Guest blog about the importance of a birth plan, written by Zoe of Bumps to Bubbas - MummyNatal, BabyNatal and First Aid Classes in Worthing, West Sussex. Find out more about MummyNatal classes in Manchester and Stockport here.
“What’s the point in writing a birth plan? Everyone I know says that they aren’t worth the paper that they are written on and will go out the window.”
Sadly this type of question and statement comes up in every MummyNatal birth preparation workshop I have run, that’s quite a number of times in almost two years of teaching! In week 5 when we are discussing the birth environment and in week 6 when we look at birth choices this is a key area we discuss. However at The Natal Family we like to use the term birth preferences rather than a birth plan.
Well often when we think of a plan then it may seem fixed or rigid, something that cannot be altered and something we must stick to; this can lead to feelings of regret, sadness or even guilt if this doesn’t go the way we had written it down. These feelings are real, and not to be dismissed, in some instances these feelings can be so intense that it influences the decision s of future babies for mothers and fathers to be. Should you feel this way, please don’t hold it inside but speak to someone, there are plenty of ways to explore your birth and how to make provisions for the future, should you wish to. So in MummyNatal and the complementary Couples Birth Preparation Workshops we us e the term – birth preferences – exactly what it says on the tin, what you would prefer to happen in your birth rather than what you plan to or what will happen. This implies an element or adaptability when it comes to birth. Discussing with your birth partner what you would both prefer to happen in your birth, and indeed what you wouldn’t like to happen – this is just as important - can allow you the time to really sit back and consider your options and maybe have a few listed.
Yes – but things still might go wrong so why bother going to all that effort?
In my MummyNatal classes I like to use the analogy of a wedding when it comes to birth. So often I hear women say to me that they will “go with the flow” or “do what they are told” when it comes to birth and I always ask them why? I say imagine when or if you planned a wedding – how long would you spend on this, a few months or even years – every last detail would be considered and made just perfect for your big day. But hang on your birth is also a big day, OK we may not have as much time to plan, but we certainly have a good few weeks to. I explain how I have never heard someone say that they have picked a day for the wedding and that they will “go with the flow, see what happens on the day”, there has been lots of thought and preparation gone into this day and, let’s face it, people would think that you were absurd if you said this. Yet in birth this is perfectly acceptable? As in birth things might not go according to plan, the flowers may be late, the car not as clean as you like and so on and what happens? You adapt, notice what has happened and what you can or cannot do about it, chances are you have some ideas what can be done to modify the situation to bring the wedding back on track. The same is true in birth, we can make a note of how we would prefer that day to go and know that if something doesn’t quite work out the way you thought then you know you have other options to bring it back to the environment or way you would prefer to birth.
That makes sense if it’s something small, but what if something major happens such as in induction, assisted birth or caesarean section? You can’t turn that around into something you would prefer?
Sometimes in birth things beyond our control happen and we need to change the way that we would prefer to birth. This could be due to a number of factors involving the health of the baby or the mother and then discussions of inductions, assisted births or even a caesarean section may happen. Remember you still always have a choice and do ask what the benefits and risks are. Even in an emergency your birth partner can explain your birth preferences. You may not have been able to birth the way that you preferred but that doesn’t mean that you might not be able to have those immediate post birth preferences that you wanted - skin to skin, delayed cord clamping or dad informing mum of the sex of the baby and so on. While it may seem that a situation has become out of your control it is important to remember that you do have control of your environment and choices. Therefore having discussions in advance are so helpful to know what you may wish to change in the event of an emergency.
Remember to include your birth partner in these discussions so that you are both clear on what you would prefer for you birth experience. However in situations where you may differ it is important that dad and / or birth partners knows and advocates mums choices.
So how will I know what my choices are? How long can my birth preference be?
Making an informed decision is the key, it will enable you to find out
information about all your choices and make the ones which suit YOU the best. We discuss these in MummyNatal and Couples Birth Preparation workshops. There is also plenty of information widely available to you, talk to your midwife or care provider and use books or the internet but use this to help you make an informed choice and not to listen to the many horror stories that there are out there!
So the next time you hear someone tell you not to bother with writing a birth plan as it will all go wrong, with the best intentions – ignore them! Discuss and work out what you would prefer to happen in your birth, this can be written in your maternity notes, a post it or even a laminated sheet. You don’t need to write an explanation, only what you would like or not like to happen. What is important is not how this is displayed but that you, your birth partner and your midwife or care providers know what is on it.
Happy birthing x