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The pregnant woman's guide to writing a good birth plan

Tips to write the perfect birth plan

Written by Debjani Arora |Updated : November 2, 2015 6:55 PM IST

birth planYour home pregnancy test, the blood and urine tests at your doctor's have confirmed the verdict you are pregnant. Congrats, so what next? Look for the right doctor, select a good hospital, eat healthy. But before all that, get the basics right. Have a birth plan in place.

What's a birth plan?

A birth plan is a written document where a pregnant woman writes all her desires related to birth and labour, just like you would write your wish list. Wondering why you have not heard about this concept before? 'In India most of the communication happens verbally and very less importance is given to written communication, that too for a pregnant woman who has very little say on the labour table,' says Dr Manisha Gogri, lactation consultant and childbirth educator from Mumbai who also takes prenatal classes and gives postpartum support to women at her center Fit For Birth. Read more to know how to make your doctor's appointment better.

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If you think deep a birth plan is like a tool of empowerment. 'Since a woman has already written about her desires and wishes in the birth plan it helps the women to actively participate in her labour, retain sovereignty for decision making and accept responsibility for any decision made,' informs Dr Gogri. Also read about how patient's consent is necessary for any treatment.

A birth plan also stands to be a medium of communication between the pregnant women, her doctor and the hospital staff. The document is intended to be handed over to the hospital staff or your partner who knows what are your decisions on labour, pain management and birth and treat you accordingly. Sounds fascinating? But it is hardly implemented. The reason: When you reach the labour room you realize that you don't have a plan handy because you didn't feel the need to write one.

Why do you need one:

Everything with labour and birth is unpredictable, but having a birth plan in place makes sure that you have worked on your options well. You get into the labour room being an informed patient and your caregiver knows what kind of medication and assistance you would like to have at the time of labour, especially when you are in no position to talk or express. Even if things go a little off your plans you are still in control of your labour and birthing, with all your options ready.

Writing the draft:

Ideally you should start to draft your birth plan once you discover that you are pregnant. Though you can sit down and write your labour choices even when you are in your third trimester, but the sooner the better. Keep in mind the following while you draft your birth plan:

Educate yourself: Read about the different birthing options available, their advantages and disadvantages, routines and protocols, different medical interventions needed during labour. Be clear on the type of birth you want: a natural birth, hypno birth, water birth etc. Be flexible, and give options that need to be exercised if complications arise. 'Remember you cannot control your birth and labour more than you can control your future,' says Dr Gogri. Learn more about the different types of natural birthing process.

Use a friendly tone: Because this document would be doing the talking for you with your caregiver and the hospital staff, let it be positive. 'Use phrases like- I want - rather than - I don't want- this sends the message that you are a concerned and well informed parent seeking to ensure the safest and most satisfying birth experience,' says Dr Gogri.

Let it be personal: 'Your birth plan can be long or short but it needs to entail all that you intend to have or do during the labour. Your plan should be as individual as you,' says Dr Gogri. Your birth plan can be very creative too. Mention about the birthing props (if you want one), music or other attractions you would like to have when in labour.

Talk about your preferences: In your birth plan make sure you mention how you would want the birth to take place. Describe the environment. If it's a hospital set up ask to dim the lights, less medical interventions, unless necessary.

Mention about your birth circle: Write the names of people you want to be with you in time of labour. Preferably your partner, mother, a friend, a relative. And tell them about this well in advance so they know they can expect a call near your due date even in the dead of the night too.

Be clear about pain management: You may or may not want to opt for this. But mention about it in your plan and communicate with your caregiver. You would not be given any pain management until you dilate well. But say what kind of medication you would prefer and when, so that your doctor would help you once you are well into labour. If you want to give medications a miss, write the alternatives like acupressure therapy, hot and cold compression, different birthing positions. Also ask if these options are available in your hospital before you write about them.

In case of emergency: You may not be in a condition to take certain decision if an emergency arises. So make sure you write about your emergency options in bold. If a C-section happens, would you like to have your partner around? Be the first one to see the baby? Would you want to give your baby skin to skin? If you state these in your birth plan chances are the hospital would at least take steps to respect your wishes.

Write about newborn care: Express your desires explicitly. Do you want to start breastfeeding right after the birth? Want your baby to do a breast crawl? Want your partner to clamp the umbilical cord? Opt for cord blood banking? Get your baby vaccinated? Get a neonatal screening done? It's okay if this goes a little too long. You are not going to get this moment back in life. Read to know about the amazing facts of a breast crawl.

Talk about your birth plan: Know in India the hospital staff and doctors aren't very accepting towards the idea of a birth plan. But that should not stop you from having one. Have an open discussion with your gynecologist about your birth plan. To make sure your doctor is receptive enough bring your plan with you during every prenatal visit. Discuss about the new additions and your options. Clip the plan to your medical file so that it's a part of all your important documents and the hospital staff and your doctor know about it well in advance. (Read: Why do doctors disrespect their patients?)

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