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Birth Plans & Preparing for the Unexpected

Katlyn Joy | 6, December 2011


Every pregnant woman knows the value of a birth plan. It is a blueprint to your perfect, ideal birth experience. You are preparing for the best possible circumstances for your baby's arrival. The birth plan is a document to share with your partner and your health care providers so everyone is literally on the same page.

However, not every birth goes exactly as anticipated. Sometimes a hiccup occurs in the labor process, or delivery becomes complicated. While you cannot feasibly prepare for every possible detour from your perfect birth journey you can have a plan that includes many of the more common complications.

Don't let being prepared for possible problems make you feel worried or negative. It's not that you are fearful or anxious. Having a plan for some of the more common birth complications will enable you to feel more in control and better able to handle the situation. In essence, a birth plan that encompasses labor and delivery complications will give you more peace of mind.

Remind yourself if necessary that these problems are overwhelmingly unlikely to occur with your child's birth. Odds are you will have a normal, complication-free birth.

Cesarean Section

Having a cesarean section is one of the more common birth complications. It may become necessary due to prolonged labor, problems with the baby's heart rate, mother's blood pressure, or with a large or breech baby for instance.

Read up on c-sections to familiarize yourself with the typical situations that lead to the procedure as well as the normal process involved.

Things to take into consideration when writing up a birth plan include if you want to be fully sedated or partially sedated, if you have the option. Will you want your partner with you at all times? You will usually be given the option whether to have the drape lowered in order to see the moment the baby is lifted from the incision. Determine if your partner will be staying by your side or staying with the infant, if you three cannot remain together. If you will be breastfeeding the baby you will want to make sure the medication used won't interfere with nursing. You should also request the opportunity to take photos of the birth if you'd like.

Prolonged Labor

Sometimes things never seem to get going with labor or the labor starts normally then stalls. In these cases you may want to have a list of preferences should this situation arise.

Consider what measures you can take to speed up labor such as walking around, taking a bath, moving around, nipple stimulation, and other natural means.

Give some guidelines on how long you will want to wait, if baby and mother are faring well, before doing more interventions such as stripping the membranes, using pitocin or other medications. Finally in your plan determine what precipates you choosing to have a cesarean.

Breech Birth

Not all breech births are equal. Some babies can actually be turned by the doctor prior to birth. Some breechlings can even be birthed vaginally if in certain breech positions or if not too large. In your birth plan, consider whether you'd prefer to try less invasive techniques first or whether you'd opt for a c-section.

Inducing Labor

If labor doesn't begin naturally, you may be asked about induction. In your birth plan you can address this by what would lead to you considering inducing labor and what methods and order you'd prefer. These will be similar to those under a stalled or prolonged labor.

Assisted Labor

Sometimes a physician will suggest forceps, vacuum extractor, episiotomy or other methods usually to speed up the birth. Include in your birth plan your feelings about each of these procedures and under what circumstances you'd consider them being done and what stipulations you'd like to place, if permissible.

Pain Relief

Often when complications arise and certain procedures must be performed, pain management becomes an issue. While you may prefer a natural unmedicated birth, if you are induced or a cesarean is necessary, you will of course need to have pain management. Consider what types of interventions will require medication and what medications or methods of delivery you are most comfortable with.

Premature Rupture of Membranes

If your water breaks prior to labor, you and your doctor must agree to what the window of time is that you will be allowed to labor before action will be taken. The reason is that infection can set in if you wait too long for labor. You will need to have a plan for this scenario such as when you will arrive at the hospital and if you'll still be allowed a water birth, if that was your plan.

Premature Labor

Should your baby be in a hurry, you can prepare for this in your birth plan. How will you deliver and where? Will you get to hold the baby, accompany the baby and is the birthing facility equipped with an intensive care unit for newborns? Write up a general plan for this possibility to help prepare for it.

Of course the final determining factor for any birth plan, but especially those involving birth complications is what is best for mother and child's safety and health. Any preference that interferes with that goal must be put aside, of course. Remember, no birth is exactly the same and few go exactly as planned or envisioned but preparation can prevent panic so include the exceptions to your well prepared birth plan.

Create your birth plan with our checklist

Related Articles

Preparing for Birth: The Drive to the Hospital

Preparing for Labor: Your To-Do List

Is a Home Birth for You?

How Much Does it Cost to Give Birth in the US?

Water Birth: The Risks and Benefits


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