Updated: Aug 30
Have you created a birth plan for your labour and birth? Or have you not considered it, and just plan to ‘go with the flow?’
As a Midwife I have seen many birth plans. Some that are many, many pages long. Others that are generic and not actually relevant to our maternity care in Adelaide. Or more often than not, I see birth plans that only outline what the expecting couple wish for, without taking into consideration their preferences if their labour takes a different course. They are often rigid, and often women feel dissapointed if their birth didnt folow their exact 'plan'.
As you can tell, I am not really a huge fan of the typical birth plan.I am however, a HUGE supporter of birth preferences and birth maps. Let me explain…
Firstly, much of the benefit of birth plans are not actually in the written preferences themselves, but in the process of developing the preferences. The woman and her partner consider their options, and together can research them and decide what they would like and what they are comfortable with. They can research unfamiliar topics in their own time, without any pressure, and can come to their own well informed conclusions. This process is gold!! This is also why generic ‘print off and take to your birth’ birth plans don't work anywhere near as well. They avoid this crucial process.
During labour the only thing that a woman should be worried about is staying calm and relaxed, and working with her body to bring her baby into the world. She shouldn't have to be making huge decisions about her birth and baby. During labour and birth the primitive part of our brain is in full force. Any activity such as questions, feeling observed and decision making reduces activity in this part of the brain. This is definitely not what we want for natural birthing! This is why I love birth preferences, they allow the labouring women to relax, knowing that whatever turn their birth takes they have considered their options and have decided on what they want, thus minimising any decision making.
Birth preferences consider all options, and outline the woman and her partners preferences in response to whatever turn their birth takes. It follows somewhat of a ‘if this needs to happen, then I would/would not like this’ An example is as follows:
I would like my baby to stay close to me, and to remain in skin to skin for at least the first hour after birth. If my baby needs to be transferred for any reason, then I would like my partner to go with our baby.
A birth map is similar to a birth preferences list, but follows more of a mind map layout. This can also be really great in ensuring that you positively meet any turn that your birth may take! Some people prefer a list, and others prefer a map. Both are great! Do whatever feels right for you.
Birth preferences are a fantastic tool because they ensure that you have considered your options and your choices, and then outlines them in a realistic and flexible way. It also empowers women to do their own research, and to come to their own conclusions about what they want, therefore ensuring that they come into their labour fully informed. They allow women to relax as they know that they have researched all options, and that in the event that their birthing takes an unexpected turn they know what they want and how they can still achieve an amazing experience.
In my hypnobirthing classes we discuss birth preferences in detail to ensure that both you and your birth partner understand each of your options. I also encourage couples to do their own research, and to look into options that they may not have previously considered. They can then create their own personalised, well researched, and flexible birth preferences! Much more powerful than a generic birth plan right??
Have you created your birth preferences? I'd love to hear your thoughts!