The birth plan is a document that an expecting mom creates so that her birth team — her midwife, nurse, doctor, doula, and significant others know what she wants for her birth experience.
The truth about birth plans is that they are not always welcome by hospital staff. In fact women in labor unbeknownst to themselves are often labeled by staff when they show up to the hospital with a birth plan as walking cesareans. Sadly, that label is often a curse and well intentioned women hoping to see their birth plan come true have the opposite experience of what they had desired.
Birth plans unintentionally set up a battle of wills in labor between what the staff requires and what the mother desires. The nitty gritty truth is that giving birth is not a you can have it your way experience for the majority of women. Exceptions exist, but not enough.
Birth is one of life’s most intimate acts. Birth physically and emotionally occurs within a woman’s body, an autonomous space. What happens during a woman’s birth should be her decision and something that she can control, but often the basics like eating, drinking, and movement are limited.
Every woman should have the birth that she is hoping for, and few reasons exist why she cannot.
One way to use a birth plan is as a tool to evaluate if you are properly matched with the correct doctor, midwife, or birth place. Once a woman has completed her birth plan, she may discover that so much of what she desires is not available at the place she is giving birth. For example, she may write down in her birth plan that she wants to have a water birth. Planning ahead will help her investigate if her local hospital allows water birth, and if not then she can seek a hospital that would allow water birth.
We suggest that if possible find out in advance if a hospital or care provider is unwelcoming to birth plans. If the hospital does not welcome a birth plan, then complete one, but don’t turn the plan in when you arrive at the hospital. Women should use the birth plan as a reference tool. When options arise in labor a birth plan has already helped them think their choices through. In this way they can make informed decisions and communicate their desires.