Creating a birth plan holds both benefits, and potentially, great disappointment, when things don’t go to plan. Parenting life coach Nadia Scrooby looks at the purpose of a birth plan and how it has changed.
A recent social media survey of moms’ birth experiences had me reaching for the comment button to respond with the utmost joy. Giving birth to my firstborn was the greatest day of my life and the birth of my second daughter, although completely different to my first birth, was truly amazing.
But after reading all the comments, I refrained from replying, as I felt like I was about to brag to the broken-hearted. Then it hit me – if moms were granted their wishes during birth, this would surely always have a positive outcome. But what about the likes of medical interventions and decisions beyond a mom’s wishes?
I firmly believed that birth plans, co-created by parents-to-be and their healthcare providers, could provide all the possibilities and desires of the birthing mom. My own beliefs were challenged and pleasantly shaped to have learnt that birth plans are far-reaching and ever-changing. A birth plan would ultimately communicate a mom’s birthing choices and set her at ease, although she needs to be adaptable and flexible.
Sister Bianca Breytenbach, former postnatal registered nurse and clinical facilitator, has experienced many births. She says birth is unpredictable and that unfulfilled expectations could lead to disappointment and devastation. The best option is to be an informed parent-to-be.
Make informed decisions and be assertive, she advises. Sr. Bianca urges moms to gain information, be inquisitive and ask questions. She underlines the importance of knowing your rights. She recommends that parents-to-be make a journal, not a rigid birth plan, containing all birthing options, possibilities and awareness of all possible outcomes.
Healthcare providers, birth facilities and immediate post-birth procedures and protocols differ vastly from one to the other. Making these choices is where your birthing journey starts. Sister Hettie Grové, SACLC course developer, antenatal coach and doula, advises moms to check with their healthcare providers if a birth plan is accepted in their practice. In my own experience, not all healthcare providers work with birth plans.
More great advice from Sr. Hettie is to set up a breastfeeding plan, which would include the second and third stage of birth and the immediate fourth trimester. This could result in more mothers reaching their breastfeeding goals.
Breastfeeding could be one of your wishes, contained in your birth journal, therefore it is important to understand all the steps involved in reaching your wishes. Each step could lead in a different direction and if you communicate your desired outcome, your birthing team can assist you accordingly. That is the beauty of birth.
Steph Nel, executive director of DOSA (Doulas of South Africa) says, when preparing for birth, language choice is very important. She prefers to use the term ‘birth wishlist’ over ‘birth plan’. Plans can fail and the associated guilt or feelings of failure are not conducive to successful early parenting. When you use tems like “wishes”, you still have the goals visible, but there is a lot less pressure if things don’t exactly work out the way you had hoped.
It is commonly said that one intervention leads to another and I consider it vital to understand that your journey is made up of what you allow. Your body, your birth, your choice.
Birth choices may include:
- Choice of healthcare: midwife-led care, physician (obstetrician-gynaecologist) care.
- Full-term birth.
- Consent to induce labour or not.
- Type of birth/delivery: vaginal birth, natural birth (vaginal birth with no medication), scheduled caesarean, VBAC.
- Home birth or birthing at a healthcare facility or a birthing centre.
- Water birth options.
- Consent for an emergency caesarean and type of anaesthesia.
- Birthing team: The people you want at your side, other than your healthcare provider(s) could include a doula, your partner, a close friend/relative.
- Photographing the birth.
- Making birth a personal experience with music, food, prayer, dimmed lights, personal items from home, candles, etc.
- Birthing positions.
- Comfort measures.
- Pain relief measures.
- Episiotomy vs. perineum tearing.
- Birthing clothes.
After the delivery
- Immediate compulsory after-birth check-ups: in accordance with your facility’s protocol you could request that these medical check-ups take place without baby being removed from you. It includes baby’s Apgar assessment and length measurement on your chest and baby’s weigh-in in your presence.
- Delayed cord clamping, skin-to-skin, breast crawling, latching for breastfeeding.
- Skin-to-skin with dad.
- Delayed bathing of baby/keeping vernix on baby’s skin for as long as possible.
- Placenta encapsulation.
- Feeding preferences.
- Rooming in.
Tips and tricks when making birth choices
- Attend antenatal classes or birth coaching sessions.
- Visit open days at birthing facilities.
- Keep your partner’s wishes in mind.
- Keep your medical cover/budget in mind.
- Determine if you have a low risk or high risk pregnancy.
- Talk to your birth team as much as you need. Find a doula if you need more support than you are getting.
- Understand that social media platforms are not researched opinions. Experiences differ, birth is unpredictable.
Remember that a birth plan is a way for you to communicate your wishes during labour. It should at all times be two-way communication between you and your care providers. Every birth should be an empowering, beautiful, unique experience.