YOUR BIRTH plan

Ev­ery­body’s writ­ing one, and so can you. Here’s what it en­tails, writes Margot Ber­tels­mann

Your Pregnancy - - Pregnancy Files -

WHAT’S A BIRTH PLAN?

If you’re think­ing, “I plan to give birth, I guess that’s my plan,” then it’s pos­si­ble you’ve missed just how in­tensely some of your peers are pre­par­ing for the big day of baby’s ar­rival. These days we’re ac­cus­tomed to be­ing able to choose any­thing and ev­ery­thing, in three sizes and cus­tom colours too. And in the same way, the num­ber of choices a woman can make while giv­ing birth is grow­ing ex­po­nen­tially. Will you choose a cae­sarean sec­tion? A wa­ter birth? To be shaved? Have an en­ema? Be al­lowed to choose your pain re­lief op­tions? To have your wa­ters man­u­ally bro­ken, to be al­lowed to walk dur­ing labour, to feel the baby’s head as he crowns, to have skin-to-skin con­tact straight af­ter de­liv­ery, to avoid an epi­siotomy if pos­si­ble, to room in with your baby, your part­ner to cut the um­bil­i­cal cord, to have no stu­dent doc­tors or nurses on your de­liv­ery team... and so on, and so on (and on and on and on)? As is the case with many de­signer items, the more money you have, the more be­spoke your birth can be. You can spec­ify to your doula what music to play, how loudly and when, as long as you’re giv­ing birth in an ex­pen­sive pri­vate birthing cen­tre or even in the birthing unit of a pri­vate hos­pi­tal. If, how­ever, you ex­pect the ma­trons and nurses at our state hos­pi­tals and clin­ics to both read and re­spect your birth plan, you’re prob­a­bly set­ting your­self up for fail­ure. They’re too busy, and the care too uni­form and stan­dard­ised in a gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tal set­ting. (Note: this doesn’t mean the care is worse, just that you can’t tai­lor the events of the day of your baby’s birth ex­actly to your tastes.) At its best and most con­cise, a birth plan is a doc­u­ment that lists your wishes about any­thing you feel strongly about in­volv­ing the de­liv­ery of your baby. But here are three cru­cial things to re­mem­ber be­fore you write yours:

1 IT DOESN’T HAVE TO LIST EV­ERY­THING

Doc­tors and mid­wives are busy, and they’re pro­fes­sion­als. They don’t have time to read or care about your wish for the can­dles you’re go­ing to light NOT to be laven­der-scented be­cause laven­der makes you sleepy. Write your birth plan about the im­por­tant de­tails, the stuff that is re­ally stress­ing you out. If you don’t re­ally have an opin­ion on whether you’re go­ing to want an epidu­ral or not, leave it off the birth plan and de­cide on the day.

2 IT’S A PLAN, NOT A ROADMAP

Birth is un­pre­dictable. In the case of an emer­gency, your birth plan won’t be con­sulted – get on board with that as you trust your team to make the de­ci­sions to keep you and your baby alive. Try to main­tain per­spec­tive as you re­mind your­self that that is the most im­por­tant thing. Chances are that you might change your own mind about cer­tain de­tails as labour pro­gresses, any­way. You might have fought hard for the right to walk the cor­ri­dors dur­ing labour in­stead of be­ing forced to lie on a bed, only to find that the last thing you feel able to do is take a stroll at 5cm di­lated...

3 IT CAN BE ALL IN YOUR HEAD

Just be­cause you don’t have a piece of pa­per with you doesn’t mean you don’t have a “birth plan”. A birth plan is your set of ideas and pref­er­ences for what hap­pens on B-day, re­gard­less of whether it’s in your head or in black and white in front of you. If you don’t feel like writ­ing it down, make sure your part­ner (who­ever will be at the birth with you) knows how you feel about at least your top pri­or­i­ties and wishes for the birth. If there is med­i­cally rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion on your birth plan, though, try to make sure that’s writ­ten down some­where, such as on your clinic an­te­na­tal card. Birth plans have an im­por­tant place. Know­ing what your fears, hopes and re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions are when you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing child­birth is help­ful, be­cause knowl­edge is em­pow­er­ing. If you know the dif­fer­ence be­tween entonox and an epidu­ral it means you have spent some time think­ing about and re­search­ing what hap­pens dur­ing a birth. And that is a good thing. Well done!

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