If you enjoy researching and planning, the topic of a birth plan may seem exciting and fun. But for some pregnant parents, it can seem daunting and even stressful. Planning to welcome a new baby is mostly exciting and fun; from celebrating with family and friends to decorating a nursery and picking out the cutest home coming outfit. However, talking about birth and the potential pain labor and the possibilities of what could happen can seem overwhelming.
Birth preferences or wish list are terms that many birth workers use in place of birth plan. These terms are more closely reflect the true nature of labor and birth. Every birth unfolds differently and there is never really a way to plan for all the possibilities. So for some, simply by calling it birth preferences can ease your mind enough to get you thinking about those preferences and to start writing them down.
Many examples of birth plans are detailed and long but ideally a birth plan would be 1 page and easy to read. In doing so, you make it easy for your providers, nurses, and other staff to read through it in a time crunch or shift change. This should also give you confidence that your support staff has read through your wishes.
What NOT to include
In order to simplify your list, let’s talk about what you can eliminate from your list. There may be some things that are important to you for your labor that don’t have to be listed as a birth preference. First, talk to your provider, talk to your friends that just gave birth at the same facility, your doula, or take a hospital tour and talk to the staff. Gather information about the standard procedures and protocols for the location that you are planning on laboring.
Then, take that information and remove anything that is already the normal practice of the birthing facility and/or your provider. For example, if it’s important to you to have dim lighting but the hospital allows you to fully control the room’s lights, there is no need to include this in your preferences. Another example could be, if you want to avoid an episiotomy but your provider has only ever done 2 in their 15 year of practice, that’s one more thing to eliminate from your list.
What should be included
Once you have eliminated what doesn’t need to be in your birth plan, you can look at things that are not in line with how you imagine your birth. Focus on the preferences that you and your partner consider the most important for your birth and baby. For example, if you are passionate about giving your baby’s their first bath at home as a family but the hospital gives baths around the 12 hour mark, this is something that you should add to your list.
A top 10 list is a great way to set the framework for your lists by prioritizing and simplifying. If you end up with fewer than that, great! If you have more than 10, that’s great too! Keeping the list shorter, is just a guideline. Knowing what is important to for your birth and baby is the most important part of creating your birth preferences.
Once you have completed your list, it’s important to have realistic expectations around labor and birth in relation to your preferences. Due to the unpredictably of birth, the course that labor takes can change in a way that is not ideal to your wishes. Sometimes this can happen very quickly and unexpectedly. If you can, take a moment to breathe, re-calibrate and then move forward.
No birth plan?
Ultimately, you may decide to forego a birth preferences list all together. There is no rule stating that you need one. You may be completely comfortable and confident in letting your labor unfold in the moment. And furthermore, you should be supported and empowered to do so.
Confidence for birth
Throughout your pregnancy, you receive advice (solicited or not) about your pregnancy, birth and baby. In putting together your list, you may consider what others have said but remember that ultimately this birth is belongs to you, not anyone else. What is important to friends and family for birth, may not be what matters to you and your partner. That’s okay! Every person deserves to welcome their baby in the way that is matters to them.
In determining your birth preferences, if you a have a partner try to include them in the process. Some partners may not have interest where others may be excited to have input. This process can be a great bonding experience that helps to be on the same page with one another.
Next, be sure to discuss the preferences with the rest your support team (provider, doula, or anyone planning to attend the birth). Whether you write them down or not, by talking about what your birth goals and wishes are you can gain confidence as the arrival of your baby approaches. Knowing that your support team knows your wishes could also relieve some of the stress surrounding the impending birth.
Building your confidence and strength regarding birth preferences and goals is one of the best ways to prepare for labor. It gives you the power to welcome your precious baby in the way that you and your family deserves.