Happy 2013, everyone! While my blogging is much less regular than I’d like it to be, I am still happy to come and post as I can. I hope that your holiday season was peaceful and cheerful, and that you have started the New Year with new vigor and fresh perspective.
Today, I’d like to touch on a topic that is particularly relevant to me today as I am pregnant with #2: developing a decision making process for planning your birth.
I’ve often tried to make the case for making a birth plan ahead of time, but many women may not know where to begin. How do you know what your preferences are? What factors may change your original ideas of the perfect birth? And then how will these apply to your birth plan? Let’s break the process down into five steps that you can follow prior to planning your birth.
1) Research what is healthiest for you and your baby.
Check out some great reads on evidence-based practices in birth. (You can look at my resources page for starters, though it’s certainly not a complete list of all the great information out there.) If you have a question about a specific practice in birth, you should take some time to go on Google Scholar and search for information on it. It’s not that hard! Though you may not have access to full medical journals without paying for them, you can almost always read the abstracts from certain studies. They will give a summary of the study’s findings, and it’s usually pretty understandable. If you don’t know what something means, look it up! You can read and understand the majority of studies out there on birth practices, even if it takes a little extra research. (Make sure you double check your findings with a knowledgeable care provider- sometimes checking with two different care providers of differing perspectives can be enlightening.)
2) Figure out what your personal preferences are.
The Birth Book by Dr. Sears has a great section on developing your own birth philosophy and making some general birth choices. Here are some good questions to get you started:
- How much do I want to be involved in the decision making process, and does my doctor support my preference?
- Do I want to be an active participant in my labor, or would I prefer it to be managed by the hospital staff?
- Do I prefer to go with or without pain medications? How much do I want to feel? What type of medication is right for me?
- Who do I want present at the birth? How much control do I have over this in my planned birth setting?
- Do I have strong preferences on any of the hot button birth controversies (e.g. episiotomy, birthing position, delayed cord clamping, etc.)? If so, is my care provider/birth place supportive of my preferences? (If you don’t know what you’d like, look up information on it to help you decide.)
- Where and with whom am I most comfortable laboring and birthing?
- Is there anything that I would be extremely disappointed about if it did or did not happen? If so, what can I do to maximize my chances of achieving my desired outcomes?
3) Discuss options with your care provider.
Next, take your research and your preferences to your care provider. Always double check with your provider on things before making a medical decision. Find out if you have any specific medical needs or concerns that would affect your choices for birth. Then talk about it! See if the two of you jive or not. Make sure you have a trusting, mutually respectful relationship. You should be trying to get the most from your care provider’s knowledge and experience, and he or she should be trying to accommodate your preferences as much as possible within medical possibility.
4) Do a reality check.
As your due date approaches, do a reality check. If you want a lovely natural birth with no wires or needles but are facing induction due to health concerns, you may need to step back and reevaluate your plan. Likewise, if you plan on getting an epidural at 2 cm and feeling nothing but have a history of quick, intense labors, you may need to prepare for the possibility of not having time for pain medication. You are setting yourself up for disappointment if you blindly expect that things will go a certain way when you have clear indicators to the contrary.
5) Be flexible.
As I always stress, realize that unplanned surprises can always come up. Plan a Plan B. Plan your worst case scenario birth. What would you do in that situation, and how would you feel? How could you make the best of it? Think about these things now so they don’t undermine you if they do come up later.
Now that you’ve thought through these five steps, you are well on your way to making decisions for your birth. Make these decisions before you write your birth plan to ensure that you are well informed and prepared. Then sit back and enjoy the ride!