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Birth Preferences

The reason why birth preferences are so important for birthing families is that if you don't know your options, you don't have any. Birth preferences are a very loose plan. I don't love using the word “plan” because nothing goes exactly as planned for anybody. And the labor process is very much on-the-job training. You can only prepare so much in advance.


Let’s talk about what is in your control. What you can prepare for are things like an undisturbed one hour with your baby. If the baby is healthy when born, you can do uninterrupted skin-to-skin and that can be on either the birthing parent or a partner (if there's a partner there). All newborn care procedures can be delayed for up to one hour. You can even request having the newborn care procedures done while the baby is on your body. I would also strongly encourage looking up delayed cord clamping and the benefits of delaying the cord cutting and you could include this in your preferences. For example, some clients are adamant about their newborns not receiving some of the newborn care procedures. What's the standard in your hospital? You might not want the hospital team to bathe your baby. Maybe it's something that's ceremonial or cultural for you. Birth preferences are really important because they highlight the things that are important to you and help your birth team to support your wishes. 


Then I would suggest asking yourself a few questions for example: What happens if an induction becomes necessary? What if a cesarean birth becomes necessary? What happens if you're planning a home birth, and a transfer becomes necessary or something that you want? Where are you transferring to? Which hospital? Some of these things can be thought out and planned for in advance. We would recommend making a bullet point list of the things that are most important to you that you can give to your OBGYN, midwife, nurse, birth doula, or postpartum doula. 


Now let’s talk about food! Have you thought about feeding yourself and your baby in your birth plan? This is a must! In your birth plan, you can talk about how you plan on feeding your baby and what your goals are. You can also plan for postpartum support. Who is your care team? Who's going to be caring for you? If you have a partner or somebody that's going to be supporting you, who's going to be checking on them? Who's going to be feeding you? How are you going to be feeding yourself? Do you have resources for support, either financially or in person? Can you start a meal train? These are all things to think about in advance.


What if you are planning a homebirth? Are birth preferences still important? We would never want a family to feel as if the rug's been pulled out from under them without being an active participant in their birth, especially if it deviates from their hopes and wishes for their birth experience. For this reason, we would recommend creating birth preferences even if you are planning on birthing at home. What happens if there is a transfer? What happens if you need to be induced? What happens if you know a cesarean birth becomes necessary? It's great to run through all of these scenarios so that you have run through it in your mind before it happens to you.

Photo:  Naomi Vonk