Birth Plans: The Process of Understanding Your Own Unique Preferences. (And then communicating them to your care team)
"Birth has many variables and can be unpredictable, so flexibility within a birth plan is necessary. So why, why then should you write a birth plan at all? "
Creating a birth plan is actually about the process of learning what options you have in birth and therefore understanding your own preferences better. Working on a birth plan therefore becomes not so much about “the plan” for your birth, but more about acquiring knowledge and a stronger understanding of birth to determine what components are important. The written plan itself then becomes a valuable communication tool between you and your care providers.
There is a benefit in working on your birth plan with your support person to learn about possible questions or concerns you may not have thought of. Keep the plan simplified but cover topics that include:
Who is in your support team
Preferences for pain management
Preferences for comfort in labour
Medical intervention questions
Concerns or Most important details
Newborn care and feeding
And medical information that staff need to know about you… ie… allergies etc.
“I am using natural pain management options. It is important to me that you don’t offer me an epidural. I will ask for more information about medical pain management options if I need”
Take time to talk about each of these points and even both write a plan. Then come together and discuss and create one together. Details can be big like: “I am using natural pain management options. It is important to me that you don’t offer me an epidural. I will ask for more information about medical pain management options if I need” or small details like: “I would like the lights kept low in the room”
The following points give some insights to consider about the process of writing this plan.
1. Learn about your options.
This is the educational portion of writing a birth plan. When you find out what options and policies are in your local area you arm yourself with knowledge. When we have more information about an event we feel more prepared and confident. Discuss options with your care provider, ask LOTS of questions, and best of all take a local Prenatal Education class.
2. Recognize the importance of flexibility.
Situations and circumstances arise in birth that mean different decisions may need to be made. A plan with no flexibility for navigating arising situations can set unrealistic expectations and lead to feelings of disappointment. However, understanding that you can still have an active role in discussions when plans need to adjust aids in overall birth satisfaction.
3. Highlight the most important components.
As you move through writing your birth preferences, a few options often stick out and as you think about different situations, you keep coming back to that one thing, this determines what is most important to you. Make a note of that detail so your care team can be made aware.
4. Spend a little time on wording.
The way a sentence is phrased can have an impact on communicating your wishes with your team. When we want to effectively convey the importance of our wishes, so that your team creates a respectful environment, wording makes a difference. Lean towards phrases like: “I am concerned about” “ I would like” or “If possible” and try to avoid words like “I want” “I have to have” or “I don’t want”. A phrase for example, that starts with “It is very important to me” is quickly accepted and recognized as your share your wishes.
5. Go beyond the birth.
Include your preferences for infant feeding, newborn care and even your first few weeks postpartum if you like. Those are also areas you want to have knowledge about and learn what your preferences might be. Better yet take these tips for working on a birth plan and apply them to creating a Postpartum Plan too.
"Birth Plan, Birth Wishes, Birth Preferences"
Birth Plan, Birth Wishes, Birth Preferences, whatever you call it, it’s a process. And in that process you will develop a plan that’s tailored to you. One that makes you feel more comfortable, confident and prepared as you get closer to your due date. You will discover that you’ve gained information and education about birth that helps answer questions and concerns, and now you have a way to share that information on the day of your baby’s birth.
For an example of a Birth Preference Template here is a link to one on my website.
Written by Christa Duquette of Li’l Apple Doula Services.
Christa Duquette of Li’l Apple Doula Services is a Birth & Bereavement Doula and Childbirth Educator in the central Alberta area that has served communities of Red Deer and Olds for over a decade. Her passion for doula work continues to be an active part of her life and she is enjoying recently adding prenatal education as part of her birth services. Christa lives outside of Olds where she and her husband carry on the family tradition of a century of farming and are raising their 3 kids. They are excited to be celebrating the graduation of their eldest daughter this year… wow how the years fly by!
Li'l Apple Doula Services www.lilappledoula.com