Using Your Birth Plan
You’ve done your research, had many discussions with your midwife and wrote out all your preferences for birth. How do you actually use the birth plan in labor? To use it effectively, you need to remember a birth plan holds several different types of information.
Your birth plan introduces your family to staff who may not know you. It lets them know what type of support you want or need, and how much assistance you would like if things happen as expected. This is important information that can help the staff, who doesn’t know by looking at you what type of person you are. Do you want medication as soon as it is possible or do you want medication not to be offered? Do you want to have your whole family with you, or do you want help making sure it is just you and one or two helpers? Do you have any specific concerns, allergies or other issues that might make your care different?
Your birth plan will achieve this purpose simply by being read. Have your midwife put a copy in your file, and take several copies with you if you plan to give birth outside the home. Have a family member give a copy to the nurse, thanking her for taking the time to read it.
The Right Support
Having a birth plan gives your family the ability to support you according to your wishes. It becomes much easier to give suggestions when they know it was the type of help you wanted. Let’s face it, when a woman is in labor it can be hard for her family to suggest anything that goes against her current state of mind. While family members may not be willing to suggest you not get medication because you wanted to go natural, they can use your birth plan to remind you.
In terms of supporting your decisions, it all comes down to the words your family chooses. Your family should never tell you, "no," when you ask for something. Instead, they should use phrases such as, "Your birth plan said you wanted to try lots of positions, are you sure you don’t want to try a different position now?" This allows you to remain in control of the decision making, while allowing family to be the support for your birth preferences you wanted them to be. Here are more ways family can support you in your birth plan when you are asking for something different.
“You birth plan said you wanted to avoid that unless it became necessary, have you decided it is necessary now?”
“Your birth plan says to do this, do you still want to follow your birth plan?”
“Your birth plan says you want this, have you changed your mind?”
Your birth plan doesn’t change because of an unexpected situation. One of the reasons birth plans are so valuable is because they can help you make decisions in unexpected situations. Not only does a birth plan let your birth team know what is most important to you, it can also let them know how you want to approach the unexpected. You cannot control the way staff respond to your labor, but you can use your birth plan while being part of the decision making.
Be sure to ask questions about the risks and benefits of moving along in your birth plan. For example, you may ask, “My birth plan says to try this first, do you feel it is no longer safe to try that way?” You may also find your family using your birth plan to help you make decisions. Your family can ask questions such as, “Your birth plan said if that didn’t work to try this, do you feel ready to move to this next step?” In all cases, the decision to move to the next step of your plan should be yours. Having the birth plan just helps others know what the next step is for you.