Do you need a birth plan?

By Beka Shane Denter on June 14, 2013
My birth plan seemed simple – to have minimal medication and intervention during labour. But come delivery day, it was anything but simple. At 41 weeks I went into “stalled labour.” After a Pitocin-powered induction, 18 hours of labour and two epidurals, I delivered our baby via C-section. That was definitely not in the birth plan.

A birth plan is a written document for the medical team providing your care. “A birth plan helps both sides know exactly what is expected,” says Lisa Knapp, a labour and delivery nurse at St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario, Ore. “It can provide a sense of control to the couple over the birthing process, and can ease the mother’s mind knowing that if she becomes too overwhelmed during labour, her wishes have already been communicated.”

Specifically, your birth plan should outline the interventions you are comfortable or not comfortable using. Epidurals, episiotomies, induction and pain relief options should all be considered and spelled out. Also important is the aftercare of your baby – whether you want skin-to-skin contact and how you want to feed your baby.

Teresa Bandrowska, a certified nurse midwife (CNM) with the Midwifery Group of Ottawa, explains that the birth plan “can clarify what is, or is not important to the parents and offers the opportunity to discuss their preferences and what can happen if things deviate from the plan.” It is essential to have several conversations about the birth plan with your care provider, as “plans” may require modifi cation.

Lisa says, “When the plan of labour is traded for a long, painful, physically and mentally exhausting labour that ends in a stressful emergency Cesarean-section delivery, it can naturally lead to a sense of disappointment.”

Lisa encourages parents to design a birth plan that prepares for contingencies and emergencies. “In a hospital setting there are protocols that must be followed and interventions are set in motion within seconds if the baby is showing signs of distress.”

A lot of first-time moms put pressure on themselves. Lisa says, “When things do not go according to plan, there are some women who feel they have failed. It is important to encourage positivity but also to let the woman voice herself and grieve her expectations. No two deliveries are the same and it is hard to plan for the unexpected.”

Both Lisa and Teresa emphasize the importance of the end result – a happy, healthy mom and baby – and sometimes that means deviating from the plan.

Seek out support after a difficult delivery

  • “Most communities have experienced therapists and groups dedicated to reproductive counselling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and other modalities for healing trauma,” says Teresa Bandrowska, a CNM with the Midwifery Group of Ottawa. “Most of these (resources) have meetings and workshops that can greatly help a woman come to a peaceful resolution.”
  • Lisa Knapp, a labour and delivery nurse, suggests seeking out support “from family and friends who are willing to listen. It can also help to find another mom who may have had a similar experience. There may be “Mommy-and-Me” groups that can become invaluable to the new mom. The woman’s doctor is another great resource who can connect the woman and her family to a counselor.”

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, July 2013.

By Beka Shane Denter| June 14, 2013

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