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Do you need a birth plan?

You may have wondered if you need to take the time to write a birth plan because you have been told by others that ‘it never goes according to plan.’ So, is there any point making a birth plan? In my opinion, yes, absolutely! A birth plan is more than hoping everything goes perfectly. It is digging deep into all the options in childbirth and preparing yourself to be the most informed consumer of your birth process.

The more detailed your birth plan, the better

Preparing your birth plan allows you to discuss with your partner what is important to you to try and hold on to for your birth and what your thoughts and feelings are on things if they are offered or suggested to you during birth. By having this conversation with your partner, they are armed with the best information to be able to advocate for you when it is of the utmost importance because you will not be in the right frame of mind to make important decisions for your health care while you are busy navigating labour and birth. Therefore, the more detailed your birth plan, the better. Although your birth plan can be shared with your caregivers, the most important part of the plan is creating it with your partner ahead of time - having these important, proactive discussions with your partner ensures both of you are the most prepared for the big day.

You need to go further than the typical birth plan that has Mom moving around in labour, limiting interventions, not having surgery, immediately doing skin-to-skin, and delaying cord clamping (this is the birth plan of 95 percent of expecting parents). The problem with this birth plan is it leaves you unprepared for any other scenario that you could come across in your birth: What if you have a long labour? Your caregivers suggest you need to be induced? What if you find it hard to move around or your caregivers ask about pain relief? You and your partner can use the preparation of a birth plan as an exercise in learning all you can about birth, your options in labour, and what questions you should ask if your caregivers suggest alternatives to your birth plan.

For your consideration

Here are some things to consider when preparing your birth plan:

Do you know what questions to ask when you are faced with a suggestion from your caregiver? Consider these five questions to ask using your B.R.A.I.N.: What are the Benefits? What are the Risks? What are the Alternatives? What do my Instincts tell me? What if we do Nothing?

In addition, what are your thoughts about pain management? Do you know what your options are? Under what circumstances do you want to utilize these options?

Do you have good options for non-medicated pain relief that you want to incorporate into your birth? What will help you feel calm, safe, relaxed, confident?

Do you know what interventions are possible? What are your thoughts on IV’s, fetal monitoring, episiotomies?

Do you know your options if induction is discussed? If you have choices, what are your preferences for induction?

Do you have anything of importance to be considered or respected during your birth?

Do you have additional support people? If so, how will they be a part of your birth?

How will your partner be involved in the birth process? Do they have the tools and information to support you fully and effectively?

Do you know about assisted delivery options: vacuum, forceps? What are your thoughts on these? Do you know what questions to ask about delivery options?

Do you know about Caesarean sections? What are your thoughts about C-sections? Do you know what questions to ask if this becomes a discussion during birth?

Do you have a plan for an emergency? Who will support you? Who will support your baby?

Immediately after birth, what are your expectations? Do you want delayed cord clamping? Do you want immediate skin-to-skin with your baby, if possible?

Are you planning on breastfeeding? Do you have a plan for your first attempt at breastfeeding?

What are you hoping to do for the first hour after birth? For yourself, your partner, and your baby?

Are you familiar with the procedures for baby after birth: weigh, measure, vitamin K, caregiver check? Do you have questions? Are you okay with all these procedures?

There is a lot to consider when making your birth plan! Sometimes, you may not have a choice when things are emergent and your caregivers’ focus is on the health and safety of Mom and baby, you just let them do whatever it takes to accomplish this. However, in 99 percent of cases, you will have time to discuss, explore your options, and advocate for your hopes for a positive birth experience. Taking the time before-hand to prepare and create your birth plan can make a big difference in how informed you are and can make your birth experience less stressful and more positive.

Happy birthing, everyone!

Sharon Loose, CCE, CD, BDT, PCD, is a certified doula and childbirth educator with over 23 years’ experience and has supported over 1,500 Calgary and area families on their parenthood journey. She is the owner of Calgary Birth Essentials, which offers private and small group prenatal classes, birth and postpartum doula support, and breastfeeding and early parenting education. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit calgarybirthessentials.com

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