This month midwife Sofie Jacobs reveals what the experts would like you to know about birth plans.
Q: I’ve put together a birth plan but how likely is it to be followed? I don’t want to come across all “special snowflake” but I would like the hospital to pay at least some attention to my requests. What does a reasonable birth plan look like? I’d like a relatively drug-free delivery – first-time mum, Hong Kong Island.
A: Being a midwife for 20 years this type of question is one that often comes up in conversations with my clients. As an expectant mum, especially for the first time, it is perfectly reasonable to want to have some sort of “plan”. However, after spending countless hours with labouring women, in every different situation imaginable, the one thing I have come to realise is that most births don’t go according to “plan”.
Because of this I am not a fan of what would be a typical birth plan. Why? Because rigid birth plans almost always take an unexpected turn and as a result leave the expectant couple feeling like they’ve failed, the team has failed and the birth was not the special moment it should have been.
So do you go in blind? No, absolutely not. As I tell all my clients, a healthier approach would be to “prepare” for your birth. The only guarantee from a birth plan is giving birth, so the best approach is for a couple to work with their midwife or doctor on creating a strategy that helps them prepare for the experience they get rather than pushing for the experience they “dream” of.
For the couple who wishes to have a drug-free labour and birth, my strategy would be to include the following…
Mind/body connection – through various mindfulness techniques the expectant mum can learn to make the mind/body connection to prepare for the journey into motherhood.
Exercise – labour and delivery take a woman’s body into places and situations it’s never experienced before. It’s vital to build up your strength and resilience as early on as possible.
Nutrition – a healthy diet is essential both mentally and physically. Proper nutrition is the key to building strength and resilience. The body will need all the support it can get to sustain mum’s strength before, during and after labour.
Support – having a network of friends/family and professionals that support you in your choices and decisions surrounding your labour and birth is key. It’s your body, they’re your choices and having people around who don’t support this is detrimental on many levels. I always tell my clients to identify those in your life who make you feel good, are positive and have your best interests at heart. They are the people you want around you during this time.
If a drug-free labour and birth is your goal, I highly recommend if possible to hire a private midwife. She can help guide you through the process while keeping your “wishes” at the forefront of proceedings. She can help you decide particulars such as where you will give birth – are you booking into a private of public hospital? You will also need to consider which doctor to choose if you’re going private. You need to think about who would be most beneficial by your side during labour and birth, and it’s not always who you would expect.
She can also be by your side in the very early stages before you check into hospital and keep an eye on you and your baby’s wellbeing.
The peace of mind in having someone who is not only medically trained but fully knows you and your wishes is priceless. At the moments when you think you can’t do it anymore, or you start to doubt your choices, she can coach you through the whole process – as well as letting you know if you need to “divert” from your original birth strategy.
So while I don’t agree with birth plans, I do promote birth preparation. It’s great to have an idea of how you would like things to progress, but as we all know, the best-laid plans don’t always pan out. Give yourself a break and focus on controlling what you can control and let nature take its course. I would say this is the most natural approach to labour and delivery that you can get.