I may lose my "doula card" for writing this, but here goes:
I don't always love birth plans.
Yes, birth plans can be a great way to communicate your wishes for labor and birth with your partner, doctor, midwife or nurse. And even if you choose not to share your birth plan, writing down your preferences for what you want -- and don't want -- to happen during the process can help you clarify what your ideal birth experience may look like.
So, what's not to love?
I've been asked to read many birth plans during my career as a childbirth educator and doula. Some are short, sweet and to the point. Others are a few pages long and contain a list of DON'Ts -- don't do this to me, I don't want this -- but few, if any DOs. I'll never forget when a nurse who worked at the hospital I taught Lamaze classes at said, "When I see a long birth plan, I know this mom is headed for the O.R." I was mortified, like, how could she say that? But as the years went on, and I taught or provided labor support for hundreds of parents, I started to see her point. When I read a birth plan that's a manifesto about what not to do, I wonder why mom is even sticking with her doctor or hospital. Birth shouldn't be a time to have to negotiate, and you want to give birth in a comforting place, not one that's causing you stress before labor even starts.
I want every mom to have the birth experience she wants, just as I hope every mom has the best possible outcome for herself and her baby during the process. I don't want anyone to feel like she has to fight to have her needs met. Here are some easy tips for how to write a birth plan that works for you -- and your doctor.
Keep it simple
Think about what you really want to get out of the experience. Write those things down. Read the birth plan list, then see if you can condense it even more. If you can pare your birth plan down to no more than a page, with bullet points instead of a novel, great!
Keep it positive
It's OK to list things on your birth plan you'd like to stay away from, but write it in a positive way. For instance, instead of "I refuse to have an epidural," try "If I want medication, I'll ask for it. Please don't offer it to me." Or, instead of "Keep Pitocin away from me," try "Unless an induction is medically necessary, I prefer to wait for labor to start and progress on it's own."
Keep a copy
If you decide to write a birth plan, share it with your doctor before you are in labor. You can find out if you're on the same page. Ask him or her to make a copy of your birth plan to keep in your chart. You may want to give a copy to the nurses, too.
A written birth plan shouldn't replace face-to-face verbal communication -- keep those lines open before, during and after the birth.
Here's to having the birth of your dreams!