WHAT IS A birth plan?” I once asked a group of dads-to-be at a workshop.
One of them blushed furiously before saying, “Planning the baby’s conception.” Others looked petrified, wondering if it was yet another term they had to learn by heart (and spit out) at the next antenatal class.
The good part is a birth plan can be as simple or complex as you want it to be.
So, what is a birth plan? It is a document put together by the mother (with or without the consultation of father) that lists her preferences on a host of issues and procedures concerning pregnancy, labour and right after.
Birth plans can list
* Positions that she would like to occupy during the different stages of labour, like squatting on all fours or lightly bouncing on a birth ball
* Family members or doula who can be present in the room
* The preferred mode of birthing—home births, water births or hypnotic births
* Preferences with respect to C-sections or other assisted
forms of delivery
* Who can cut the umbilical cord and whether it should be delayed clamping (cutting of umbilical cord only after the blood stops pulsating)
* How soon a mother may want to breastfeed a child
* If the baby can be fed formula as its first feed
* If a baby boy needs circumcision
* If a mother needs drug-induced help with regard to pushing the placenta out
In short, a birth plan can be elaborate and specific or generic and flexible, depending on the mother, doctor, nature of pregnancy and the facilities available.
In recent years, birth plans have gained prominence, especially outside India, in continuation with the ongoing trend of extending medical care and choice to patients. Many hospitals and health providers abroad strive to accommodate a mother’s birthing and postpartum preferences.
Some doctors, however, insist that elaborate birth plans are inconvenient and even dangerous as parents-to-be lack the knowledge to make medically sound decisions for themselves. Others argue that parents can be explained the need to have a flexible plan and allow a trusted doctor to help arrive at a decision in the event of a distress or complication.
If you and your partner are particular about your birthing experience, it is imperative you find a doctor who respects your wishes, dishes out the feasibility of executing it given the nature of pregnancy and the hospital or clinic’s infrastructure.
Next issue: Can ghee consumption lead to easy labour?