What is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is essentially a letter written to your caregivers and nurses that describes your concerns, fears, wishes, and how you and your partner would like your labor and birth to be managed and why. A birth plan is your chance to tell the medical staff about yourself and your priorities and needs. It is not a contract and does not attempt to dictate your caregivers’ or nurses’ actions. Rather, it is an expression of your preferences in areas of care in which different approaches exist. There are several advantages to birth plans.
Advantages to you. Preparing a birth plan requires that you look ahead to the birth. It encourages you to reflect and imagine how you will best cope with the unpredictability, stress, and pain that are part of childbirth. It requires that you discover, think about, and discuss the available options. It helps both of you clarify your needs and preferences. It helps you and your partner work together. The birth plan is also an excellent vehicle for discussion with your caregiver. By enhancing communication and clarifying your expectations of one another, working with a birth plan can build trust and understanding among all members of the childbirth team. Throughout labor and birth, the birth plan frees you from having to explain and re-explain your wishes and expectations, especially if you have an unfamiliar caregiver and when there is a change in nursing staff.
Advantages to your doctor or midwife. Working with you on a birth plan helps your doctor or midwife understand your goals and expectations and allows him or her to assist you in refining them to a realistic plan that is satisfactory to all involved. Reviewing your birth plan during pregnancy allows your caregiver to identify areas of misunderstanding or disagreement and gives you time to work out a suitable compromise. The birth plan is not a legally binding document (even if it is signed or initialed by your caregiver), nor is it a promise or guarantee that circumstances will not require a change in plan. A carefully considered birth plan includes preferences for situations when problems arise.
Advantages to the nursing staff. At the hospital, the birth plan helps nurses become acquainted with you and helps them to individualize your care. When you enter the hospital in labor, you will probably be a stranger to the nurses. The birth plan gives them important information about you, especially your concerns and care preferences, which were selected when you were calm and able to think clearly. Studies show that women often feel disappointment, anger, or even depression if their desires and expectations about their birth experiences are not met. If the nurses know what is important to you, they are more able to meet your needs and to help you fulfill your wishes.
The success of a birth plan depends on your being realistic, informed, flexible, and able to communicate. It also requires your caregivers to welcome your participation and individualize your maternity care to meet your needs.
As a trained labor companion, I can support you through the creation of your birth plan. I have been trained in the processes and possibilities of labor, and can help you gather any information you might need, and then think through your informed choices. I generally have experience working with your doctor or midwife and within your birth setting. During a one-hour meeting, I will guide you through the process of creating a birth plan.
Initial Birth Planning Session: $50/ 1 hour
Follow-Up Sessions (if needed): $25/ hour
*Please note that birth planning services are included in the package price for doula clients.