3 Rules When Planning for Childbirth

Pregnant woman suffering from labor pains in hospital ward

I never wrote a birth plan. I can’t even remember if I planned to, as I pretty much let my doctors know that the plan was for an unmedicated birth and left it at that. Besides, I had a doula and a husband who knew The Plan, so I figured they’d stand up for what I wanted when I was in pain. Well, as it turned out, I barely made it to the hospital for my first child’s birth — and the doula certainly didn’t get there in time. So for my subsequent children, I’d vaguely mention going drug-free to my doctors and I knew (or hoped, anyway) that nature would take its course. If you’re a planner like a lot of women, you’d love to be able to map out how the whole scene will play out. And while planning for childbirth can’t necessarily get you the experience you hope for, it doesn’t hurt to plan — and plan for the unexpected!

3 Rules When Planning for Childbirth

1. Research your options. Talk to your healthcare providers so you know what the standard of care is at the hospital or birthing center of your choice. If you have any concerns, voice them early and often. If you’re planning to go without drugs, let that be known. If you’re planning to get an epidural, find out when you should ask for it. How many people are allowed at the hospital? Find out if your entourage is allowed — or what to do if you want to keep everyone out. Are you automatically hooked up to monitors or can you opt out? Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find out what your options are. Talking to your doctor is also a great way to determine whether you’re at the right practice and hospital or if you need to switch.

2. Keep it simple. If you’re writing a birth plan, keep it simple, straightforward and short (more tips here). Staff is busy and they won’t want to read through a 10-page manifesto. Stick to the important stuff, and make sure you let your support person know what you want.

3. Be flexible. In the end, the most important goal is a healthy baby. Know that medical emergencies happen, babies can be stubborn and things don’t always go as planned. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Super concerned about being stuck in bed? You might find that walking is the last thing you want to do when you’re laboring. Worried about your music selection for the birth? You may find that only silence is tolerable. If childbirth taught me anything, it’s that I was not in charge. My body and my baby were. Things change in the moment, and it could be that the thought of suffering through contractions without medication goes out the window after the first hour. And that’s okay! Remember, there is no medal awarded for how you gave birth. Your baby is the true prize.

Did you plan for childbirth? Or did you plan to go with the flow? —Erin

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