Sunday 10 July 2011

Birth Plans - Neccessary or Not

I read on a forum the other day about a prospective mum's birth plan.

1. Go to hospital
2. Have baby

Her query was whether she'd over simplified it and should have been thinking more deeply. She'd read a few things that had worried her, and wondered if she needed to consider a more detailed plan. 

When I was pregnant I had a voracious appetite for pregnancy magazines I loved them! My favourite one was "I'm Pregnant" I think it was called, it was quite a missive, and had a huge section in the back for doing a very fancy birth plan.

I've heard of people with typed Word documents in a nice plastic folder full of instructions. I've seen pages of discussion on forums about what should be included, what can be included, what should be left out. I have an interest in medical things, I was fascinated about childbirth, and I started thinking about what mine might look like.

I doubt that my mother's "birth plan" in 1972 would have been any more detailed than the one above. Go to hospital, have baby.

When I was 22 weeks I was in Germany visiting my Mother In Law, who is a midwife for the British Forces, and we went for a long walk and chatted about my pregnancy and about childbirth. She had a feeling I wouldn't get "to the end" and told me not to bother with birth plans. Yes, read up about the options for pain relief, and about the sort of things you might need to make a decision about, but don't over plan. Be prepared to go with the flow.

I don't like this push to plan everything, and I don't know where its come from. Is it the media? By which I mean specifically the "mama media". Is it the NHS? Has it come from the States, where there are more choices and options, by virtue of a fully functioning private system? Has it come from anxious mums to be? I don't know.

I think, in a sense, that birth plans are disempowering. Sometimes there are no choices. And not just in cases like mine where I delivered a baby 3 months before I was meant to. Sometimes babies get stuck or distressed. You can't plan for that. Sometimes, your pain threshold is an unknown factor. If you've had a boring, healthy life you may not have ever been in a hospital as a patient. You may not have had anything more painful than a headache. You don't know whether you can make it on gas and air or whether you need an epidural.

Things like pethidine have had bad press and many women have put on their birth plans "no pethidine", but maybe it has a role, its quick acting, and if its too late for an epidural and gas and air has worn off, then perhaps its appropriate, I don't think we should be ruling anything out on birth plans. Midwives and obstetricians are experts, and their aim is a healthy baby and a healthy mama.

So with my mother in law I decided on the birth plan that is identical to the mama-to-be's on the forum and to my own mother.

1. Go to hospital
2. Have baby.

And the beauty is it works at 27 weeks, 37 weeks and 42 weeks.


  1. Minty aka waterbirthplease10 July 2011 at 20:10

    Beautifully put! I wrote a post myself on this evocative subject and pretty much came to a similar conclusion:

  2. What a beautifully written post, best laid plans etc!