Take birth into your own hands.
By Catherine Bell
Catherine Bell is an Informed Birth Planner with Bellabirth, a certified Doula and creator of the informed birth planning guide Plan Bellabirth: Informed Birth Planning, available from www.bellabirth.org
Birth plans have a mixed reputation. Some people swear by them, others swear at them, and many are indifferent. Yet, there does seem to be a general consensus that you ‘should’ have a birth plan. For the most part, birth plans are given ‘lip service’, and as such, generally, fall into four categories:
1. The Vague Plan “I want a natural birth….unless medically necessary”
This kind of plan leaves the birthing woman vulnerable. Usually this plan accompanies unquestioning trust in the care provider, which can leave the mother feeling unimportant and infantilised. It often means a mother is not confident in her birthing abilities, and this lack of confidence can carry over into her breastfeeding and parenting.
2. The free online template “this one looks pretty good…let’s copy it”
Usually this kind of plan is used without adequately being discussed with care providers, these plans often lack any informed decisions and are often discarded by the parents very easily.
3. The Declaration of War
This can put staff off side and creates an uncomfortable birthing environment, often resulting in a traumatic experience. These plans are usually the result of a previously traumatic experience. It is very important that a plan is developed in conjunction with care providers, to build a trusting relationship.
4. The inflexible plan
Birth plans fixated on an ideal without considering contingency, leave parents feeling that any deviation is a failure.
Informed Birth Planning, however, is a process that means your plan will not fall into one of these categories. The process creates an original document in conjunction with care providers over several antenatal appointments. By allowing time to consider options and weigh up the risks and benefits, it is possible to make informed decisions.
The written informed plan outlines the techniques the mother intends to use, allowing support people to follow this guide, rather than interrupting to ask questions and ‘just check’. The plan makes it clear what is needed generally, but most importantly contains informed consent or refusal. By negotiating and determining in advance the circumstances where certain procedures may (or may not) be considered, the mother is able to relax and concentrate on birthing.
There are many optional, but routine, procedures that need to be considered in advance and require informed consent or refusal.
The process of Informed Birth Planning identifies your expectations, builds your general knowledge and seeks evidence-based information. It also includes contingency planning. The contingency protects you from on the spot decisions and means you are more likely to recognise and understand any deviations from expectation, and respond calmly and appropriately having made informed decisions in advance.
Due to the nature of informed decisions, different people facing similar situations will make different choices. Take the time to explore your options, understand them and make the choice that is right for you.
The Informed Birth Planning process will take you beyond labour and birth, it will include a breastfeeding plan (see the Australian Breastfeeding Association website for more information) and a plan for your early weeks – The Transition into parenting. Whether this is your first baby or your tenth – making an Informed Birth Plan means taking your birth into your own hands.