5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Birth Plan
Creating a birth plan can have a huge impact on your birth experience. However, there are a few pitfalls that make birth plans less effective OR can set you up for disappointment. Here are 5 mistakes to avoid when you are creating your birth plan.
1. Copying a birth plan template you found online without fully reviewing or understanding the preferences
Many people view creating a birth plan the same way they do as making a hospital bag checklist; a task to simply check off your to-do list, a generic copy of something you found online from someone who might know more about birth than you do. This is not the case.
First and foremost, creating a birth plan is so much more than the paper you print out outlining your preferences. Making a birth plan should be an educational PROCESS where you learn about your options, advocate for your preferences, and learn if/how your care team plans to support your preferences.
"If you don't know your options, you don't have any." -A Good Birth, A Safe Birth
Creating a birth plan takes TIME. It often involves researching what your options are, reflecting on your desires for your birth experience, learning more about your care team's philosophy about birth and how it aligns with yours, and making key decisions about how you will advocate for your birth preferences. It's not a simple copy, paste, and print. It's a roadmap and process to optimize your birth experience.
2. Creating an extremely long, essay-style birth plan
While long, narrative-style birth plans are beautiful and often deeply moving, they can be very ineffective. The written word can be misinterpreted and language can be perceived as confrontational, even when it isn't. Long birth plans are often skimmed by care providers and key details can be missed.
The best practice is to keep your birth plan to one page. I also recommend a visual birth plan that uses images and a few words to describe what you do and don't want. This format is quick and easy to interpret. When you're in labor, you're in an altered state of consciousness, you don't want to be explaining yourself or scanning through a written document to share your birth plan.
Feel free to download my FREE Visual Birth Plan Template. Remember, this is not for you to copy and paste, it's designed for you to customize.
3. Only making one plan
A lot of people only make one birth plan, a plan for their ideal birth experience. Now, this is very appealing to my Type A personality: the plan is the plan, is the plan, is THE plan. It may feel easier to wrap your head around just one plan at this moment but I do not recommend this strategy. Only having one set plan can lead to last-minute stress when you get closer to your due date and some things shift.
Many people say, "well birth is unpredictable, and you need to be flexible about your preferences". While I agree that birth is unpredictable, I don't agree that your preferences should be flexible, I believe you can make a few iterations of birth plans for different scenarios and stay firm in most of your preferences. Of course, you always have the right to change your mind during labor but your plan shouldn't be flexible in the sense that your preferences aren't honored by your care team and you need to roll bend to their preferences.
4. Not reviewing your birth plan with your support and care team
You have the right to labor and birth in the way you desire. However, you may find that your care provider isn't supportive of your autonomy or your preferences. In fact, there are some cases where providers pressure their patients to birth in a way that aligns with their preferences and values, not yours. For example, you have the right to birth in your position of choice, which may be a preference in your birth plan. While some providers may be willing to support pushing in upright positions, few obstetricians will attend an actual birth or “delivery” in any other position than the lithotomy position (lying on your back). It is important that you review this preference with your provider BEFORE labor so that your provider's practice preferences don't catch you off guard when this moment comes.
If you don't take the time to review your birth plan with your provider before labor, you can end up with a lot of challenges on your labor day and potentially a disappointing experience. If you don't understand the nuances of interviewing your care provider, you could end up with a poor match for the birth experience you desire. For these reasons, leaving the advocacy and communication elements out of the birth plan process can leave you high and dry.
5. Believing your birth plan will ensure you get the birthing experience you want
There are many factors that contribute to having a satisfying birth experience, some we can control, others we cannot. You have control over three factors that make a huge difference in your experience: planning, place, and provider.
Planning includes making a birth plan, getting an education about what to expect, understanding your options, and planning your advocacy strategy.
Place relates to where you choose to birth your baby. There are many ways the place you labor and birth your baby will influence your experience. There are many factors to consider including policies, atmosphere, culture, comfort measure infrastructure, etc.
Lastly, the provider you choose is a huge factor. Not all providers have the same training, beliefs, values, or practices. Some will resonate with you, others won't. It is important you find a provider with whom you feel comfortable and who fully supports you in birthing the way you desire. While they may share medical information with you to help you make an informed choice, they should respect your right and autonomy to make the decisions you feel are best for you and your baby.
I recommend you start making your birth plan early in pregnancy. It gives you time to learn about your options and choose a birth place and provider who aligns with your birth plan. Check out my FREE Visual Birth Plan Template. Remember, this is not for you to copy and paste, it's designed for you to customize and make your own.
If you want to create an effective birth plan, have all the evidence-based information about birth preferences at your fingertips, and learn how to advocate for the birth of your dreams, check out the Birth Plan Masterclass!
a free gift for you!
Begin making your customized birth plan today with this visual birth plan template
Meet the Author
Clara O'Rourke (she hers),
Holistic Doula & Childbirth Educator.
I am a researcher turned total birth nerd with a passion for supporting people's birth in their full power! I guide people through their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum journey by helping them overcome fear or anxiety about birth, providing evidence-based information so they can make informed decisions, and making sure they have everything they need to birth with confidence. Birth is sacred and it should be treated that way. I am committed to providing support for birth and beyond, regardless of a person's background, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or relationship status. También ofrezco mis servicios en español. I wish you and your growing family the brightest of beginnings!