Doula Talk: Birth Plans

"Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body and your spirit for the rest of your life." - Ina May Gaskin



Depending on the type of person you are, you may have already made yourself a birth plan or you're just going to wing it. While it can be super helpful to plan out some things for the birth of your child, in my honest opinion it is incredibly hard to plan out a birth, and can also set you up for disappointment, regrets and unrealistic expectations. That being said, I do think that there are definitely a few key things to think about during pregnancy in relation to your birth plan. This post is not to deter you from creating a birth plan, but rather to think about why you might be creating one and what some things that are valuable to include on a plan are. 


First off, I had created this beautifully thought out birth plan that included everything to what I wanted to atmosphere of the room to be like, to what I would do in the event of an emergency with my first. I wrote down how important it was for me to have a quiet space and for no one to touch me while I was in labor and what to do if I ended up needing an emergency cesarean or Jake needed to make necessary medical decision for both me and the baby. Well... let me just tell you that absolutely none of what I wrote down for my birth plan happened. My son came a month prematurely, I requested every type of pain relief they could offer, I had an entire room full of people whom I had planned on not having present and essentially the birth that my son decided to have was entirely different then the birth I intended to have. I don't necessarily regret anything about Jackson's birth; however, I was a bit disappointed in how it played out only because I had set myself up with unrealistic expectations.

With my second, the only thing I planned was to have my baby at home and to not have erythromycin eye drops. Everything else was up to my body and my baby and fate. Instead of writing out a beautifully curated birth plan for my second, I decided to research. I read about home birth, water birth, natural pain relief methods and the importance of skin to skin and delayed cord clamping. I educated myself on what a transfer from home to hospital may look like and discussed with my midwife some of the things that were important to me--like having a birth photographer, receiving IV antibiotics for GBS and being supported in a safe space. I didn't even write a single thing down for Jaana's birth and I'm so glad that I chose this way of preparing for my birth. 


Well, there are some important things to consider before giving birth. For example, perhaps you don't want to receive any blood products due to personal or spiritual reasons. This is something that would be important to communicate with your health care providers on. Another thing you may want to consider would be receiving antibiotics, routine tests and to educate yourself on what it would look like if there were to be an emergency procedure such as a cesarean.  Choosing where to birth your baby is also important and perhaps you want to plan on who is going to be there to support you. 

So often we put emphasis on creating a birth plan for the sake of deciding if you want to have a medicated or unmedicated labor/birth. Instead of focusing on if you are going to choose to have pain medications, why not educate yourself on the benefits, risks and effects of medications used in childbirth. By doing this, you are informing yourself of not only what your options are but you can also make a more informed decision surrounding what pain relief you may choose. Research natural pain relief techniques and positions for childbirth. Enrol yourself into a prenatal course with your support person and instead of writing out a birth plan, educate yourself on what childbirth can look like. 

The act of writing things out on paper truly does help to relieve some anxiety for some and I respect and understand that. Perhaps you are someone who had a traumatic birth or lost a child. The act of writing down a birth plan on paper may give you some relief, and in this case maybe it is a good idea to write out the things that are really important to you. The truth is though, that you can't plan a birth. It's important to not set yourself up with unrealistic expectations because that is just going to lay a path down for disappointment. The birth of your child is supposed to be the most magical day of your life. By educating yourself you're more likely to be able to make important informed decisions and stay focused. Having an open discussion with your health care provider is also super important because they can provide you with up to date evidence based information and be aware of what is important to you during childbirth. 

So I'm not saying to not write out a birth plan. That is up to you to decide, but if you do choose to write out a birth plan, be mindful of what you write on it. Think about whats important to you and just include those things. You don't need to have a huge long list about how many candles or what songs you want playing in the labor and delivery room like I did, because those are things that aren't necessarily something that needs to be on the list. Think about what is important to you and educate yourself on what may happen in the event of an emergency. Be realistic about your planning, and understand that most births truly don't go as planned and that that is ok. By doing this, you're more likely to have a positive outlook on your birth and you won't be setting yourself up for failure. It's not the birth plan that is important, but the act of educating yourself and becoming informed that will help you to become more prepared and can help you decide your birth preferences. 


Hopefully this gave you a bit more information on birth plans and perhaps gave you a different outlook on them. Stay tuned for next weeks post... I'm going to talk about inductions and provide some evidence based information on some pros and cons to having one.