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Building a Truly Useful Birth Plan

by Kim James, ICCE, LCCE, BDT(DONA)

PEPS is a sponsor of the 2014 REACHE conference for birth educators, doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, nurses, physicians and others working in peri- and post-natal health.

Kim presented a fantastic talk at the 2014 conference, aimed at helping new mothers and parents prepare for and respond to the birth of their babies. PEPS invited Kim to share some of her thoughts on creating a birth plan that expecting moms and parents can use to start a conversation with their providers, their partners and others and to encourage communication throughout the process. Resources that Kim lists were shared at the conference and linked for you below.

Many new parents attend a PEPS While You’re Waiting Information Session, and questions come up about birth plans frequently. We hope this article will be a resource for expecting parents.

Birth plans are a terrific vehicle for clarifying and communicating your values, beliefs and intentions for your baby’s birth and immediate postpartum care.

Pregnant Mom

To do this, first start with identifying your values around childbirth and medical decision-making.

Do you believe in more natural, plant-based remedies or do you generally prefer high-tech, western drugs and medical tools? Are your preemptive or reactive when seeking medical care? Do you tend to prefer as using as little treatment as possible or do you seek the maximum amount of treatment available?

Second, clearly state WHAT you want and WHY you want it.

For example, if one you want to avoid routine, immediate umbilical cord clamping, instead of requesting “Delayed cord clamping, if possible”, say: “Please leave the cord unclamped until the placenta is out because I value a physiologic, unhurried 3rd stage.” Medical care providers are more likely to adjust their routine protocols and honor non-routine requests if they know your values, beliefs and reasons behind what you want. Always share your reasoning and values with your care provider for enhanced mutual trust, communication and collaboration.

Third, when considering what to include on your birth plan, know that the most useful information for labor and delivery nurses answers these three parent-focused questions:

  1. What will you do to stay confident and feel safe?
  2. What will you do to find comfort in response to your contractions?
  3. Who will support you through labor and what do I need from them?

(Lothian.  J, 2006 J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs)

Your labor and delivery nurse can be a terrific advocate for you when s/he knows the specifics about what you need to feel safe and how you plan to cope with your labor.

Parents who are active, well-supported participants in setting intentions for, and making medical decisions during, their pregnancies and babies’ births consistently report more satisfaction with their birth experiences and birth outcomes.  Building a birth plan based on your values that enhances communication between you and your medical care providers is a great way to ensure active, satisfying participation in your baby’s arrival.

More resources for building great birth plans:

The Great Starts Guide – Excellent information on local hospital and out-of-hospital birth practices.

Identifying your medical mindset and medical decision-making values:

Penny Simkin’s Win-Win Birth Plan:

About the Author

Kim James

Kim James owns and operates and is a DONA International and PALS Doulas certified birth doula as well as a DONA-approved birth doula trainer working at the Simkin Center/Bastyr University. She is also an ICEA and Lamaze International certified childbirth educator teaching at Parent Trust for Washington Children/Great Starts where she sits on the Education Committee. Kim also volunteers her time on the Lamaze International membership committee and serves as Washington State DONA SPAR. Her daughters are 7 and 14 years old.

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