Designing a Birth Plan

Reviewed on : 18 May 2016

The younger generation often enjoys the fun of living in a world where everything is a calculated risk. While living in the moment, or experiencing the wild side of the unknown might sound rather tempting, there are certain situations in life where the unplanned and unexpected may not have the desired outcome and the element of surprise can bring with it unforeseen consequences. One such situation is that of pregnancy.

In general, the more you know about your pregnancy, the better it is for you, your baby and your partner! This is a time when you are expected to remain balanced, as your hormones develop a mind of their own. It is not easy as you might often feel as if you have been intentionally brought down to your knees. Designing a birth plan in advance can therefore play a crucial role in controlling the last step of your pregnancy and reduce the chances of uncertain outcomes in a situation that might change very quickly. It will test your planning and decision making skills where all your knowledge, skill and patience will be put to use. Ultimately the birth plan will allow you to undertake a reality check on yourself.

How exactly does one design a birth plan? What parameters does one have to keep in mind? Does it also include issues pertaining to post-pregnancy?

With time, pregnancies are becoming socially more complex as instances of teenage pregnancies, unwed and single mothers and even surrogacies show a rising trend. Births in circumstances as sensitive as these require vee more the development of detailed birth plans for the comfort of the mother-to-be and the safety of the unborn child.

During the course of the pregnancy most women will gain a lot of information related to pregnancy from a wide variety of sources, including books, the internet, close family members and friends. But as they approach their day of delivery, they will have also understood how unique their own pregnancy has been and how all that they have learnt is often too generic to be applicable to their own pregnancy. It is hence not surprising that most women choose the easier option of surrendering themselves and their baby, totally in the able hands of their doctor, nurses and even their partners when it comes to the many decisions that may have to be taken during the process of labor and delivery.

However, by choosing the more difficult option of designing a birth plan for themselves, by utilizing all the knowledge they have been able to assimilate, women have the option to voice their preferences on how they want the delivery of their baby to be conducted. In order to have a realistic plan which also can be followed in practice, women should seriously consider involving their practitioner or their partner/family in the process of developing the plan.

Though there is no formal guideline or structure associated with a birth plan, it should be a document that captures clearly your ideas and preferences during the phase of labor, delivery and sometimes even after it. There could be several categories which can be specified :

  • Support  person: In this section, you prioritize on who you would like to have by your side during/post the delivery of the baby, within the policy guidelines followed by your chosen birthing facility in this regard. You may be able to choose the person whom you want (or even do not want) for support in the delivery room as you experience staggering labour pains.
  • Personalization of atmosphere: In many facilities, you may also be able to choose if the lights are to be dimmed down while you are in labour (though the decision of lighting during the delivery should be that of the attending healthcare professional). You may also be able to state how you wish to stay hydrated e.g. with clear liquids or ice chips.
  • The first stage of labour: You could state how you would like to spend your first stage of labour; standing up, lying down, walking around, in the bathtub or in the shower.
  • Pain Relief Methods: In a situation as tense and painful as labour, what could be better than being able to choose your own pain relief method; be it acupressure, acupuncture, reflexology, standard epidural or painkillers.
  • Fetal Monitoring: You may be able to opt for continuous, intermittent, internal or external fetal monitoring if the same is permitted by the chosen birthing facility.
  • Positions for labour and birth: Depending on the options available at your chosen birthing facility, you may be able to decide on whether you would like to use a birthing stool, a birth bar for support, stand, lie on your back or side or whichever position suits you the best during labour and birthing.
  • Preference regarding type of delivery:  This section helps you to distinctly state your modal preferences during the course of delivery of the baby; vaginal, C-section, water birth, VBC, etc.

Besides the aforementioned points, you may also be able to request several other options before and after your delivery, such as when you would be comfortable with an episiotomy being performed, what you would prefer for the doctor to do if a C- section becomes a necessity, when you would like to hold your baby, how would you like the post delivery phase to be handled and a lot more.

When designing your birth plan, just remember that like a lot of things in life, a birth does not always go as planned. The plan is only a means to specify things in advance and keep things under control. So, do not get disappointed and upset if everything does not proceed exactly as planned. Birth plans should never be set in stone and you should empower someone you trust to agree to deviations if and when they become necessary. Pregnant women should enjoy the empowerment a birth plan grants them but accept that they may not always have the ultimate say.

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