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4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Have a Birth Plan

Yes, you read that right, 4 reasons why you should NOT have a birtplan. Why shouldn’t you have a birthplan, you ask? The answer may seem obvious to many women. Horror stories about labor and delivery abound and it seems that the rounder your belly gets, the worse the stories. So why bother? According to all the unsolicited advice that “plan will go out the window in no time”, or “it’ll just set you up for failure and disappointment”. I agree, a PLAN may not be a good thing to have, so here are 4 reason why you shouldn’t have a birthplan.

1. You can’t plan how your birth will go, but ...

you can prepare for it. Your baby is not going to fall out all by itself. You will have to do a lot of work to get the baby out, that’s why they call it labor. But exactly what does that work look like and what can you do to make it as smooth as possible? By creating a birthplan you and your partner will have a guide to start preparing for the big day. There are so many options available to you that you may not even know about, especially if it’s your first baby. Writing a birth plan will help you figure out not only what those options are, but what their benefits and drawbacks are. It will help you to start thinking about your labor and birth, about the environment, the people, about your priorities in what you really want to happen and what you really want to avoid. Writing a birth plan can help you and your partner get closer in your relationship as you start really thinking about that day. You can find resources online to help you get started. Childbirth classes are also recommended to learn about all your options and figure out what’s right for you.

2. You are not in control, but ...

you can make informed decisions. Once you have prepared for your labor and birth there is absolutely no guarantee on how things will actually go. So in a sense it is true that you are not in control. However, by having learned about labor progress, (routine) interventions, medications, coping techniques etc. you can make informed decisions about your care. You can ask questions and you can consent to or decline procedures and/or medications. You can be an active participant in the process and that is what makes for a positive labor experience.

3. You’re doctor will see it as a contract and not like it, but ...

it’s a great communication tool. Many care providers understand that there are many variables to labor and birth. Some doctors don’t like women presenting birth plans because they feel like it’s a contract and they know they can not necessarily honor it. Other care providers don’t like them because they have a certain way of practicing and do not intend to change anything about that for any individual patient. When you bring your birthplan to your care provider, look at it as a communication tool. It is a way for you to let him or her know about the things you have researched and would like to have happen or avoid. Make sure you use language to reflect that you understand it is not a contract and that you will remain flexible such as, ‘I prefer ….’ or ‘I would like to ….’ By discussing your preferences with your care provider up front you will both know if you are a good match. There are different philosophies about labor and birth (more about that in a later post), and you may not be in agreement. It is much better to find this out during one of your prenatal visits than when you are in the midst of having your baby. Remember, as long as your baby is inside of you, you can switch providers and hire one who does see eye to eye. You want to find a care provider who will support you in reaching your goals, not one who will simply ‘allow’ you to do or not do certain things.

4. You’re setting yourself up for failure, but ...

your support people will know your priorities and advocate for you. When you have prepared for your birth and you have come up with an ideal way of how you would like things to go, it’s only natural to hope for things to go exactly that way. One big part of preparing for birth however, is preparing your heart and mind to stay open and flexible. Your support people: your partner and doula, can help advocate for you when things do not go according to your ideal. They have been part of all the work you put in beforehand, when you were creating your list, so they know your priorities. They can prompt questions to help you figure out if suggested procedures or medications are simply routine or something you and baby may truly need. They can help you find the middle ground if things do take a turn and help you maintain control over the decisions that are being made, even when the process itself is going in a different direction. Some of the most empowering births happen when mothers have to let go of their plan and decide to do something completely opposite of what they had imagined. Empowerment comes from making that decision, trauma comes from that decision being forced on you by someone else.

So perhaps having a birthplan is not a good idea because the word 'plan' can be so misleading. Maybe calling it birth 'preferences' is more accurate. It indicates that you have put in the time and effort to become informed and prepared. It suggests that you want to be an active participant in your care and decision making. But, it also suggests that you understand that labor and birth is only predictable up to an extent and that much of it is indeed unpredictable. It suggests that you are taking responsibility and have truly begun your journey of parenting this child, before it is even born. Congratulations!

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