What is a birthing plan? (And why should I make one?)

I’ll be honest. When I first heard the term ‘birthing plan’, my mind immediately went to a place with a massive list of ‘things you cannot do’, strict schedules, birthing suits where speaking is banned, crystals hang over the bed, hippies act as birthing guide counsellors & terms like “holistic childbearing” are thrown around faster than you can order a wheatgrass & kale. I thought a ‘birthing plan’ was the realm of either a super control freak, or a new-age hippy.

I’m glad I was wrong. You definitely need a ‘birthing plan’. But for the purposes of this post, we’re going to say it’s less a plan, more a ‘guideline’.

So what is a birthing plan? In it’s simplest form, it is an agreed plan of action when the little bun decides the baking is done. To keep it simple, there are three things you need to know for a birthing plan, the ‘When’, ‘Where’ & ‘How’ (the rest is superfluous to your role on the day). A birthing plan can be as complex, or as simple as you’d like it, and there is a lot of flexibility in the approach you take, however your individual birthing plan will be dependent on a complex discussion and understanding between three people.

Your doctor, your partner, your good self. Now, just in-case you were wondering, those three individuals are listed in order of importance in the decision making process. Yes you are at the bottom of the food chain in the decision making.

Number 1) Always take the advice of your doctor & obstetrician. Those experts usually have years of experience behind them, and the welfare of your partner and child at heart. If your Obstetrician decides your birth needs to be a C-Section for safeties sake, don’t run off and plan an unsupervised home birth – you know what I’m saying?

Number 2) This is your partners body we’re talking about here… if the doctor gives the all clear for a natural birth, and your partner is set on a natural drug-free birth using a birthing pool in the ward, don’t argue. Pack your board-shorts & a change of clothes and get into it. Once you see the pain your partner has to go through in giving birth to your little bundle of joy you will understand.

Number 3) You. Your job in all of this is to be the driver, cheer squad, massage therapist, birthing assistant, information specialist, water boy & supportive partner. You follow everyone else’s lead. You encourage your partner, organise anything she needs, and if there is a change in the situation during labour, you may have to provide consent / direction in cases of emergency – so know the plan, and the backup!

Things to include in your plan:
1) When: If you’re planning on a natural birth this one is a little up in the air, just be prepared, know your due dates. The closer to the due date, the closer to home you’ll want to stay. If you’re booked in for a C-Section or to be induced – double check your dates & admission times & lock it into the calendar.

2) Where: Hospital ward vs home birth? Are you booked into a private hospital, or just planning on turning up at a public hospital? Make sure you discuss this with your obstetrician and partner well before time and agree on a plan (and maybe a plan B if anything is likely to change). It will also help if you take the time to do a tour of the hospital prior to the big day. In the panic of the moment, all those hospital corridors can look alike.

3) How: This one is where you have the least influence. Is it a C-Section or Natural birth? Water birth or on the bed? Do you and your partner have a birthing philosophy? Some people like silence, some people want to go drug free. Some only want happy gas while others want a full epidural. Some people are adamant about being on all fours giving birth, others are mortified by the idea. Know the “How”, even if it is as simple as ‘Aiming for a drug-free natural birth – but if it’s too much, we’ll try the happy gas’. Who will be in the room with you? Would you prefer the baby cleaned before being handed to you?

So there you have it. A birth plan could be as complex as “a drug-free home birth, utilizing a birthing pool & bringing the child into the world in silence (no music / talking / screaming), surrounded by our aunties, a midwife & our obstetrician”, or as simple as “Having a C-Section booked in at hospital X on date Y”.

So have the discussion with your doctor and partner, and develop a birthing plan. You won’t regret it.

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