Your birth plan is more powerful than you know. A birth plan is not a legal document, but it can be used in a court of law to show how the woman expected to be treated and supported by her care providers during her labour and birth and immediate postpartum period. The birth plan shows that a woman has done her research and understands normal, physiological birth, interventions, risks and benefits and consent.
A birth plan will ensure that the “wants and needs” of the mother are the most important part of her care rather than the “wants and needs” of her care providers.
A woman needs to make sure her partner and her birth team are all working together to honour her birth plan and make her birth the best that it can be, under any circumstances. The plan should cover different pathways of “what-ifs” because birth doesn’t always go “to plan” which women know, understand and respect.
A great resource I have recently been looking at is “Birth Mapping” by Catherine Bell who has published a book that provides all those different pathways and what you must be including in your birth plan. For example, in birth mapping there are 3 sections: the fast birth pathway, the expected pathway and the contingency pathway. Such a great resource – I totally recommend you take a look at it.
Another thing to consider is if you do not feel your care providers are supporting your wants and needs, then you have a choice – you can stay and accept the care that is being offered to you or change providers to a more supportive one.
Remember, with choice comes responsibility and consequences – so you have to own those choices – you have to own your birth.
A birth plan does not mean you cannot change your mind later either.
But what it does is sets a platform for discussion, informed consent and trust.
I have included my basic birth plan template for you to amend to create your own individual birth plan. This is a guide only and you can add anything or take anything out to suit your own wants and needs. I will be adding and changing this birth plan once I do more work around the birth mapping concept. You will notice that the language is not passive – it is to the point and clearly highlights your choices. As I mentioned previously with the ideas from the Birth Mapping book, Catherine states that “it is your birth, your way” and you have to provide “active language” that clearly states your decisions that doesn’t give away your power. If interventions are required, then that is a different pathway and you need to also include those carefully researched sections in your birth plan.
I also advise women to read and print out a copy of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Maternity Decision Making Guidelines and attach it to your birth plan.
Along with the AMA Maternity Decision Making Guidelines I have included the RANZCOG “Consent and Provision of Information to Patients in Australia Regarding Proposed Treatment – July 2019″
Prepare your birth plan and give one copy to the Obstetrician at your next appointment and ask for it to be placed in your file.
Do this early – rather than towards the end of your pregnancy when there may be more challenges if you want to change care providers.
I also suggest that you take several copies of your birth plan and the AMA guidelines when arriving at the hospital during labour and have those on hand in the birthing suite for anyone who hasn’t looked at your birth plan.
Here is another article about birth plans that was co-written by Professor Hannah Dahlen who is the Professor of Midwifery at the University of Western Sydney and Bashi Kumar who is a Human Rights Lawyer specialising Human Rights in Childbirth:
It is also important to know that consent can be withdrawn at any time as well.
The key thing is to make sure that your birth team are all on the same page as you and know what your wants and needs are for this birth.
Do not lock in with a health care provider until you are certain that they are going to support your decisions and you can do that by asking relevant questions.
If they are not on the same page or if there are red flags, then you have time to make a choice to seek out alternative care.
You can also document discussions that you have with your care provider particularly around a risk or benefit where you have asked for the research or evidence. If you are not satisfied that you have been provided with evidence-based information, then you can say:
“I understand what you have told me about the risks and benefits of that recommendation, and I still decline / do not consent to that.”
If a healthcare provider continues to harass or bully you about a recommendation, then you can say:
“I’d like to see that policy / research / evidence in writing, and I’d like you to notify your legal department that you are going to force me to have an intervention / treatment that I have formally declined.”
If that doesn’t work, then ask to speak to the hospital / patient advocate who will then need to document all discussions between you and your care provider. This is another benefit of having a “birth plan” documented in your file.
It is also important that women recognise they have rights when it comes to childbirth. You are not just a vessel for incubating your baby, and you have the right to consent, not consent or withdraw consent at any time.
You are protected by the law when it comes to consent for medical procedures and in this article I wrote “The Rights of Childbearing Women in Australia” I have included links that highlight the protection of women and the legalities around consent:
Dr Rachel Reed from Midwife Thinking has also written about consent and the law in her article where she states: “It seems that many health care professionals are routinely putting themselves at risk of legal action in relation to information giving (or not as the case may be). Either they are unaware of the implications, or they think women will never hold them to account. This post is a very brief and basic overview of law (Australian) in relation to information giving.”
If you feel you need more information about creating a birth plan then please do not hesitate to contact me and we can book an appointment to prepare a plan based on your set of circumstances.
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My name is Vicki Hobbs and I am a Childbirth Educator (Back to Basics Birthing), Hypnobirthing Australia Practitioner, Certified VBAC Educator, Remedial Massage Therapist specialising in Pregnancy & Postpartum Massage, Birth & Postpartum Doula, Certified Placenta Encapsulator, Hypnotherapist, Aromatherapist, Reiki Practitioner and Life Coach. I am a serial workshopper and learner, so that I keep up to date with new research and information so that I can provide you with up to date resources. My focus has always been on the mind, the body and the emotions and how they all need to be in balance for harmony. You can subscribe to my newsletter by adding your details in the box on the right-hand side and when you do I will send you a free relaxation meditation to help you feel calm and relaxed. I am based in the northern suburbs of Perth and can be contacted by email at [email protected] or phone (08) 9303 9111 or click here to go back to my Resources Page for more great articles and information.