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Your Birth Plan is More Than a Piece of Paper

Saturday, 12 July 2014 10:21
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Recently, the TBS Facebook page shared this image from Plus Size Birth. It was also shared around many of the birth-related Facebook pages I follow:

Unfortunately, many of the comments I saw echoed two common sentiments:

  • Having a birth plan makes you a target for judgmental nurses/doctors, and
  • "We have 9 months to educate ourselves about our options and get prepared, but we don't have to put that in a birth plan."

These two ideas really, really get my goat. They're very common, but if you've been following me for a while, you probably have an idea of what I'm about to say.

Your birth plan is a process, not (just) a document. It is not (simply) a checklist or a fill-in-the-blanks form. It is not (only) a set of "rules" for your provider or birth location.

You might choose to write it down at the end, or you might not. You might choose to inform yourself about all of your options rather than make decisions ahead of time. You will, hopefully, discuss your questions and decisions with your care providers and support people, make sure your goals are supported by your provider and the institutions in or with which they work, and make sure both you and your support people are prepared and knowledgeable about the choices you've made and the tools you hope to use. 

You may or may not write any of those things down, but all of those things are your birth plan.

The process of learning, researching, taking classes, making choices, and setting goals are all your birth plan, whether or not you write them down, and if that process, that fundamental education about how your body works and what you want to happen to you and your baby during that process makes you a target? You need a different care team. I know that's not always possible, but any provider who says that a person who makes an educated plan for their birth is a problem rather than making their job easier needs to reconsider what their job actually is.

I do admit that on occasion the checklist/fill-in-the-blank forms make it simple to pick a preference without researching it, and that can be frustrating for providers who then have to explain why, sometimes, procedures and interventions that might not be preferable do become necessary, but if that's the case, you really haven't made a birth plan, you've just picked some options from a menu in a restaurant you've never visited before with a cuisine you've never tasted.

The key is in the word: plan. A house plan is not just a sheet of paper with rooms drawn on it, it's the end result of often months of work on layout, materials, paint choices, and consultations with professionals. A travel plan is not just a picture of roads, it's an estimate of how long each segment will take, where you hope to stop along the way, the destination you have in mind, and often a few alternatives if you're traveling in the summer and know there will probably be at least one or two patches of construction that might require detours. Ordering from a menu is not the same as planning a meal, with all of the requisite shopping, learning cooking skills, and coordinating which things need to be on the stove or in the oven at which times and temperatures.

Your birth plan is an important process, not just a piece of paper. 

An earlier version of this article appeared on my blog.

Read 4791 times Last modified on Sunday, 07 September 2014 00:21

Anna is trained and certified as a doula with DONA International and as a childbirth educator with CAPPA. She is an active member of both of these organizations, as well as DoulaC.A.R.E., Ontario's regional doula organization. She holds a BA from Northern Illinois University and an MLIS focused on community information resources for youth and families from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As a doula, Anna dedicates her practice to assisting families as they prepare for their birth via education and emotional support, offering evidence-based information throughout the planning process and helping to explain the various changes and concerns many families face during the birthing year. In addition to providing non-medical comfort measures during labour and birth, she helps foster families’ ability advocate for their choices.


You can find Anna online at Midtown Doula Services: web | facebook | blog

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