While not a set-in-stone guarantee of what will happen, a great birth plan is like a playbook or a wishlist. You may not get everything on your list (in fact, rarely does it all go according to plan), but writing out your plan can help you feel better prepared for the uncertainty of childbirth. Learn six ways your birth plan can help you worry less and calm some of those labor and delivery nerves.
1. Prepare for uncertainty
While we can probably all agree that accepting “uncertainty as the only certainty” is easier said than done, most of us worry less about uncertainty when we feel prepared. Writing a birth plan helps channel any anxious energy into something productive. Use your sense of accomplishment from creating your rock-star birth plan to help you conquer your fear of childbirth.
2. A birth plan helps you get to know your provider better
Talking early (anytime after 25-30 weeks) and often about your childbirth and postpartum plan helps you confirm that you have chosen the right provider for you. The right provider for you is someone who listens to you and who you can trust. When you trust your provider (or provider team), you can feel more confident that they have your best interest at heart.
3. Choose who should attend the main event
Just as you need to know that your provider has your back, you want to make sure the right people are around you when contractions start for real. (Who knows, maybe you have always been waiting for the chance to be able to tell your MIL to take a hike?) A birth plan can be a tactful way to have these difficult conversations before you’re in labor. Nobody wants family drama in their delivery room!
4. Birth plan = partner’s prep
Even if your partner is an OB/GYN, that doesn’t mean they know exactly how to support you in the delivery room. Every birth partner needs to prepare, regardless of who they are. Researching, writing, and talking about a birth plan together can help ease your birth partner’s worries too. The last thing you want to be worrying about in labor is your partner worrying about you.
5. Let your knowledge help you reclaim your power
Learn about what is and isn’t normal during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum. There is a reason why What to Expect When You’re Expecting was such a blockbuster success — expectant parents need information to prepare. So geek out all you want on crafting the mother-of-all birth plans — doing so will help you prepare for the main event. You’ll feel more confident, powerful, and in control because less will be new, unfamiliar, or unknown during your delivery and postpartum.
6. Establish open lines of communication
Many people who are afraid of childbirth worry that they will not have a voice in decision-making. When it comes to a good birth, over communication is the name of the game. Talking about your birth preferences early and often with as many people as possible will likely help reduce your anxiety. Think of your birth plan as your opportunity to tell your doctor and labor and delivery nurses what you do and don’t want to happen at your delivery. The more practice you get talking about complicated health information with healthcare providers, the more your self-confidence and power will grow. It is time to claim your seat at the table (or birthing stool in the delivery room as the case may be).
Worrying less during pregnancy is good for you and your baby. A June 2013 review in Obstetric Medicine also found that prenatal stress — like fears about childbirth — can have lasting physical consequences for both expecting parents and their babies, including low birth weight, premature delivery, and gestational diabetes. Writing your birth plan can help you meet uncertainty with acceptance, not anxiety. When your birth plan is flexible and comprehensive, both you and your birth team can turn to it as a good birth wishlist — a guide to what matters most to you as you enter the next chapter of your life as an expectant parent.