From Birth Vision to Birth Plan
Quick look at birth visions
A birth vision communicates a woman’s delivery experience preferences to her birth team. It should be accepting of the reality that there may be necessary changes to the vision as the birthing process unfolds.
The benefits of a birth vision are having the mother’s preferences considered while discussing options and alternatives with the birth team. This helps ensure the mother and clinical experts are on the same page.
Risks of a birth vision are unmet expectations, as childbirth is unpredictable and visions may have to be altered in the moment for important clinical reasons.
Is a birth vision the same as a birth plan?
They are different but related. A birth vision is a way for a mother to visualize and communicate her birthing intentions. The vision doesn’t have to be a written template and can be shared in conversation, through a vision board, which is a visual arts and crafts item, or by other means. Discussing this vision with the patient’s birth team helps guide the team’s medical choices during delivery with the understanding that things may change if necessary.
This differs from a birth plan, which is a templated tool used to help women work through specific choices available for the birthing process. A plan is more concrete and focuses less on how the mother wants to feel and more on specific services. Although many women believe they need a birth plan, we urge them to start with a birth vision and allow their body and their baby to guide their plan in the delivery room.
Conception of a birth vision
Patients often ask us if they should have a birth plan and if it is something they will create or something we create for them. This is a pivotal moment as we help our mothers-to-be understand that we have one conclusive plan: safely delivering a healthy baby to a healthy mother.
Beyond that, we guide our patients toward working with our team to first create a birth vision, a fluid set of hopes that may be redirected if aspects of the vision are not compatible with the mother’s individual health condition or if complications occur later. A birth vision asks the mother to imagine how she wants to feel during delivery. This can include questions like:
- How do you picture the environment?
- What do you see and hear?
- Who is with you in the delivery room?
Once these questions are answered, we are able to discuss the details on how to best make the patient’s vision a reality. As we do so, we keep an “if, then” frame of mind. “If the baby is healthy, then the patient wants skin-to-skin contact time within the first hour of giving birth.” We want to make sure our patients understand that if there are no complications, then we will be able to provide certain services.
Although a birth plan is more focused on services than a birth vision, these preferences are still important to note to the birth team, as they will have an impact on realizing the vision. The primary difference is the understanding that these expressed preferences are not demands, but something the mother would like to make use of if appropriate for the delivery she is experiencing.
Consider labor and delivery room factors in the birth vision
The offerings available in the labor and delivery room are good to know when developing a birth vision. The services available at Rose Medical Center where we offer labor and delivery include:
- Private birthing suites with a bathroom and Jacuzzi tub for labor pain control.
- Birthing balls.
- Portable monitoring.
- A nurse dedicated to the patient.
- Doula assistance (especially suggested for unmedicated births).
- Bluetooth speaker with the patient’s choice of music.
- The golden hour: the hour immediately after birth where mother and baby can experience skin-to-skin contact, their first breastfeeding and delayed cord clamping.
- Pain relief through epidurals, IV meds and nitrous oxide.
- Private postpartum suites.
Delivery without a birth plan
We have learned in our many years in the delivery room that birth plans don’t always go as planned. When a woman creates a plan, she often clings tightly to it and feels that she will not be able to fully appreciate the birthing experience if she must deviate. It is for this reason we prefer the patient to first come up with a birth vision, which is accepted as needing to be flexible.
The parent(s) and the birth team aren’t always in charge of how things go in labor and delivery. The woman’s body and baby are the biggest deciding factor on how the birthing process will progress.
It is always our goal to have the lowest level of intervention possible. This means waiting for spontaneous labor, minimizing Pitocin use and only performing a C-section when absolutely necessary. While this is our hope, it is not always our reality.
These cases truly test a woman’s ability to be mindful in the moment. We work with patients through complications to help them focus on their ultimate priority of a safe and healthy birth. This is our biggest priority as well, and we will do whatever we need to in order to make that happen, even if it means altering the mother’s birth vision.
We have found that once a mother holds her baby in her arms, she is much less concerned about what music was playing or if she was able to use a birthing ball. We urge these mothers to understand that labor and delivery isn’t a recipe and there’s no outline for a positive or successful delivery beyond a healthy mother and baby. Every patient has a different delivery experience, and each one is magical.