Recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that despite a decrease in births in the United States, midwives are getting busier, delivering 11.8 percent of all vaginal births in the country—a record high.
As midwives, our goals are to improve the patient experience and to ensure all needs are met. One of the ways we do this is to encourage a woman and her partner to develop a birth plan, which is proven to help create a more positive birth experience and improve communication with their providers.
Birth plans allow caregivers to understand expectant parents in terms of their emotional and physical expectations.
Birth plans should reflect values, hopes and dreams for the birth process, as well as an attitude of collaboration and trust between expectant parents and their care team. And while plans can include dos and don’ts, it’s important to understand that, if there are changes in a woman’s health or environment, a different game plan before and during labor may be necessary.
Some items to consider when developing a birth plan include:
- During the first visit with your midwife, talk about your values and options.
- Find out routine policies and procedures for “mommy care” during office visits and at the hospital. If you do not agree with a policy or procedure, discuss it with your health care provider.
- It is extremely helpful to take a childbirth class and/or read about preparations for labor, as well as choices and expectations for childbirth. A good childbirth class helps dispel fears, and create understanding of the process of labor and what happens at different stages.
- Develop a statement of overall values along with gratitude to caregivers for their care, along with a statement of expectation that information-sharing and informed consent will be honored during the labor process, particularly if conditions arise that require changes to the plan.
- Develop expectations about medication desires. Do you want a low-intervention labor and birth with non-pharmacologic methods to manage labor pain or do you plan to use other medication for labor pain?
- Develop your vision for the desired birth practices. Do you want softened lighting, quiet among staff and music? Consider labor position options: Squatting, side-lying, hands and knees, standing or semi-reclining, etc. Other considerations should be made regarding newborn care and breastfeeding.
It’s natural for some women to feel like they are losing control during childbirth. Ultimately a birth plan helps a woman maintain focus and a sense of control during the process and highlights the positive partnership with a midwife. A well-designed and thoughtful birth plan will provide you and your partner a positive birth experience.