Maybe you’ve heard that doctors and nurses hate natural childbirth birth plans. Or maybe you’ve been told that if you walk into the hospital with a birth plan in hand, you’ll be pegged as an obnoxious or difficult patient. Don’t believe the hysteria! Not only are birth plans a helpful way to share your preferences for a natural hospital birth; but they also function as a powerful tool to unify mom, her partner, and her medical labor support team.
As a registered nurse and natural childbirth educator, I have guided hundreds of couples to write natural childbirth birth plans that are well-received by healthcare providers. Today we’re going to discuss the 5 keys to success!
Natural Childbirth Birth Plan Key #1: Keep it Positive
Trust that your healthcare team wants you to have an amazing, natural birth experience! So often couples approach their natural childbirth birth plan like they would a declaration of war. It’s chock full of negative phrases such as, “Under no circumstances will you…” or “I do not want…” A list of uppercase, bold, “DO NOT’s” is unlikely to engender unity! A doctor or nurse who feels like the enemy is less likely to want to cater to your preferences.
To write a natural childbirth birth plan that will be well-received, keep it positive! Instead use phrases such as “I would prefer…” and “I would like…” With a bit of patience and creativity, you can phrase your desires in a positive light. Your doctor and nurses are much more likely to help advocate for the birth experience you want when they feel like trusted team members.
Natural Childbirth Birth Plan Key #2: Stop Calling it a Birth Plan
The definition of a plan is “a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.” However, childbirth is unpredictable. Writing a “detailed proposal” of how your birth will play out is unlikely at best. A birth plan risks appearing rigid and controlling to wary doctors or nurses.
Instead, let’s call it a “Birth Preference.” A preference is defined as “a greater liking for one alternative over another or others.” Isn’t this a more accurate description of your goal when you write a natural childbirth birth plan? A well-written Birth Preference will help the hospital staff to understand your wishes — the way you would like your birth experience to be under ideal circumstances. A Birth Preference suggests that couples are flexible and realistic.
Natural Childbirth Birth Plan Key #3: Brevity is King
Like a good resume, you should keep your birth plan to just one page. Your audience is a busy healthcare team that is working with multiple patients at once. A 1-page natural childbirth birth plan is more likely to be well-received than a longer one simply because your doctor or nurse will actually have the time to read it. An effective birth plan will also use subject headings and bullet points, and will avoid long paragraphs.
One page does not leave much room for extra details. Take a hard look at your birth preferences. What is most likely to help you have a positive, empowering birth experience? Include only the things that are most important to you, and omit the points that are less meaningful.
Natural Childbirth Birth Plan Key #4: Say NO to Birth Plan Templates
Many couples turn to online templates to help them create a natural childbirth birth plan. Unfortunately, these templates turn out birth plans that are impersonal and unlikely to reflect the policies of your provider and birth facility. Most offer copious lists of interventions that moms might want to avoid. Some couples, eager to avoid intervention, check every box. This can lead to a waste of your precious, one-page space!
Despite what the birth plan template says, perineal shaving and enemas are not standard practice at most hospitals. Nor is a urinary catheter a likely intervention for a mom who is unmedicated. Even positive practices like skin to skin may be such standard, routine care at your hospital that you might not need to include it on your birth plan. Despite their ease and allure, it’s best to avoid the template. Instead, craft a personalized natural childbirth birth plan that reflects the individualized care you hope to receive from your healthcare team.
Natural Childbirth Birth Plan Key #5: Sharing is Caring
What a waste of effort it is to write an amazing birth plan, only to keep it hidden away until you enter the hospital during labor! Yet many couples do this very thing, and are puzzled why their preferences aren’t honored during the birth. The goal is for everyone to be on board with your wishes well before labor begins. Share your natural childbirth birth plan with your doctor or midwife early on and frequently.
Bring a copy of your birth plan to your prenatal visits and share it with your doctor or midwife. Use it as a tool to engage your healthcare provider in valuable discussions. Ask them to look it over, and to see if everything you’ve included is realistic. You might have to negotiate some of your preferences. This can take time and is best initiated well before you go into labor. If you rotate visits with multiple providers, ask each one to look at your birth plan. This will help both you and them to have realistic, shared expectations. It will also enable your healthcare team to provide the care that is most meaningful to you.
Birth plans (Birth Preferences!) remain a powerful tool to help couples advocate for a low-intervention, natural birth. By following the 5 keys for success, you can share your preferences in a way that will be well-received by your doctor or midwife and will promote unity of purpose!
Kopa Birth’s online birthing classes allow you to prepare for a natural hospital birth from the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class and start preparing for your natural birth!