We’re told it’s empowering to create a plan for how we want to experience labor and delivery. After all, shouldn’t it be the way we want? We’re instructed to relay this plan with all its details to the appropriate practitioners – our OB or midwife, for starters. What we’re not told is that our birth plan can easily cause serious problems. When we write this plan and think about it as if it’s in stone, such as: No episiotomy; no drugs; natural only – no intervention; baby to breast immediately, we set ourselves up big time. The truth is, as much as we want to believe we’re in control of all the factors, we’re not. For instance, we don’t know if the baby’s head will be the size of a bowling ball, or when the time comes, if the baby will be in a safe position for delivering vaginally. And, what if you change your mind about taking a medication? Birthing a baby is not a test, but that’s often how we approach it. Many of my clients’ mental health issues – including severe postpartum depression - stemmed directly from feelings of inadequacy and failure when their birth plans needed to be altered or thrown out completely. Unrealistic expectations can have extremely damaging consequences. So – if you’d like to have a birth plan, go right ahead. But, instead of thinking about it as a prescription that must be followed or else someone failed, think about it as a wish list! In other words, if all goes as you hope, the birth plan is what you’d optimally like. And remember, any way that baby pops out of you is the right way and you deserve a huge congratulations!
Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D. (Dr. Shosh) specializes in moods during pregnancy and postpartum. She works through phone and other technologies with women and their partners worldwide.
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