Tips on writing a birth plan
You may have been asked before if you have already written a birth plan. A what? How can you possibly plan a birth, you may ask. In this blog, I will explain to you more about what a birth plan is and how such a plan can help you look back on your birth with a good feeling.
The birth plan
A birth plan is a document in which you write down your wishes and limits for childbirth. In it, you write down the things that are important to you. There are many formats on the internet that you can use to write a birth plan. These formats include many standard things that are good to think about. For instance, you can fill in where you want to give birth (at home or at the hospital), who you want at the birth, how you feel about pain control and whether you want to breastfeed or bottle-feed. But why write such a plan? Many people do have things they would like or would not like in their childbirth. From experience, it can be difficult to communicate during childbirth what you would like, but also what you would not like at all. If you have a birth plan, this is already on paper. It helps you to focus and stay in your cocoon during labour instead of having to explain what you want at that moment. A birth plan is often discussed in pregnancy, or at the beginning of labour. This is because the cocoon is very important for the right hormones during labour. The hormone that triggers contractions is oxytocin. Your body needs a calm environment to get into a good oxytocin flow. External factors can easily take you out of this flow. So it's not okay during labour to have to stand up for what you need and care about at that moment, because it can take you out of the oxytocin flow. This can cause the production of adrenaline. This is a hormone released during stress and tension. Adrenaline can cause contractions to be inhibited because it inhibits the production of oxytocin and endorphins. This can cause you to experience far fewer contractions in unsettled situations. For example, I notice when I make a first visit to a woman in labour that the contractions stop as soon as I am inside. I also sometimes see it in women who go to hospital during labour. The agitation that women may experience at such times can cause adrenaline to be produced. As a result, they then have fewer contractions. Besides oxytocin, endorphins are incredibly important during labour. This is because it is a natural painkiller. If you are well in the "flow" of your labour, it helps your body to produce endorphins and thus experience less pain and cope with it better.
And now for some practice. So how do you write a good birth plan? What can you put in it?
- Think about what helps you relax properly. It is very important that you give birth in the place where you feel safe, so that you produce the right hormones. You can relax from nice music, essential oils, nice people at your birth and not a lot of noises or unfamiliar people, nice light (salt lamp, candles), etc.
- Let your carer know how you normally deal with pain and what you need at that moment. For example, do you turn in on yourself and prefer to be left alone? Or, on the contrary, do you like to have lots of people around you to support you. Realise that your caregiver ( especially a stranger in the hospital) cannot see inside your head. You help them but, more importantly, yourself by communicating about this beforehand.
- Think carefully about the role of the partner during labour (that can also be a mother, friend, etc. The person you want to have there to support you). Brief that person in advance on what you like. For example, talking or not talking, touching or not touching. Also think about the attachment of the father or other mother. He or she may want to handle the baby with you at the moment the baby is born. It is nice to also have skin-to-skin contact after the golden hour when the baby has skin-to-skin contact with mother.
- Do you have wishes that are different from what is written in the protocols of healthcare providers? Discuss them with your midwife or obstetrician in good time. Your midwife may have tips on how to write a good birth plan. Especially if you give birth under the supervision of the hospital (think of: birth position you like instead of the position the healthcare provider wants, no continuous CTG, no standard vaginal examination every 2 hours, etc).
- Realise very well that a doctor, midwife or other practitioner is not allowed to do anything without your consent. No one can decide for you what actions you allow. You have control over your own body and it is simply not permissible for anyone to go against this. So good communication from you to the healthcare provider is going to help you indicate your boundaries. On the other hand, if your healthcare provider explains well what the situation is and why he/she suggests certain actions, this will help you make a good choice in what you want or don't want.
- It is known that women who have more say in their childbirth look back on their birth with greater satisfaction. Even if there were complications during childbirth. So really try to ensure consultation between you and your healthcare provider.
Some women really like having a birth plan, others let the birth come to them and don't put anything on paper. Do what you feel comfortable with.
If you have any questions or suggestions about your own birth plan, please discuss it with us (or your own healthcare provider).