Did you see that Facebook post going around? You know the one where the “best” OB says that he’s completely brilliant and that birth plans will just cause disappointment, so do what he says and everything will work out OK. The post has been removed, but if you look carefully you’ll find screenshots floating around.
Well I agree! Yep, I’m a childbirth educator and birth advocate and I agree!
I agree that strict birth plans can set people up for disappointment. We can’t control birth! As a matter of fact a large part of birth is letting go of control. But before we get all excited and my fellow birth warriors hunt me down let me explain.
I love a good birth plan! Plans are just that...plans. If you’ve ever made plans before you know they don’t always go as “planned”, hence the sarcastic saying “the best laid plans...”.
When it comes to birth plans I refer to them as an educational tool to explore all of your options. So go ahead and pull up that giant 8 page birth plan you Googled, I’ll bet you’ll learn something. Maybe there’s something on there you’ve never heard of, something on there your practitioner didn’t mention because maybe it’s not the norm or most people don’t ask for it...or *gasp*...it’s not what they want or prefer for patients to do.
I’m not saying take a giant 8 page birth plan to your doctor or midwife and tell them this is what you’re demanding. I’m saying take a look at it, look at all of those options! Research the things that you’re unfamiliar with, make a list of questions to take to your next appointment. Once you’ve decided what works for you go ahead and print that out, I recommend trying to keep it to one page so it’s simple. Just some keynotes that your birth team can refer to and that you can share with your nurse (if hospital birth) and the practitioner that is caring for you. Birth plans make a stellar communication tool for you and your birth team.
Study after study shows that a birthing person’s satisfaction with their birth is certainly related to their involvement in the decision making process. Which makes total sense! Who doesn’t want autonomy over their body?! I don’t like to be told which way to fold towels let alone how to birth my baby. Active decision making is a huge part of birth experience satisfaction. This is not to say that we should be combative with our practitioners, this is to say that we should be asking questions and doing our research and being our own advocates.
Have you ever built a house? I’ve never been fortunate enough to have that luxury, and if you haven’t either bear with me. Think about the plans that one has when they’re looking to build a house. You do research, hire professionals, and you make plans. Talk to anyone who has ever built a house, those plans rarely ever go “as planned”. Throughout the process you use your gained knowledge from research and communication with your contractor (the professional) to make decisions about rerouting these plans when things go off course. In the end you’ll still have a house built. The house you wanted and a house you love. The important part is that along this rerouting YOU are part of this decision making process. Imagine if something (non-emergency) went off course and your contractor took it upon themself to just build your house the way they built the last house because that’s what most people like. Not cool, right? See where this is going? It’s all about YOU being an active decision maker.
When I talk about birth plans in my classes I like to have you think about them them as if they are a vacation itinerary.
For example: “These are the things that I prefer to do on my vacation, but in the event that it rains the whole time or I get there and end up with the stomach bug I will still enjoy my vacation by...(Fill in the blank)”
A favorite activity of my childbirth education students is one where I have them lay out their “perfect birth” with cards (options would be things like epidural/no epidural, induced/spontaneous labor, music/no music, directed pushing/mother-led pushing...) and then essentially three options at a time I have them destroy that plan by flipping the cards over to the opposite of what they’ve chosen. So in the end they are left with is a “healthy baby” and hopefully “active decision making”.
Are you sensing a pattern about active decision making?
So yes, I do agree that strict birth plans can set you up for for disappointment. I also agree that you should talk to your practitioner about your birth plans as soon as possible. It’s pretty important to ensure that your choices are safe for you and that your chosen practitioner is on board or offers satisfactory alternatives if not.
What I don’t agree with is discouraging out of hospital birthing classes. Some hospital birthing classes are fantastic, that is true. But be cautious because some will teach you not your options but instead how to be a great patient. This will have to be a conversation for another day.
I also don’t agree with discouraging Doulas. One Google search about Doulas will turn up multiple studies showing how Doulas improve birth. Again, another conversation for another day.
To wrap this soapbox up I’ll say this. If you don’t know your options, you have none! Do your research, hire a doula, find a practitioner that listens to you, take a non-biased and evidence-based birth class, and be the boss of your birth!!
Shauna Rich, BS, LCCE
Co-Founder & Childbirth Educator
Mother Rising Women's Studio