What is my birth plan?
Written by Dr. Teng
As a follow up to my last blog, I wanted to focus on the birth plan, which is a set of preferences regarding the birth of your child. Discussing your birth plan with your doctor should occur throughout your pregnancy. On average, you will see your doctor about thirteen times for prenatal visits. Reviewing your birth plan should be a continuous conversation that may even begin at the very first visit. An example of questions that may come up include:
– When can I get an epidural in labor?
– Am I allowed to eat during labor?
– Will my baby stay in the room with me after the delivery?
Typically, the details of the delivery process will be discussed in the third trimester. I encourage all of my patients to write down any questions they may have and bring them to their visits. There is no concern too small to bring up to your doctor. It is always better to voice your questions when they arise, than to wait and miss the opportunity for a thorough discussion. We also encourage all of our expecting mothers to consider childbirth classes to help with preparation for labor, breastfeeding, and child safety practices. El Camino Hospital offers a number of classes for those that are interested. These classes are an excellent adjunct to the information you will discuss with your doctor.
Some patients inquire about having a written birth plan. If you have discussed this with your doctor ahead of time and he or she will be the one at your delivery, then a written birth plan usually isn’t necessary. If there is a chance your doctor will not be at your delivery, you may want to have one handy in case you do not have time to discuss things with the doctor that is on call. At El Camino Women’s Medical Group, Doctor Azad and I have the chance to meet with all of our patients prior to delivery. The experienced nursing staff will also elicit the main components of your birth plan during your initial intake when you are admitted, and you are encouraged to bring up any specific requests at that time.
A lot of the topics that come up in birth plans are standard of care in our practice and at the hospital. For example, once you are admitted to the hospital for labor, the nurse will place monitors to check the baby’s heart rate and your contraction pattern. Your nurse will help you to walk and move around as much as possible during labor. You can decide whether or not you want an epidural. We also encourage skin-to-skin contact for the first hour of your baby’s life immediately after the delivery to encourage breastfeeding. Any intervention provided, whether it be administration of pain medication, labor augmentation, or newborn care, will be discussed with you before it happens. We will respectfully try to accommodate your wishes to the best of our ability. However, there are times when intervention and last-minute changes to your birth plan are necessary to confirm and guarantee your well-being or that of your baby. It is important to keep in mind that hospitals may differ from each other regarding their policies.
In summary, thinking about your birth plan should encourage you to ask questions and open the dialogue with your doctor regarding the childbirth process. Open communication is the foundation to every healthy doctor and patient relationship, and we want you to be as informed as possible during this important time in your life.