If a planned cesarean is necessary for your birth, it is helpful to write a birth plan just as parents do for vaginal/unplanned births. Of course, both the process for writing a cesarean plan as well as its contents, is notably different. First let's look at how to go about crafting a cesarean birth plan -- long before you put pen to paper, er... fingers to keyboard.
Getting Started with Your Cesarean Birth Plan - Educate & Inform
Before writing your preferences for your birth, you first need to know what choices are available! Many people don't know that you have options during a cesarean birth. In fact, it's not a one-size-fits-all experience, and depending on the hospital and care provider you choose, you may have several options to customize the experience and choose what you feel is best for you and your baby. So how do you learn about cesarean options? Of course there's always internet resources. My personal favorite resources are here:
- Choices in Cesarean
- Making Your Cesarean Mother-Baby Friendly
- The Gentle Cesarean: More Like a Birth Than an Operation
- Will You Push for Your Baby (scroll down to "How to Keep Birth as Normal as Possible")
- Gentle Cesarean
Of course, the other, more thorough option is to attend a childbirth class. Some educators offer a cesarean-specific class, while others include it as part of the overall curriculum. In a comprehensive childbirth class, you will learn what to expect during a cesarean, the choices available to you, and valuable information on what to expect during normal labor as it is very possible to go into labor before a scheduled cesarean.
Choices vs. What's Possible - Investigate
So you've learned that skin-to-skin in the OR is beneficial for you and your baby and you'd like to include it in your birth plan. But does your chosen hospital allow skin-to-skin in the OR? It will be critical for you to open a discussion with your obstetrician about how he or she performs a cesarean, what policies are in place at your hospital, and what kinds of choices you will actually have access to. Unfortunately, not all hospitals are created equally and while one hospital routinely performs "gentle" or "family-centered" cesareans, another in your same city won't permit choices like lowering the drape and skin-to-skin in the OR. If your OB or hospital does not typically allow mother-baby friendly choices in the OR during a cesarean, you can still request your preferences and include them on your birth plan, but understand that ultimately, they may not be honored.
On to Writing Your Cesarean Birth Plan
Now that you know the choices available, and what's possible (or likely) at your hospital, you can write your birth plan! Consider including the following main categories:
In writing your birth plan preferences for cesarean, you'll want to ask yourself questions like:
- What would I like and not like for pain relief (both epidural type and IV medication)?
- Who do I want present with me during birth in the OR?
- What kind of environment would I prefer in the OR (talkative or quiet)?
- Would it help to be introduced to the team of professionals in the OR?
- How involved/hands on do I want to be in the process of my baby's birth?
- Where do I want the first couple of hours of my baby's life to be spent?
- What kinds of routines do I want/not want for my baby after birth?
For a more comprehensive list of options to consider and include, check out the resources linked above, or attend a childbirth class.
Once you've created your birth plan, it's important to finalize it with your care provider. Bring it to her during a prenatal appointment and ask for additional time to review and discuss. If you are unhappy with how your birth plan is received or the lack of options available, consider switching obstetrician practices and/or hospitals, if possible. It's almost never too late to make a switch and your choice in care provider has a huge impact on your birth experience, satisfaction, and outcome.