Should You Talk About Your Birth Plan?

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If you have a birth plan, you may want to shout it from the rooftops or you may be keeping it to yourself. In this post we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of talking about your plans for your birth, and the one person you absolutely should tell.

Pregnant Friends and Acquaintances

 It may be tempting to talk about your birth plan with other pregnant people. And in many cases this is a great idea. When I teach prenatal yoga, much of the conversation before and after class revolved around birth plans and related questions: where to birth, which providers to visit, whether or not to hire a doula, whether they hope for a waterbirth or an unmedicated birth. It can be helpful to think through your options by hearing about someone else’s decisions and choices. These conversations can also make the experience of pregnancy, which can be a lonely one for some, less isolating.

On the other hand, talking about birth plans can lead to comparisons that are sometimes unhelpful. For instance, it doesn’t really matter if you’re planning for an unmedicated vaginal birth and someone else is scheduling a c-section. People have all kinds of reasons for making the choices they make, and sometimes hearing about someone else’s decisions can introduce self-doubt where it’s neither warranted nor wanted. If you find yourself doubting your choices or feeling judgmental toward someone else’s, maybe rethink having these conversations.

Family

 The one person you should absolutely discuss your birth plan with is your partner. They are the one who will be there with you and may be able to advocate on your behalf with medical staff during the birth. And your partner likely has a vested interest in how you and the baby are treated during and after birth, so they will likely want to have input into the birth plan.

But talking to people in your family who aren’t your partner about your birth plan can be fraught. You may have very supportive family members (great!), but if they’re not supportive, you run the risk of introducing doubts into an event where you really want to feel secure in your choices. Research shows that people have better birth experiences where they are supported, have autonomy in decision making, and feel safe. If someone you care about—like your mom, for instance—has introduced doubt about your birth plan into your head, that may linger and make labor and birth harder.

If you have family members who are eager to hear about your birth plans, you can share as much or as little as you want with them. If they’re asking for more information than you’re willing to give, politely and firmly tell them you’d like to change the subject. If you share things about your birth plan and get pushback, it can be helpful to have a supportive person to talk through the situation. This person could be your partner, a friend, or a mental health professional. It’s important that—whatever your plan is—you feel confident in your choices going into your birth.

Care Providers

 This last category is tricky. Many doctors and midwives are glad to hear about your birth plan and will put a copy of it in your file. Some will even reference it during your birth. In contrast, there are many providers who don’t like birth plans and are even disdainful of them and, by extension, of you for making them. If you mention making a birth plan to your provider, take note of the response you get.

If you feel extremely unsupported in plan-making, you can always switch providers. It’s also possible, though, to present your birth plan to your provider in ways that might be received more favorably. Sometimes, providers encourage “birth preferences” rather than a birth plan. The thought is that plans can always go awry, but knowing your preferences is helpful for your provider in situations where they can support you in getting what you want.

Regardless, you get to decide what you’d prefer for your labor and birth. Sometimes circumstances change, but you deserve to feel supported by the people around you during your labor and birth and to understand what is happening during birth so you can consent or not. You decide what’s best for yourself and your family.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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