Best-laid plans

Now may be the time to set aside any urge to control events and embrace the uncertainties of birth and parenthood.

As a pregnant woman you will be encouraged to write a birth plan as a way of mentally preparing for childbirth and the many decisions it involves: what do you need to do to feel confident and safe? How will you cope with pain? Who will support you through labor?

Your ideal plan might involve a water birth at home with only scented candles and relaxing music for pain relief. So, how will you cope if you never even get to fill the pool, but are rushed to hospital for an emergency cesarean? When expectations are not met, feelings of helplessness, frustration, humiliation, even incompetence and guilt can follow. And a loss of selfesteem can be damaging at this vital cusp of new life. It’s good to make plans.

A birth plan prompts you to weigh the pros and cons, educate yourself about options, and make informed choices—in short, it encourages you to take an active part in the birth process.

The birth plan was first championed by pioneering childbirth educator Sheila Kitzinger in the 1970s as an empowering tool designed to give parents input into their obstetric experience. Studies show that they make women more aware of their options, provide the language to communicate effectively with staff, enhance confidence in labor, and lead to a more satisfying experience, which, in turn, supports positive interactions in the early weeks of life.  But planning an ideal birth does not necessarily mean you will get one.

Studies have looked at the forces that shape women’s choices in pregnancy: they’ve changed since the 1970s. Now there is widespread acceptance of cosmetic surgery and loss of belief in the “art of suffering”; this may encourage expectations for a pain-free makeover-style scheduled “life event,” rather than an unscheduled biological process.

Celebrity culture contributes to the notion that there’s a good way to give birth (and shrink to size four in weeks), while supermarket shopping sets up the assumption that everything in life should be easier, quicker, and more convenient. Then there’s our human respect for the consumer’s right to have what we want when we want.

parent waves : birth plans

Some studies show  that women who remember  their birth experience in a  positive light are more  likely to have a subsequent  child more quickly.

If such assumptions underpin our wishes and hopes for one of the most important days of our lives, it’s no wonder a birth plan can set us up to fail.
Birth plans can’t lead to specific birth outcomes. What they can do is encourage you to be realistic about pregnancy and your birth choices, and, crucially, give you the confidence to make new decisions if your circumstances suddenly change.

Studies show that couples who go into childbirth having attended birth-preparation classes and having made a birth plan feel more prepared and are more likely to perceive the experience as positive (albeit painful). And how a mother experiences and remembers the birth has a huge effect on her self-confidence as a parent.

Human beings have a need to tell stories about important life events, since it helps us understand our changing roles and relationships. Birth not only brings a child into the world, it also creates new parents, and the stories we tell each other about the birth help define the parents we become. But what if your birth story doesn’t follow the much hoped-for, positive formula? What if your experience was bad, or even traumatic?

Previous article
Next article

Related Posts



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected


Recent Stories