Birth Plans Vs. Reality
Why Have a Plan?
There are innumerable decisions to be made during labor and delivery.
How do you want to deal with pain management? Who do you want to cut the cord? What if the baby needs to go to the NICU? Does dad follow? Does he stay with mom? Is your goal to breastfeed? How do you want to pursue that?
These decisions are best made from the comfort of your own home, when rested, as your husband massages your feet (or something like that). They are not choices you want to make while in the chaos of a hospital delivery room, under pressure, with emotions running high. Birth plans are a great planning tool (hence the name) to use when considering your options. They are helpful for you and your spouse to identify what each feels strongly about. Dad wants to know what he should do in the event mom and newborn are separated. Trust me.
Birth plans are especially helpful if you’re a first time parent and everything is uncharted territory. Planning your preferences, (ideally by the 36th week) will make everything easier on the big day.
When Things Get Complicated
Phone batteries will die, birth plans may get left at home, and babies can take longer than expected. Sometimes, things just get complicated. And that is OK. It has to be ok because there may be no other option.
Birth plans are not for planning birth. They are for planning our preferences for birth. In the process of bringing another human being into the world you may have goals you’d like to accomplish. And that’s great! But the ultimate accomplishment is bringing another human being into the world. Please remember that before you start beating yourself up when your plans don’t work out perfectly.
Here are some ways of increasing the chance your birth plan will be followed:
•Bring multiple copies of your ONE PAGE, ONE SIDED birth plan.
Nurses change shifts and papers get lost. They are also incredibly busy people with lots of paperwork of their own. They don’t need anybody adding to it. However, most want their patients to have a good experience while in their care. If what you want (dim lights, soft voices, intermittent monitoring, etc.) is within their ability and requested nicely, 99 out of 100 will try to make it happen.
•Make sure your birth plan is relevant to your birth
The internet is full of multi paged, outdated, irrelevant birth plans. One way to get your care providers to take your birth plan seriously is not to use a plan that includes enemas, shaving or preferences ranging from A-Z. Make sure your plan only includes issues that are top priority to you. (Side note: Enemas and shaving are not routine practice anymore.)
•Choose a hospital and doctor (or homebirth and midwife) that has a standard of care similar to your ideal birth plan.
Don’t plan on eating and drinking as you want throughout labor if your hospital’s policy is “Ice Chips Only” once labor begins. Don’t plan on trying a water birth if the hospital only has one tub. It will be in use when you need it.
Birth plans are great! We recommend that everyone, especially first time parents, have one. If used properly, they can help you plan the best possible birth!
Did things go as planned during your baby’s birth? Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
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