A birth plan is a written document explaining a laboring mother's personal preferences during and after labor and delivery. It is given to the OB or midwife and labor nurses. Some women don't want an epidural, while some plan on it. Some will prefer to labor in a tub. With so many decisions to be made and many of the important ones in a split-second, it's good to think it through ahead of time. It may be difficult to speak up for oneself in such a vulnerable moment, and a birth plan is meant to clearly communicate a woman's decisions to the labor staff.
But there's one little problem. Nurses aren't reading them. Wait a minute. Why write a birth plan if it isn't going to be acknowledged?
To answer this, let's first talk about why the staff wouldn't be reading the plan. There are a few reasons, and they make a lot of sense. First of all, women who write a birth plan can come across as demanding, inflexible, and high maintenance. They can be condescending and rude. This is annoying to a labor staff, especially because childbirth is their area of expertise. Doctors may feel frustrated by a plan that seeks to limit their authority. In an emergency moment, a doctor's critical decision-making skills can save a baby's life.
But, it's actually pretty simple. The main reason that birth plans are discarded by hospital staff is that they are too long. No one wants to read something wordy, demanding, and just generally too long. The solution to this is to identify what's really important, simplify it, and present it in a short, easy to read format. The ideal birth plan is one that a doctor actually can just glance at.
When writing a birth plan, anything a woman is certain about should be included right away. Then she'll need to research what she doesn't have good knowledge about. It's okay to leave some parts up to the doctor's expertise. There are of course women who'd rather just leave everything up to the doctor but they wouldn't be writing a birth plan.
Here are some things to consider and educate oneself on while writing a Birth Plan:
- Pain Management (epidurals, labor tubs, free movement)
- Medical Intervention (forceps, vacuum, Pitocin, C-section)
- Skin to Skin Bonding
- Bathing the newborn (who will do it, and when)
- Delayed Cord Clamping
- Who will cut the cord, catch the baby, announce the sex
- Breastfeeding (whether you want to do it ASAP, whether nurses can offer a bottle or pacifier)
- Vitamin K shot, Hepatitis B vaccination, eye ointment (whether or when it should be done)
After researching, make firm decisions and write them out in clear syntax and simple format. Bullet points and visuals are good. Unnecessary wordy introductions, personal hopes, or longwinded gratitude for the medical staff should be omitted. Along with simplicity and clarity, a good birth plan shows respect to the medical staff while advocating strongly for a laboring woman's personal conviction.
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