Depending on who you talk to, you get different reactions when discussing birth plans. They are useful or useless; “You really can’t plan birth or I’m just going to go with the flow.”
Pip Owen, a childbirth educator, midwife, mother of four and founder of Birth Savvy an independent childbirth education service in Perth, says, “Women who are clear on what they want from the birth process, and put steps in place to ensure their preferences are followed are more likely to have a better birthing experience.” Research has found women benefit from clearly understanding the potential effects of intervention on themselves and their babies and should be encouraged to be more proactive when it comes to giving birth. These women were more likely to record a positive experience because they were educated on the choices that were available to them.
A good birth plan need not be a very complex and long document; it can be a simple checklist of the things you would like happen before, during and after birth. When I was expecting my first child, my husband and I prepared the birth plan to cover most eventualities like a C-section, pain relief, dietary requirements, and religious practices. After reviewing several templates from different baby websites, I chose a simple plan that covered all aspects of my birth. Following additional research, we included preferences such as; the baby was to be weighed in the birth room and not nursery, not given a bath straightaway, and given skin to skin contact immediately after birth so he and I could bond and to allow him to breastfeed on his own. We wanted our baby’s first experience to be loving and warm so he could comfortably adjust to his new surroundings.
The plan was handed over to the attending midwife in the birth room after I arrived at the hospital. The midwife cautioned me they would respect my preferences so long as the delivery process didn’t require medical intervention. If something went wrong; then they would do what was best for me and my baby. I believe the plan gave me that degree of flexibility because it also covered what we would like happen in case the delivery didn’t go well. So my husband and I were mentally prepared for that part of the birth.
After 18 slow hours of active labour, drugs and sleeplessness, things moved extremely quickly after my baby was born! Having a birth plan on hand gave me a sense of certainty amidst all the unfamiliar events happening around me, and provided my partner and me with a powerful voice and input into our child’s wellbeing. The birth plan raised our awareness of procedures pre, during and post birth leading us to ask the right questions of the medical staff. As this was my first time, I felt empowered and part of the entire experience instead of being a passive participant and being told what would happen next or at worst not being told anything at all by the staff.
Munira Marvi, a friend, who gave birth to her first child four months ago says, “Listening to other peoples’ birth stories, plus attending antenatal classes, gave me a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I actually wrote out my preferences for different scenarios. Although that might be considered paranoid, seeing it written down helped me overcome my fears when it came to the actual labour.” Sarah J Ali, who is currently expecting her second baby, takes a more pragmatic approach, “As with my first birth which was natural and is my preference, I’m very mindful of the fact that labour and birth doesn’t always work out how you had planned, so I’m keeping my options open.”
I believe the most important reason to have a birth plan is that it makes you aware that you have choices, but also allows flexibility in case things do not go well. Although you may not be able to predict what will happen during your labour, you can definitely plan for how you want your child to be brought into this world – in the best and healthiest way for both of you without any disappointment or regrets.