February 16, 2019

My baby is almost due- do I need a birth plan?

Expectant mothers are bombarded with tasks to complete for the births of their babies- It can be a bit overwhelming. Is a birth plan a necessary part of the pre-baby preparation? Not necessarily.

A birth plan is a lists of likes and dislikes to help guide the medical staff in the labor and delivery department to meet the needs and expectations of a couple. There are many birth plan templates on line and in pregnancy advice books. However, for the majority of couples, the preferences expressed in these prefabricated  birth plans do not apply to them. For example, many of the birth plans state that the couple wishes to avoid routine shaving, enemas, and episiotomies- most of which have not been standard practice since the 1970s. For a couple who do not have strong objections to hospital policies or who are not planning an unmedicated delivery, a birth plan may not be needed.

Birth plans are more important for couples whose wishes might deviate from standard labor and delivery practices. The couple who wants to avoid any intravenous fluids or fetal monitoring, who want certain music playing in the room, who do not want any pain medicine offered or even mentioned, or who want to deliver in an alternative position should write out their preferences ahead of time and discuss them with their OB well before they are in labor. That way, their doctor understands their vision of their labor, and can explain which desires are easy to fulfill, and which will be more difficult, or even unsafe and why.

The best birth plan is one that is put together during the last months of pregnancy and is brought to the obstetrician and labor and delivery units to be discussed before the craziness of labor begins. As an obstetrician, I am always happy to discuss birth plans with expectant parents at OB visits. Most importantly, the birth plan should also include some flexibility, since, however important a birth plan is, it is more important to have a safe labor and birth that ends with a healthy mother and child.

Tamar Gottfried is a Board Certified Obstetrician/ gynecologist  practicing  general Ob/gyn in Mesa Arizona and affiliated with Banner Desert and Banner Gateway Medical Centers. She can be contacted at 480-545-0059. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be medical advice. See a medical professional before making medical decisions

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