Birth Plans: Taking a New Look at Birth Plans

These suggestions will help you get what you want for your VBAC:
Think of what each doctor offers as if it were as limited as a fast-food menu. What you can choose is what's on the menu. There's no point in asking for pumpkin pie or chicken and dumplings at a hamburger joint, pizza parlor, or Mexican restaurant, because the restaurant will never have it, not even if you say "pretty please." In the same way, if 75 percent of the women who give birth with the doctor and hospital you're considering have epidurals, don't say you don't want to be offered any pain medication. Go elsewhere. If all of the patients of the doctor you're considering are hooked up to IVs as soon as they get to the hospital, don't write "No IV" on your birth plan. Find another doctor or midwife who doesn't have this protocol. Many hospitals will plan to have you on an electronic fetal monitor (EFM) all during a VBAC labor, in part because prolonged fetal distress is the only indicator of the rare uterine rupture. (A rupture occurs in about one percent of VBAC labors.) If you want EFM flexibility, find a doctor and hospital who will give it to you. Don't just request it on your birth plan. If you want more flexibility in general, don't forget to interview midwives. A midwife offers a "menu" that is almost always longer than a doctor's, especially a midwife who works outside of hospitals.

Look for the professionals who offer what you want, instead of trying to fit what you want into what they do. This is true whether you want a high-tech pregnancy and birth, or whether you're looking for a professional to assist you with unmedicated childbirth. As you interview possible doctors and midwives, eliminate the people who you know will not give you what you want. Remember, you're looking for cooperation and enthusiasm, not reluctance.

If some of the healthcare providers you interview tell you that your ideas are unsafe, unrealistic, or unnecessary,isn't it better to determine their attitude early while you can still change doctors more easily? When calling hospitals, ask about everything on your birth plan. Don't assume that if you're breastfeeding, for example, they won't offer your baby formula in the nursery. Don't take for granted that if they have a Jacuzzi for laboring women to help relieve labor pain, it will be available to you. Ask first.

"I started with a big upscale OB practice with seven OBs and, as I found out, seven different opinions on how to treat a VBAC. One doctor said external monitoring was fine, another wanted an internal pressure catheter, etc. At 32 weeks, I finally got the nerve to investigate the other OB practices available through our HMO. I actually interviewed the doctors about their VBAC procedures, quite a change from my 'trust your doctor' mindset in my first pregnancy. I ended up switching to a 'no nonsense' HMO group -- no fancy examining rooms, no classical music piped into the waiting room. They all knew me as the lady who wants a natural childbirth. But they gave me respect and treated me as an educated adult who wanted to be an active participant in her birth experience. I spoke to all four OBs in the group about my birth plan, brought my doula with me to an appointment with the doctor I was least comfortable with, and took a proactive role in my pregnancy." Alexandra G., Tennessee

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