Why birth plans are silly (but you should write one anyways!)

Why Birth Plans are Silly (but you should write one anyways)

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Birth plans have become a popular addition to many women’s labor bags recently. They are a great tool for making a woman’s wishes known, and can be comforting to have during a time where you might otherwise have little control. Unfortunately, hop onto some birth workers forums and you’ll also find a lot of ridcule and judgement against the people that write them. Why the disparity?

Why birth plans are silly (but you should write one anyways!)
Image by Victor Santos

I put a lot of time and effort into writing my first birth plan. I scoured over pinterest and blogs, and took ample notes during my Bradley Method Class. Some people had visual birth plans, others used the ones they give you at the hospital, and still others had pages and pages and pages of their wishes. In the end, I decided on using a grid style, with sentences that were short and to the point. I wanted it to be quick and simple to read. After all, what nurse, doctor or midwife was going to read a novel of a plan while I was pushing?

A copy of our birth plan was given to my doctor during my 32 week appointment (standard procedure at my hospital), and we brought 10 copies with us during our labor. We taped a copy to our door, and handed one to every staff person that came into our room. It was also in our file and everyone had access to it.

But… no one read it. Lucky (very luckily!) for us, most of the things we wanted (immediate skin to skin, no episiotemy, no pacifier, etc) were already standard practice where we gave birth, and when procedures were happening, we were almost always advised beforehand. Still, it was a bummer some things we requested on our birth plan did or didn’t occur (eye drops, vitamin k). So what went wrong?

Well… the labor and delivery unit is busy! Although our nurses mostly stayed the same, people were in and out of our room constantly. Nurses are typically assigned more than one patient at a time, not to mention the doctors and midwives who are pulled in all directions. Is it any surprise it is much easier to function on routine?

So if no one reads it, what’s the point?

Don’t get me wrong, a good midwife or OBGYN will absolutely take the time to go over your birth plan (as they should!), but in the chaos of a maternity ward, it’s not always possible (this is, of course a different story for home births and to some extent, birthing centers).

It’s for you and any birthing partners.

It allows you to visualize how you want your labor. It allows you to anticipate what will happen if things don’t go the way you planned (Fetal distress, c-section, etc). It opens up a discussion on what (if any) interventions you would like in your labor, and what procedures you would like to have done with your newborn. If you have a partner or other support person, it engages them and lets them know what you expect. This is a conversation that needs to take place, as they will advocate for your needs when you are unable to. Writing your birth plan can give you the structure needed for your partner.

I absolutely recommend that every woman write a birth plan, even if it doesn’t end up making it to the hospital. It’s a great tool for getting yourself and your partner on the same page.

Anyone write a birth plan before? What was your experience with it? Was it read?


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