Several times a week patients will tell me, sometimes in a panic, “I haven’t done my birth plan yet! Do you think it’s necessary?” To me, the word “plan” suggests intent and a certain level of control and personal determination to achieve a goal. Childbirth is not exactly like that. There are elements that involve resolve and determination, but nothing is absolute, except for our shared desire for mom and baby to go home together in good spirits and in good health.

Birth plans can be extremely valuable and useful. For first-time parents, it is often helpful to go through the elements of a typical birth plan to become familiar with the terminology and likely sequence of events. This alone can reduce much of the anxiety that can accompany this first journey into parenthood. Many plans, for instance, express a desire to play music during birth, or to be able to use your own pillow or move around as much as possible. This highlights the fact that moms-to-be do have choices that are not always offered, but are nevertheless available. Years ago I had one mom who played her alma mater’s fight song during her child’s victorious entry into the world…all I will say is that she was neither a Duck nor a Beaver! These types of choices bring an aspect of fun and individuality into this unforgettable event, and the more comfortable you are, the more pleasant your experience can be.

Having said all of this, a birth plan is not a critical part of the childbirth experience. The goal of your care team is to be focused on you. We try to explain things along the way, and are happy to answer any questions or concerns that may arise. Some patients do well with this approach, while others prefer to have all the information up front. In either case, we want to support you and help you make the best possible decisions about your birth and your baby.

For my patients who find value in creating a birth plan, I like to tell them not to etch it in stone. I will often make the analogy that the birth process is like a wedding–brief in the grand scheme of things– but motherhood is like a stable marriage. And I remind them that everyone reads the birth plan except the baby! Labor, birth and parenthood are fluid, sometimes unpredictable processes. Every birth, like every child, is unique, and at the end of your perfect, or perhaps not-quite-what-you-expected day, our birth plan is the same as yours: happy, healthy mom, happy, healthy baby.

Women’s Healthcare Associates offers childbirth education classes in our offices that will help you make important decisions. Talk to your obstetric care provider about the elements of birth that are important to you.