Your birth plan introduces your family to staff who may not know you. It lets them know what type of support you want or need, and how much assistance you would like if things happen as expected. This is important information that can help the staff, who doesn’t know by looking at you what type of person you are. Do you want medication as soon as it is possible or do you want medication not to be offered? Do you want to have your whole family with you, or do you want help making sure it is just you and one or two helpers? Do you have any specific concerns, allergies or other issues that might make your care different?
Your birth plan will achieve this purpose simply by being read. Have your midwife put a copy in your file, and take several copies with you if you plan to give birth outside the home. Have a family member give a copy to the nurse, thanking him or her for taking the time to read it.
Understand that hospital or birth center staff may not have time to read your birth plan immediately when you arrive, especially if you arrive late in labor or your labor is progressing quickly. This is not due to a lack of interest in helping you achieve a great birth. It is just the reality of ensuring a safe birth that a woman or family’s preferences are less important than ensuring everything is prepared.
Your birth plan does not change because of an unexpected situation. One of the reasons birth plans are so valuable is because they can help you make decisions in unexpected situations. Not only does a birth plan let your birth team know what is most important to you, it can also let them know how you want to approach the unexpected. You cannot control the way staff respond to your labor, but you can use your birth plan while being part of the decision-making.
Be sure to ask questions about the risks and benefits of moving along in your birth plan. For example, you may ask, “My birth plan says to try this first, do you feel it is no longer safe to try that way?” You may also find your family using your birth plan to help you make decisions. Your family can ask questions such as, “Your birth plan said if that didn’t work to try this, do you feel ready to move to this next step?” In all cases, the decision to move to the next step of your plan should be yours. Having the birth plan just helps others know what the next step is for you.
Some women get to do EVERYTHING on their birth plan. They get to try every position and pain relief technique and when complications arise, they get to have a cesarean done the way they wanted.
Other women get to do very LITTLE from their birth pan. Labor moves so quickly she has no chance to try the tub and walk the halls.
Regardless of the circumstances of your labor, use your birth plan to help you determine how you will react to labor.