Free Birth Plan Template PDF – PLUS 3 Reasons Why You Will Want To Make One!
This article will discuss some of the reasons why I believe that making a birth plan can contribute to a positive birthing experience. You will also get access to my printable Birth Plan Template PDF. This is not meant to belittle anyone who did not make a birth plan, or anyone who doesn’t feel that they want to make a birth plan. Nor does it suggest that women who don’t make birth plans cannot have a positive birthing experience.
Will I Get Laughed At For Making a Birth Plan?
I wanted to start by addressing this issue. It’s not uncommon for nurses and doctors to roll their eyes at the mum who has a birth plan. She is sometimes thought of as ‘high maintenance’, or naive to the unpredictable nature of childbirth (although I can assure you that there are midwives who actively encourage having a birth plan).
Yes, there may be people in the medical profession who disagree with the importance of having a birth plan. Unfortunately, this attitude is the very reason why many women write a rigid birth plan in the first place. This is an attitude that needs to stop, and hopefully after reading this article you will agree!
Why You Should Make A Birth Plan
Making a Birth Plan Helps You To Remain In Control
Sadly, more and more women are reporting feelings of trauma following their birth, and as many as 1.3% of women are being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a direct result of their birth experience.
Research from the Canadian Medical Association has shown that there are two factors that make a birth potentially traumatizing.
- Feelings of intense, prolonged pain and/or
- A feeling of being out of control
Planning for each possible outcome of your birth and communicating these wishes with your medical team can help you to feel more in control. This is not to say that you need to be inflexible when it comes to your plan, but at least you have some idea of how you want it to go. For example, you may plan to use water and essential oils as your main pain relief, but you are open to other options as well.
Making a Birth Plan Can Reduce Fear and Anxiety
Reducing the fear and anxiety around labour and birth has many physiological and psychological benefits. Excessive anxiety about labour and birth can slow down labour, it can increase pain, and it can even increase the chances of being diagnosed with post-natal depression.
Fear and anxiety can slow down your labour
If you are anxious or fearful about your birth, you can initiate what psychologists call the ‘fight or flight’ response. The fight or flight response indicates to your brain that you are in immediate danger. If your brain thinks you are in a dangerous situation, it elicits an array of physiological responses designed to slow down your labour!
For example, if you were a caveman in the wild and saw a lion, now would NOT be the time to give birth!
Fear and anxiety can increase the risk of post-natal depression
According to a study published in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, extreme fear about childbirth is a significant risk factor for post-natal depression. Of course, this does not mean that you will get post-natal depression if you are scared of childbirth! But taking steps to reduce your anxiety will definitely decrease your risk.
Fear and anxiety can make your labour more painful
The fear-tension-pain cycle, popularized by Grantly Dick-Read, suggests that fear during labour causes muscular and psychological tension that can interfere with the natural process of dilation, which can increase sensations of pain.
Creating a birth plan can actually help to relieve some of the fear and anxiety around labour and delivery. Have you ever walked into a completely unknown situation that was totally out of your control? Did this make you feel anxious or scared? Most of you probably answered yes! Fear of the unknown is common, so making labour and delivery a little less ‘unknown’ can help to reduce your fear and anxiety.
Making a Birth Plan Can Reduce The Chance of Unnecessary Medical Intervention
The Medicalization of Childbirth
There is no denying that advances in medical technology have drastically decreased the mortality rate associated with childbirth. For instance, as the rate of Cesarean sections and assisted deliveries increase, the mortality rate associated with childbirth decreases, but only to a point.
A study conducted by the Stanford School of Medicine has revealed that a c-section rate above 19% offers no benefit to infant or maternal health. The U.S has a c-section rate of about 33%. Significantly higher than the WHO recommended rate of 19%. This suggests that medical professionals are intervening with natural childbirth a lot more than is necessary.
But What’s Wrong With Unnecessary Medical Intervention?
You may be thinking ‘but isn’t it better to have too much medical intervention, rather than not enough?’. Intuitively, this seems correct. However, research has shown that birthing in a large unit under the provision of multidisciplinary care, such as in a hospital, does not improve the outcome for women who are at a low risk of complications. In fact, birthing at a midwife run centre lowers the risk of medical intervention including Caesarean section, and increases the likelihood of a ‘normal birth’ in low-risk women.
Research published in the Australian Journal of Public Health has shown that assisted delivery, such as by forceps or Caesarian Section, significantly increases the risk of Post-natal depression. There are many other benefits to having a normal birth, which you can read about here.
So now that we have determined that unnecessary medical intervention really really isn’t well….necessary, let me explain how making a birth plan can help you to avoid it!
How Having A Birth Plan Can Help Avoid Unnecessary Intervention
Having a birth plan that outlines your preferences can ensure that all medical professionals involved in your labour and delivery are aware of your expectations. Going through the process of creating a birth plan can also encourage you to really consider what your preferences and options are during labour. For instance, there are many options for pain relief, some that pose more risk of medical intervention than others. Being aware of your options helps you to decide what risks you are personally willing to take and what interventions you feel comfortable with should the need arise.
This does not mean that you should not take the advice of medical professionals. However, you need to remember that you are in control of your own body and you have a right to exercise that control!
Birth Plan Template PDF
If you would like to get started on creating your own birth plan, you can download my free printable birth plan template PDF here!
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