Why You Should Plan Your Birth

“Why should I bother to plan my  birth? That’s why my doctor went to medical school- so he could take care of everything for me. He knows much better than I do. Besides, I hear that birth plans are pretty much useless anyway, since so many emergencies come up. The plans always change!”

Some of these objections may hold considerable sway for a mother considering making a birth plan. For example, a woman may not feel qualified to make decisions regarding which interventions she’d like to receive during her labor and delivery and which she would rather avoid. Also, she may feel that she can’t expect things to go a certain way, so why go to the effort to plan something that will probably go by the wayside?

1.) Writing a birth plan helps a woman to decide what type of birth she’d like.

The very process of writing a birth plan requires a woman to make decisions about her birth. A plan usually entails such details as how you would like labor to start, what natural means of pain relief you are open to, if and when you would like any pain medication, what type of environment you desire, what interventions you are open to, and what you would like your initial meeting with baby to be like. The mother should take the time to become educated about all of her options in order to determine what type of birth is best for her.

Picture your perfect birth. Do you feel most secure in a sterile environment where professionals are monitoring you closely and managing each step of your labor? Or do you feel most confidant in your own environment where you respond to labor as it comes and the professionals follow your lead? Do you hope to feel nothing, or do you want to feel everything? Deciding some of the answers to these questions helps you to make decsisions regarding what type of birth you’d like (highly managed with interventions vs. natural with little to no interventions) and your place of birth (hospital, birthing center, or home).

If you don’t consider your options and write a plan, then you will most likely go to the most familiar or convenient place, and perhaps simply do the same thing as what your friends did to cope. This may work out fine for you, but you if you haven’t researched your options to make a plan, you may miss out on something that works better for you and your baby.

2.) Writing a birth plan helps a woman to determine if she and her caregiver are on the same page.

Imagine as you are researching your options, you decide that you want to go into labor naturally to avoid the complications that come with induction, even if you are a little late. Then, talking with your doctor, you discover that she routinely ruptures the membranes at 39 weeks gestation to get things going and deliver the babies when it works well for her schedule. At this point you need to talk to your doctor about waiting to start labor naturally. If she agrees, great! You have collaborated on your birth plan. If not, however, you need to decide if you will consent to her wishes or choose a different caregiver.

Perhaps you have a different scenario. You are pretty well set that you will want an epidural by the time you are in active labor, but your doctor is pushing you to go without it for a while. While this is a rare scenario, it could be an extremely frustrating time for the woman who has decided she’s had enough of the pain.

I suggest working on your birth plan early in your pregnancy so you can see if you and your caregiver are on the same page. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a relationship of trust with your caregiver. If he or she has a philosophy radically different from your own about birth, then it may serve you well to find one who is like minded so you don’t end up with a birth story you would rather forget.

3.) Writing a birth plan helps to prevent traveling undesirable paths during labor and delivery.

Some women may feel that a birth plan is useless because things often get changed anyway. However, I can tell you that without a birth plan, many women end up having very little conrol over what happens during labor in a hospital setting. I once heard a story of a woman who went into the hospital in labor who had researched nothing about her birth options. The nurse asked her if she had a plan- she said no. The mother declined the offer to use the tub for pain relief because it seemed weird to her. She asked for an epidural early in labor to cope with the pain. That helped the pain, but slowed labor. She then needed Pitocin to kick contactions into higher gear. Once she was on Pitocin, she asked for the epidural to be upped because of the intensity of the contractions. The “cascade effect” caused even slower labor, lack of progress, and eventually fetal distress because of the overly strong contractions. She was rushed for an emergency c-section that may have been unneccessary had she used natural means to cope until she was a little further along in her labor. 

Here is the opposite scenario- another mother entered the hospital an hour after her water broke, already 5 centimeters dilated. The doctor on call began pushing her to get Pitocin and an epidural, telling her that the pain was only going to get worse. However, in her birth plan, she said no Pitocin unless necessary and no epidural unless she asked for it. She asked for more time before starting the Pitocin, since she was not yet risking infection. After some time, her contractions kicked in on their own and she dilated nicely over the next few hours. She managed to cope without the epidural, and was able to have a vaginal delivery.

A few things did change about this mom’s birth plan in the end (she ended up with an undesired episiotomy and her son was separated from her for a few hours after birth), but if she hadn’t researched her options and written a plan, her labor could have gone down other worse paths that she did not want to travel. In this case, her birth plan helped her to acheive the vaginal birth that she wanted without any major interventions. Of course sometimes things do truly go out of the mother’s control and plans do really have to change, but most of the time undesirable procedures are preventable with a little preparation and planning.

4.) Writing a birth plan helps a woman to actively participate in her labor and delivery.

When a woman plans her birth, she makes vital decisions regarding her labor and delivery. She also helps make decisions for a “Plan B” if things have to change for medical reasons. This makes her a participant, and it puts her in control of what happens at the birth of her child. The mother’s choosing of which procedures she agrees to undergo is a much better alternative than falling prey to procedures being done to her as a matter of course. Taking the lead in the decision making process can help the woman to feel good about the way things went and help her to look back on her birth in a positive way. Even if things change during labor, the woman can still know that she helped make her birth the best it could be, and this is well worth the effort it takes to research her options and write a plan.

The benefits of planning are clear…

When a woman takes the time to look into birth options and write a plan, she becomes more educated, prepared, and in control of her labor and delivery. When she knows what is going on in her labor and has made decisions about it, she is less afraid of the process and experiences less tension. Less tension means better natural progess and less perceived pain. This may even mean less need for interventions and less complications from those interventions. All of this in turn means a more pleasant experience and a sense of satisfaction with the birth since the mother was actively participant in decisions. Moms will be glad they took the time to plan!

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by StorkStories on December 27, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Welcome BirthBug and fellow junkie! I will read about James birth another time. I wanted to say that this is a great positive encouraging pitch to moms to become actively engaged in their own birth. I LOVE when mom has a plan. Not all my colleagues do but we work on them and chip away their stone age layer…..
    My favorite quote from this post is:
    “…but you if you haven’t researched your options to make a plan, you may miss out on something that works better for you and your baby.”
    Well done.
    I will tweet this now.
    Thanks for checking out my blog. Wish I had more time to write.


    • Thank you for checking out my blog as well! I appreciate the encouragement. 🙂 I enjoyed looking around your site today, and will certainly come back to visit again!


  2. […] a birth plan. Check out Why You Should Plan Your Birth for some good reasons to do […]


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