Compiling a birth plan matters because it puts you in charge of outlining your wants and needs before you reach the delivery room. With such a plan in place, everyone involved knows what you want in terms of pain medication, the birthing environment and who belongs on the support team. In fact, some experts suggest it's better for your peace of mind to have more than one such plan in place.
Most birth plans only give you one option, says Dr. Draion Burch, a Pennsylvania-based obstetrician-gynecologist. He doesn't think that's enough. "You need to give your doctor at least three options, so (the doctor) can pick the best one for you in your current situation," he says. For example, if a cesarean is necessary but not your first choice, your doctor will at least know how to handle the birth and your treatment based on your preferences when you have multiple birth plans.
Opening Lines of Communication
A birth plan is also a communication tool, says Deena Blumenfeld, Pennsylvania-based Lamaze certified childbirth educator. It begins with communication between you and your partner, then between you and your doctor or midwife and lastly, between you and the delivery personnel. Having birth plans that outline your needs to everyone involved helps open the lines of communication, says Blumenfeld. This may include creating a plan just for hospital staff stipulating pain management preferences, and another for your support team detailing your preferred relaxation techniques.
Thinking Through the Possibilities
Multiple birth plans give moms the opportunity to think through the "what ifs?" of labor and delivery, says Blumenfeld. For example, your primary birth plan may detail that you want a vaginal birth with no pain medications; however, a second plan can outline your preferences if a cesarean becomes necessary. Include phrases, such as "If I need a c-section, then I prefer to be awake with my partner by my side." "Women need to think about all of the possible outcomes and what they might do or want in those situations," says Blumenfeld.
Delivery events are not always predictable, which makes having plan A, B and C practical according to Dr. Sachchidananda Maiti, England-based obstetrician and gynecologist. Primarily, women need to evaluate the level of pain medication with each plan to allow for flexibility during labor. "If the delivery process is completely normal, you may stipulate that you prefer no pain medication," he said. "But, if you do need pain relief, detail which option to choose and in what situation."