Writing your birth plan can feel like a daunting task. You want to make it concise and straightforward while still including all the necessary pieces. Before you even get to that though, be sure you have a care provider who is supportive and open to birth plans. If you have mentioned a birth plan to your care provider already and you felt disparaged, run, don’t walk, to a new, supportive provider. Providers who feel that they are the final authority regarding your birth, have no place on your support team. You deserve better than that, you deserve to be heard and collaborated with, not brushed off or made to seem less than.
The preparation that goes into creating a birth plan involves researching common practices in your choice of birthing location and then teasing out those things that are most significant to you and what learning what the potential alternatives may be. By educating yourself about the birthing process and the choices you have, prior to being in the throes of labor, you are increasing your chances of having the birth you desire. You will feel empowered and confident on the day of your child’s birth because you have informed yourself and you’re not simply at the mercy of the professionals and protocols surrounding you.
Marsden Wagner, doctor and author of the book entitled Creating Your Birth Plan: The Definitive Guide to a Safe and Empowering Birth, dives deeply into the details one may want to include in a birth plan. This book is highly recommended for you if you’re preparing to sit down and get your birth plan on paper so you can present it to your provider. The purpose of this post is to outline some quick tips from the book on how to best present your wishes and increase the likelihood of you and your care provider aligned regarding these wishes.
Keep your Birth Plan Flexible
Make it known in your birth plan that you fully understand your list of desires are a wish list for your ideal outcome. While you do anticipate having a smooth labor and delivery and you do expect your provider to respect your wishes, you’re also not blind to the fact that the process is not totally predictable. Wording such as “Unless there is an emergency…” or “If circumstances allow…” relay this message clearly.
A one page birth plan is the goal, but no more than two pages maximum is best. This helps to ensure that everyone on your birth support team will be able to read over and recall what you have listed. If you have specific details that go beyond what is necessary for your care provider/nurses to know, it’s a good idea to have a longer version with those details for your partner, doula, or other advocate to familiarize themselves with so that they can be addressed as needed throughout the labor process. A bulleted birth plan is best, making it easier to read. Full paragraphs can be daunting for busy L&D staff.
State your Plan in the Positive
Rather than presenting your birth plan as a list of things you do not want done, phrase things in the positive. Keeping your phrasing positive helps decrease resistance from caregivers. Try stating what it is you do desire followed by the intervention or procedure you’re hoping to avoid. For instance, “I wish for my perineum to remain uninjured in the labor process; however, if the situation arises, I prefer to tear naturally rather than have a surgical cut.”
These three basic guidelines should really help jump start the creation of your birth plan. Having solid parameters for how to present your birth plan so it meets the least resistance among your care team is a huge step in the direction of a desired labor and delivery. While many considerations remain as far as what exactly you may want to include in your personal plan, knowing how to get those ideas on paper is the first phase of drafting your birth plan. You’re encouraged to purchase or borrow a copy of Dr. Marsden Wagner’s book, Creating Your Birth Plan: The Definitive Guide to a Safe and Empowering Birth for a full and detailed process for creating your birth plan.