Should I make a birth plan?
Real Mom Problem
“Is it really necessary that I write up a birth plan or is it just a waste of time?”
- 1. Birth plans aren't necessary but might help you feel more in control of the process
- 2. If you create a birth plan, keep it short and highlight the issues that are most important to you
- 3. Discuss your plan with your care provider prior to your due date
- 4. Contact your hospital or birth center to learn their policies before creating a plan
- 5. Know what you want, but remain flexible
Real Mom Solutions
Every woman -- and every birth -- is different. You can't be prepared for everything, but some pregnant women feel that a birth plan can be a helpful tool during labor and delivery. Read opinions from real moms like you before making the choice that suits you best.
Our Expert Mom Says...
Ask any labor and delivery nurse and she will give you a resounding NO! Think about it — how can you sit at home prenatally and write a "dissertation" about what you do and don't want to have happen during the birth? I liken this to trying to control the weather while on an aircraft — not possible.
What the health care team does recommend is that you have discussed this unchartered event and have distinct "goals" versus "plans." Goals are much more flexible and will allow you to make decisions along the way throughout labor.
When we have a PLAN to do something, and it doesn't go according to "plan," how are we left feeling? Disappointed and upset! Whereas having flexible goals is setting the stage to be able to recall your birth experience with a sense of accomplishment and deep satisfaction.
You will remember the day you give birth for the rest of your lives — make it a stunning memory by staying clear with the goal: Healthy mom/healthy baby!
Sarah McMoyler, RN, BSN and mother, is WebMD's Pregnancy Expert, and founder of McMoyler Method. As a specialist in labor and delivery nursing for more than 20 years, McMoyler has assisted in the delivery of more than 5,000 babies. Her personal view and in-depth professional experience has been integral to McMoyler Method's success in graduating more than 18,000 San Francisco Bay Area couples to confidently approach pregnancy, prepare for delivery, and care for their newborn babies.
McMoyler decided to make her popular method available to a broader audience by presenting McMoyler Method to a global audience through the release of a book titled The Best Birth: Your Guide to the Safest, Healthiest, Most Satisfying Labor and Delivery and the upcoming launch of a new online class.
Plans Help You Get What You Want
I agree in the long run all that matters is a healthy child. But many women are now smart enough to realize that a lot if what doctors want to do to your body to get the baby out can end up causing more harm than good. It's better to have a plan of action to avoid those issues.
For me it's all about setting someone up for success. Things can change when you get to the hospital, sure. I would just imagine that most women want it to go as smoothly as possible and not be set up to fail.
A birth plan is always good to have no matter how simple or detailed. It's up to you and your husband to make your demands known and not let the doctors or nurses push you into things you don't want.
I had a birth plan because it was my body, my baby, and my birth experience. At the end of the day those doctors and nurses will go home and never remember my birth experience, but I will! I want it to be something I look back on with fond beautiful memories and I want to feel like I have control over that. Of course the number one priority is a healthy baby. I see nothing wrong with women taking an active part in their birth rather than just letting the doctor call all the shots and that is exactly what a birth plan does.
We like to feel that we have some control over our bodies and our births. Most women will tell you that what really matters is having a healthy baby in your arms when it's over, but I fully understand having a birth plan that you feel gives you the best chances of having a healthy child and one that might help you stay sane through something that is life-altering.
Birth Plans Are a Waste of Time
I've seen lots of women who stick to their birth plan so much that they cause undue pain or stress on themselves or the baby. If people asked if I had one when I was pregnant, I'd always say, "Go to hospital. Get drugs. Get baby out of my body somehow. Baby and I leave alive." So technically I did exactly what my birth plan stated.
I enjoy birthing at a hospital with my Pitocin, IV, and epidural. My doctor and the nurses asked if I had a birth plan. I didn't. Three healthy babies later and I enjoyed my birthing experiences because of what I got out of them.
My birth plan went out the window very quickly. I found it to be a waste of time to even sit down and figure one out.
Many hospitals do not follow birth plans as part of their policy and procedure. It is still good to know what you want and have your doctor know, but ultimately, policy and procedure and doctor's orders both trump your wishes.
I am pregnant with my fifth. In my opinion birth plans are useless because they ask you just about every question when you are admitted. My midwife goes over it at every appointment after 32 weeks.
Tips for a Successful Birth Plan
Work with the hospital before labor to find out what their policies are. Ask to meet with the head labor and delivery nurse. Even though you may be able to find their policies on the internet or in a pamphlet, going through these steps of being visible and vocal to them will help them to see you are a force to be reckoned with and no pushover.
The ONLY thing I would recommend is saying "I will" versus "I would like" or "I prefer." Remember, the hospital staff and doctor are your employees and can have all the "policies" in the world they want. You have the first, middle and FINAL say in what happens to your body and that of your baby--you do NOT need anyone's permission to do any of those things. Anyone saying something on this list cannot be done because of "policy" is violating your right to informed consent! Also, make sure you get all the paperwork and consent forms a few weeks before birth. Go over them with a fine toothed comb. Mark out what you do NOT consent to, date it and initial it. That way, you can birth at home as long as possible and just hand them the forms when you walk in (in VERY heavy labor!). A patient's right to informed consent trumps hospital policy--EVERY time! A hospital can only legally do what a patient consents to (unless patient is unconscious and it is an emergency situation).
If you want doctors to take a birth plan seriously, you have to keep it short and to the point. Use your plan to inform the staff of situations where you are going against the normal hospital birthing model. Or where you may be unable to tell them what you are wanting. So extra things like no Pitocin when you first get there, first bath, details of visiting, circumcision, induction, clothing, etc., aren't really necessary. You will be able to tell them those wishes at the time that it becomes important.
All of my requests were met but I also had my doctor's support in advance and birthed in a hospital that promotes a more natural birth. If your doctors are not on the same page as you then yes, your birth plan is pointless. I would discuss this with your doctor soon so you can look for a new doctor if needed.
Get the birth plan to your doctor ASAP and go from there. I'd consider a doula because it'll be a lot easier to stick to your birth plan! The hospitals usually do things a certain way. The hospital's responsibility is to keep you two safe.