Not According to Birth Plan
When your birth plan goes astray
Labor and Delivery Surprises
Just ask Sarah Skofield, mother of three from Bowdoinham, Maine. She was having a planned C-section and thought she knew how everything was going to play out. “It was a complete shock when the anesthesiologist couldn’t get a spinal and told me he needed to use general anesthesia,” says Skofield. “I consented and wasn’t aware of the birth of my son until I woke up an hour later. My husband had been waiting for me to wake up and he made sure the first thing I saw was our baby. I cried, but not happy tears. I was so confused and in pain. I felt cheated. Things definitely did not go the way I thought they would. It never occurred to me that I might need general anesthesia. I think if I had thought of that possibility, I would have been more prepared and it would have been a little easier.”
Elizabeth Thelen, mother of two from Rochester, New York, also made plans that didn’t turn out exactly the way she wanted them to. “We got the nursery set up, painted, and got it all accessorized,” says Thelen. “I remember going to the doctor on a Tuesday, and my son was breech. I could feel his head in the middle of my chest. Well, later that week, he turned and broke my water. He was born five weeks early.”
The Benefits of a Birth Plan
Dr. Shelley S. Binkley, a board-certified OB-GYN in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, says that creating a birth plan can be very empowering. “If you’re going to develop a birth plan, discuss it with your OB provider in the last month of pregnancy, before you actually arrive in labor,” Dr. Binkley says. “If you address it ahead of time questions can be answered, and you’re more likely to make your provider aware of your wishes and align her behavior with your goals.”
If you want special music, bring it. Lighting can be adjusted by you or the labor staff. Remember that a birth plan is a wish list, the things you hope will happen, but don’t get too attached to it.
“There are some things to be aware of regarding birth plans,” Dr. Binkley says. “You, the labor nurses and the OB provider are, to a large extent, at the mercy of your labor. There are some things you and they can affect, and others that are completely out of their and your hands.”
Keep Expectations in Check
Oftentimes, high expectations cause high frustration. If things don’t go as planned, the disappointment can be devastating. “It seems to me, after years of delivering babies, people with detailed prescriptions about how things will go often have more difficult labors and are more likely to wind up with a Cesarean section or difficult birth, than families who approach labor with a relaxed but positive attitude and are willing to make adjustments in their expectations,” Dr. Binkley says.
It’s difficult to be prepared for everything that can happen during birth as there are a thousand variables. Most people want as minimal intervention as possible. They want their baby on the tummy, they want Daddy to cut the cord, and they want to be able to breastfeed right away. But what they want isn’t always what happens.
Dr. Kimberly McMahon, an OB-GYN at the Northwestern Specialists for Women in Chicago, says it’s good to be prepared no matter what the plan is. “Nothing can really prepare a woman for her first labor, and no one can predict how long or how painful it might be,” Dr. McMahon says. “The best approach is for patients to keep their options open. If she needs pain medication, she should be given the various options.”
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