A birth plan is a document that tells your health-care provider, your birth team/companion (eg husband, spouse, doula etc) and the hospital staff what kind of childbirth you would like and how you would like your baby cared for after he/she is born.
Imagine going for labour like going for a marathon. Oh yes, it is indeed hard work preparing for labour. BUT you have approximately 40 weeks or so to prepare for it. And what happens if you don't prepare for it? Just imagine going for a marathon without preparation. What are the worst scenarios that could happen? Fatigue, Muscle Crapms, Injuries, Giving Up Halfway etc...
Same goes to birthing.
When should you start drafting a Birth Plan?
If you ask me, personally my answer would be as soon as you plan to conceive @ at pre-conception stage itself. No such term as "too early" to prepare for birthing! It’s also a good idea to discuss the plan with your partner and your family if they are going to be involved in some way. However, it is your body, and your family needs to understand that you are the only one who can make some of the more personal decisions.
What should be included in a Birth Plan? When writing a birth plan, consider the list of things you want during:
Labour (Consider things like pain relief methods, freedom of movement, allowing labour to progress naturally, how you want the room to be set eg music, aromatherapy, how many companions you want & who are they, do you consent to any invasive or surgical procedures, and if yes; under what circumstances)
After Childbirth (Consider Natural Placental Expulsion, Delayed Cord Clamping, Skin to Skin, Immediate Initiation of Breastfeeding etc)
Method of Care to the Newborn (Consinder whether or not you want vaccination for the baby, consider delayed bathing etc)
Below is an example of my birth plan. As you can see, after prior discussion with my healthcare provider, and after mutual agreement of what I request and what she agrees to carry out for me, we put all in writing and signed the birth plan. Two copies, one for me to keep and another for the hospital record.
NOTE: THIS IS MY PERSONAL BIRTH PLAN. EACH BIRTH PLAN SHOULD BE CUSTOMIZED TO SUIT EACH INDIVIDUAL'S NEEDS.
Tips for writing a birth plan:
1. Keep it short & focused in point forms.
2. Do not cut and paste from someone's else's birth plan. This should be unique to you. But that doesn't mean you can't look at other people's birth plans to get some ideas.
3. Avoid a list of "don't wants". Instead, mention what you want. This would not only make the birth plan a positive note to read, it may sound a bit more friendlier to the health care provider.
4. Be precise on what you want and avoid vague words like "minimal" or "only if necessarry". Your definition of "only if necessary" or "minimal" might defer from others.
5. Know what you want and be assertive about it. Use wordings like "It's really important that..." or "I humbly request your support ...." INSTEAD OF "I prefer..." .
What if my health-care provider refuses to co-operate with my Birth Plan?
Use your birth plan as a catalyst for your own research. Attend birth classes (trusted resources) & read up as much information as you can from evidence-based articles & journals.
When you present your birth plan to your healthcare provider, pay attention to his or her reactions and listen to their feedback and consider their suggestions. Every individual & each case is not similar, hence your healthcare providers suggestions do play an important role in ensuring your well-being & safety. However, the point is for your healthcare provider to respectfully look into your birth plan, then discuss with you if there are any issues regarding it & educate you with all the necessary knowledge so that both parties can come to a mutual decision. Vice versa, if you find your healthcare provider acting in a demeaning manner to your birth plan & rejecting it without prior justification, hence my take is you should shop for other healthcare providers!
The White Ribbon Alliance has advocated for Respectful Maternity Care, so you have the rights to plan your birth & be attended respectfully by Healthcare Proffesionals!
Certainly, to write up your own birth plan, you have to be sure what you want first!! Therefore, knowledge is important to be able for you to know what you want in the first place. Learn, unlearn & relearn! For the best of you & baby!