Written by Renee Adair
Birth plans or wish lists are not new in birth.
They were introduced some time in the early 1980s by childbirth educators to help women express their preferences in labour and to communicate with their care providers. They are a clarification of the woman’s birth vision, whether she is having a home birth, hospital birth or a planned caesarean. Its an opportunity to clarify what’s important to her and her partner and a wish list informs support people and care providers prior to the big day about that vision. Its important everyone is on the same page.
Most people who are expecting a baby know about birth plans today and although some care providers don’t see the value in them, don’t let that put you off! It’s your baby’s birthday, so get educated and take charge.
As a doula, it’s a huge part of my role is to assist parents though the process of developing a wish list or plan. So many people have not thought about what it is they really want from their upcoming labour and birth. So stepping them though the stages of labour and birth, via a birth plan template I can assist them to think about what is most important to them.
Many people may have only sat in hospital childbirth education classes and this may leave some women not fully understanding their choices and options. So by going over a template I use, it gives us an opportunity to invite some conversation around informed consent and policies and procedures.
A birth wish list should be on one page – clear and concise. Dot points can work for example. Simply listing the stages of labour and what you want or do not want underneath. Highlighting points if need.
We wish to use water as much as possible, hot packs/shower ect.
Position changes, use of ball, floor mats ect
Keep hydrated and eat if desired.
Affirmations and encouragement
Please do not offer any pain medication
I have seen some sites on the internet and some pregnancy books suggesting birth plans could be as long as four pages. Trust me, they do not get read or respected by hospital staff when they are in this format.
I give parents the responsibility of printing out the plan and showing this to their main care provider before the labour. Its important to discuss anything you want or no not want, prior to the birth.
I have them email a copy to me to print out and add to my doula bag. I laminate one to put up on the birthing room wall when we arrive and have two other copies just in case we need them.
A good wish list should be flexible as stuff doesn’t always go to plan and women deserve the right to change their minds.
I discuss a plan B but don’t put this in writing, this may include the discussion around say: if mother and baby are unwell after birth that dad/partner stays with baby and you with mother or vice versa. In the case of homebirth you would discuss transfer to hospital and who would go etc.
Having a wish list/birth plan is not negotiable with my clients as it allows me to really fully understand what the client wants so I can help them achieve it!