a goal and you’re ready to take it on. You’re a Viking, a hardy master of all things that come with childbirth and you’re ready to woman up to the challenge. At least, that’s what your plan seems to say.

The contractions start and you’re trying your best to follow the plan. The key word here is “trying.” Even though you’re doing your best, your super-star plan is making you feel like a failure. You can’t handle the pain, you break down and ask for meds and now you’re thinking that you’re the world’s worst mom – and you haven’t even had the baby yet.

It’s okay. Take a deep breath and know that your plan wasn’t ever meant to make you feel bad. It was meant to help you. So, if it isn’t helping, don’t force yourself to use it. Get rid of it and take whatever path makes you feel comfortable.

Sources: ACOG.org, CDC.gov, Preeclampsia.org, Lamaze.org

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