Birth plans frighten me, especially long-winded, rambling, checklist-laden, precise, detailed birth plans written by Birthzilla.
Read Mia Freedman’s “Birthzillas: When it’s all about the birth, not the baby.”
“Did you have a plan for your placenta?” the woman asked me earnestly.
“Huh? You mean did I, like, cook it or bury it in the garden?” She shook her head. “No, I mean when you gave birth did you have a plan for how your placenta would be delivered?”
Blink. “Um, out of my vagina? Does that count as a plan?”
More head shaking. The woman was growing impatient because she had a plan and she wanted to tell me about it. Her three page birth plan had “Delivering The Placenta” as its own subhead with half a dozen bullet points underneath.
I know this because she showed it to me on her phone while I tried not to stab myself with a sausage.
So what’s the problem with birth plans?
1. Most birth plans are filled with outdated and irrelevant preferences. As childbirth educator Tamara Kaufman writes in Evolution of the Birth Plan:
… [Women] identify the Internet as the resource they use most frequently to gather information about pregnancy, birth, and birth plans. A Google search of the term “birth plan” offers parents several choices of predesigned birth plans. However, many of the birth plans detailed on these sites are outdated. For example, several on-line, interactive tools start with questions regarding being shaved or receiving an enema. Because these procedures are no longer routine in most areas, such details may cause parents to devote too much attention to unimportant issues and cause the hospital staff to dismiss the couple as being uneducated regarding routine hospital procedures… On-line birth plans are frequently more than one page in length, which may inhibit the hospital staff from closely reading the plan. On-line birth plans also have a tendency to use phrases such as “unless absolutely or medically necessary”—a phrase that is not always useful when caregivers usually believe the intervention they recommend is medically necessary at the time…
2. Birth plans don’t help. In Is the Childbirth Experience Improved by a Birth Plan? Lundgren at el. found:
From antenatal clinics in Sweden, 271 women were recruited after week 33 of pregnancy and given a questionnaire designed to assess their attitudes and feelings about the coming childbirth. Thereafter, they formulated a birth plan. The midwife in attendance at the birth was able to refer to this plan. Women who followed this program were compared with women from the same clinics who were asked to complete a questionnaire during the first postpartum week to assess their birth experience. A questionnaire at the end of pregnancy, followed by a birth plan, was not effective in improving women’s experiences of childbirth. In the birth plan group, women gave significantly lower scores for the relationship to the first midwife they met during delivery, with respect to listening and paying attention to needs and desires, support, guiding, and respect.
3. Most importantly, babies don’t read birth plans.
I asked my wife what her birth plan included and, chuckling, she said, “Do what the doctor recommends and have the baby.”