Reasons You May NOT Want a Birth Plan

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There are lots of excellent arguments for creating a well-crafted birth plan long before you ever go into labor.  Any number of articles can be found on how and why this should be an important item on your “to-do” list before having a baby.  And that’s great.  Birth plans can be wonderful tools and I would never try to discourage anyone who wants one from creating one.

 

That’s not what I want to write about today, though.  Today, I want to address those of you who may, truly and legitimately, prefer NOT to write a birth plan.  (I know you’re out there– you probably don’t mention it much for fear of getting kicked out of the “Moms Who Do It Right” Club.  Believe me– I understand how you’re feeling.  I’m scared just writing this.)

 

Giving birth is, or at least should be, a highly personal business.  Every woman, every baby, every situation is unique.  Preferences and desires vary.  Complications and crises arise.  We all know this.  So, it should come as no surprise that the “birth plan” is another one of those things upon which not everyone will agree.

 

Here are five legitimate reasons that you might elect NOT to write a birth plan:

 

You truly don’t have strong convictions about what you’re seeking.  This might shock the pants off some people, but there are women out there whose only true goal really is “to have a healthy baby.”  They honestly do not care if they have interventions or not.  They’re not sure what to expect and just want to go with the flow.  Just as there is nothing wrong with having a strong preference, there is nothing wrong with being completely flexible– as long as it’s what YOU want.

 

You tend to obsess.  This might seem counter-intuitive, but I think some of the people who are most obsessed with micro-managing details are the ones most likely to be hurt by a birth plan.  If you’re the type of person likely to continually mourn and fret “failing” your plan for months or years following?  I don’t think it’s doing you any favors.  Be sure you’re able to view your plan as just that– a PLAN.  You need to be willing to accept necessary deviations and, more importantly, forgive yourself for them.

 

You have “bigger fish to fry.”  In some situations, baby’s or mama’s life is hanging in the balance.  You may not have the time or energy to craft a well-thought-out birth plan.  Your end goal?  Everyone coming out safe and alive.  I most certainly did not go into C’s birth with any sort of “plan.”  If I had, I would have been shooting for the same uneventful, happy vaginal birth I had with my son.  And you know what?  My messy c-section would have been a miserable failure by those standards.

 

You prefer to lay ground-work along the way and then trust.  Perhaps you’re one who likes to keep an open dialogue going from day one with your doctor and midwife.  You may feel that you’ve done a great job of making your wishes known and, ideally, you’ve chosen a healthcare provider who you trust.  Should this be “mutually exclusive” from a birth plan?  Of course not. But if you feel comfortable that the provider you’ve chosen will lead you in the right direction based on previous conversations, that is totally your option.   (Note:  Just be aware that, without a birth plan, you’ll be on your own with the nurses, at least until your doctor or midwife gets there.  There’s often a period of time there when your nurses, who you will likely not have met beforehand, are your link to the medical community.)

 

You have confidence in your own convictions and ability to make decisions under pressure.  One of the biggest arguments you’ll hear for the birth plan is this: “You’re in pain!  You’re tired!  It’s scary!  You can’t make decisions under those conditions!”  Okay.  But, again, everyone is different.  Case in point?  I’m awesome at making good, sound choices under pressure.  I collapse after the fact, but I have great clarity when things are at their roughest.  I’m the one who witnessed the pharmacy robbery and could give a detailed description right down to a missing button.  The police loved me.  Yeah, I passed out after I gave my report, but STILL.  I know my personality.  If you’re likely to grow frazzled and panicky?  By all means, get some wishes down on paper ahead of time.  If you know yourself and feel confident that you’ll be able to think clearly?  Go for it.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge that it is OKAY if you don’t want to write a birth plan.  It doesn’t make you careless, irresponsible, foolish, or “less of a mother” than those women with their carefully outlined and laminated copies.  We all have different stories, desires, and priorities.  If “birth plan” doesn’t fit in with yours?  Don’t let anyone label you as a failure for that.

 

There is simply no “perfect formula” for a successful birth.

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12 comments to Reasons You May NOT Want a Birth Plan

  • Great post. I think one reason to have a birth plan of sorts is for your husband. I think clearly under pressure but my husband does not. If he has to make a decision for me when i am unable to make one for myself- I would want him to feel confident in the decisions he is making.

    • Ooh, that’s a great point, Nora! I can see the value in that, too. Actually, I think there’s lots of value in having a birth plan… but I hate to see women made to feel like they’re failing by having differing views on the birth process, you know what I mean?

      • Oh yeah, I don’t think any Mom should be made to feel guilty. The goal is to have a happy baby and happy mom. I think you need to do what works best for you and your family. Like i said, my hubby does not work well under pressure. I’m also high risk (clotting disorder) so it would be crazy for me not to put something down in writing. Of course, it’s not like everything is followed %100 but I don’t want him to doubt what I would want if I can’t speak for myself:)

  • Marcia

    Have to add another argument to your well thought out post….”If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”
    My plan included natural childbirth, allowing my husband to cut the cord, our child not leaving our sight, and absolutely NO formula given to her for any reason. At 36 weeks, I spent week 37 in labor (contractions 3 minutes apart for 5 days). I made absolutely no progress (stayed at 3cm the whole time).
    On Friday of that week, they finally stopped sending me home from the hospital, telling me each time “We’ll see you back in a few hours honey, just go home and relax.” I had NO reserves left, and when my water broke, there was meconium staining. The epidural allowed me to get some much needed relief, and after an hour asleep (my first in 3 days), I woke up and announced I was ready to push. Our daughter was immediately taken to the NICU b/c of the possibility of inhalation, and the pediatrician on call was in such a hurry to get her there, they told my husband he couldn’t cut the cord. I didn’t see our daughter for 12 hours. By that time, her blood sugar had dipped so they had given her a bottle to help stabilize it.
    Did everything go the way I’d planned? No. Did I get the result I wanted? Yes, we have a happy and healthy 4 1/2 year old. I felt like such a failure for the longest time because I couldn’t stick to the plan. I can tell you honestly that we will NOT make a plan for the next one!

    • The results speak volumes, do they not? So happy everything worked out after a bit of a scary start! I’ve known far too many women who’ve felt like they “failed” because their birth experience didn’t follow “the plan”. And that makes me so, so sad. Plan or no plan, I wish you a wonderful, successful experience with the next one! :)

  • Lori

    With my first baby I didn’t know what to expect, I had thought of some things but didn’t get anything written down. My husband is great under pressure and knew my basic wishes. With my current pregnancy I am 24 weeks and was just put on bed rest so my only thought at the moment is wait 12 weeks. I have always been a “go with the flow type” and I have a doctor I trust so I’m good with not have a “plan” I do want to write down some wishes that way I don’t feel bad if things don’t go according to plan.

    • I am a big fan of the phrase “birth wishes” rather than “birth plan”, Lori… if nothing else, I think it’s more accurate! :) I’m sorry that you’re having to deal with bed rest, but I’ll be praying that it serves its purpose in helping get you another step closer to holding that sweet, healthy newborn in your arms!

  • I’m sorry, but the idea of a birth plan just makes me laugh. (I’m an old lady so I’m allowed to be politically incorrect….)

    Of all the things in the world that are beyond our control, the birth process is about the most unpredictable event there is! There are no rules that the baby has any concern for or interest in. They are born in whatever way and in whatever time frame they are meant to. All the planning in the world isn’t going to impact that process one little bit. If someone makes a birth plan and the actual birth follows that plan exactly, it’s a fluke! Trust me, I’m old, I know this to be true!! :)

    • I think educating yourself about the various options can be helpful, but I don’t think it’s wise to get yourself too hung up on “one good option”. Because, you’re definitely right– “there are no rules”! :)

  • mlearley

    I have to agree with Marcia. My husband and I had the plan of no drug, we wanted 100% natural birth and I was going to exclusively breastfeed…no bottles or pacifiers for the first 6 weeks. Well my labor was so intense that I couldn’t relax during contractions thus not progressing. After 12 hours, I asked for drugs when that didn’t do much I finally asked for the epidural. There went the 100% natural birth. Then our baby was so big that her blood sugar was low and she was jaundice that they needed to give her a bottle. After 2 weeks of breastfeeding and supplimenting with formula but feeding her through a medicine dropper, we finally decided to switch to formula b/c she wasn’t gaining enough weight to beat the jaundice and even pumping I wasn’t making enough to feed her. I was devestated for weeks but my baby is now a very healthy 3 1/2 yr old. This fall I had baby #2 and went into it was no birth plan. It was a totally different experience and I came out much more relaxed and happy.

    • You know? I’m so glad you were able to be more relaxed and happy the second time around. I feel like I had that “idealized” birth experience with my first and, while I loved it, I can honestly say that my second child’s dramatic early entrance into the world taught me a thing or two about priorities. And I’m grateful that I didn’t waste weeks or months of my life beating myself up over the fact that hers was not a perfect, natural birth. Healthy babies… happy mommies… these are the real triumphs! :)

  • Laraba

    I’ve never had one either. I am really not a mellow person but I do trust my OB (who knows me very well after overseeing 8 full term pregnancies) and my overall goal is healthy baby, health mama. The hospital where I go is good about not interfering with breastfeeding if at all possible. Our first child was small (under 6 lbs at full term)and they did give her a little formula because she was jaundiced and having trouble latching on. I was freaked out about that but we got past it and she nursed well for 9 months.

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