The most common topic we’re asked about as doulas surround the idea of birth plans.
What style should it be written in? Bulleted lists or paragraphs? How long should it be? Single-spaced or double? Sections or pages? What should really, really (no really) be included on one?
My answer may surprise you a bit. Believe it or not, I don’t think that you actually need a birth plan at all.
There, I said it.
Instead, I argue that the value of a birth plan lies in the research that goes into creating one.
Researching your options and knowing how you feel about common interventions prior to your birthing time creates confidence in your decision-making for your healthcare. Knowing your birth location’s policies and common protocols, either by attending a tour or by asking deliberate and informed questions of their staff, can help you feel prepared and engaged in the process. Taking a non-hospital childbirth education class equips you with even more knowledge and options, in addition to non-medical comfort measures, to help cope with labor.
As doulas, we’ll remind you in the moment of this research and can always suggest additional resources if you want them. But, this active participation in the preparation for your birth helps lay the groundwork for the hard work and decision making that is required as you become new parents.
Additionally, all of this will be opening and creating a dialogue between you and your provider at each and every prenatal appointment. My biggest hope for our clients is that they’ve chosen a care provider that they trust and respect. So, when you begin to create a vision for the birth experience you desire, you can check-in frequently with your provider to ensure it’s in line with their practices and that you’re all on the same page. They may likely even have additional ideas for your consideration.
Oh, and then there’s the name, “Birth Plan”. Having a written document we call a “Birth Plan” sets us up for failure before we can even begin.
In case no one’s told you yet, let me let you in on a little secret… that baby you’re growing? They’re the one in charge here. Not us. And the only, ONLY, plan we follow in birth is your Little One’s. Not ours.
Instead, consider pulling together a few, short (read: top 3-5, index card size) important goals you’d like to set for birth. Or, use the space to request things that are vastly different or a deviation from your hospitals common practices and procedures.
As always, we’re here to help. Our doulas are a valuable asset to this research and preparation. We’re armed with research, statistics, and resources. Our Lending Library is stocked with books and helpful DVDs. In our Community Prenatal Meetings, you'll hear from other couples who are planning for (most likely) different birth experiences than you, and their questions may spur you to research new options. Plus, we talk about common interventions, hospital intake procedures, options for birth and ways to advocate respectfully for your medical care. We’re kind of like your own personal Birth Google.
At the end of the day, we’re here to guide you along the path of birth knowledge. That’s a pretty doula thing to say, I get that. But, it’s true. As authors Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer put it,
“If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.”