In Maricopa County, Arizona, over 13,000 babies were born in the first three months of 2016. If you’re preparing to have a baby in Phoenix, you may have heard of birth plans and wonder whether or not you need one. A birth plan is a document drawn up prior to labor and delivery that expresses the mother’s preferences regarding the birth of her child, to be shared with everyone directly involved in the birth. While a birth plan is not a legal document, and the safety of both mother and child will inevitably trump any stated preference in such a plan if necessary, there are important reasons why drafting a birth plan is a good idea.
In the process of writing a birth plan, you will need to express your preference on a variety of issues that could affect your child’s birth, from the environment of the labor and delivery room to the use or avoidance of medications and medical interventions. Making informed choices means not only educating yourself on childbirth options available in general, but also finding out the routine practices of both your doctor and the hospital or birthing center where you intend to have your baby. Such practices can vary considerably, and it is far better to find out if your wishes are different from standard operating procedure and discuss them with your health care provider in advance than to attempt to negotiate when you are in labor. Drafting your birth plan gives you an important opportunity to make sure that you and your doctor are on the same page.
Having a written plan also allows everyone involved in your birth to know your wishes without your having to explain them repeatedly. For example, you are unlikely to know who your labor and delivery nurse will be prior to entering the hospital, and depending on your stage of labor, you may not be in a state to communicate your wishes thoroughly. Bring several copies of your birth plan to the hospital or birthing center and allow it to speak for you when necessary.
A birth plan should not only address a best-case scenario, but also how you would like to address possible complications, such as if your labor is not progressing or if a c-section is required. If you intend for your birth to take place in a non-hospital setting, your birth plan should also address under what circumstances you would want to be transferred to a hospital to ensure the health of yourself, your baby, or both. Your hospital or birthing center may have a birth plan worksheet you can use to draft your plan. If not, you can find templates online to guide you.
The ultimate goal of any birth is the safe delivery of a healthy, happy baby to a healthy, happy mother. Having a birth plan in place can help avoid stress caused by misunderstanding or miscommunication. Knowing all of your options in advance can also help you make informed decisions should circumstances necessitate a departure from that plan. Whether you’re planning to deliver in a Phoenix hospital or a birthing center, the time you invest in researching and drafting your birth plan will likely pay off in a better birth experience for everyone concerned.