Birth Plans Vs. The X-Factor

Writing a birth plan is a wonderful way to begin to educate yourself about labor and the process of giving birth. But it is important to remember that your birth plan is not like a fast food menu. You can’t just say that you want to induce labor with nipple stimulation, manage your contractions in a Jacuzzi, give birth while doing squats and have Brad Pitt cut the umbilical cord...and have all your dreams come true!

pregnant woman wearing a green shirt

No matter how careful you are to follow your birth plan, birth is unpredictable and there is always the X-Factor. You may have suffered through 35 hours of natural labor only to find out in the 36th that your baby is struggling to breathe and you need to be rushed into an emergency C-section.

Following is a list of tips for birth planning that will help you get as close to your goals as possible without creating unrealistic expectations.

Educate yourself

One of the most important lessons you can glean from birth planning is simply to become educated about birth. The practice of giving birth is greatly influenced by the culture in which we live and it is important to understand what all your options are, as well as what the standard practices are where you reside. Childbirth classes, books, magazine articles and online birth plan creators are a good place to get started.

Seek a Like-Minded Practitioner

As early as possible in your pregnancy, you will want to begin to search for a practitioner that shares your view of labor and birth. For example, if you are interested in having an epidural and other pain control medications, you will probably want to enlist the services of an obstetrician at a nearby hospital. On the other hand, if you would prefer to attempt natural childbirth and want to experience a labor where you can eat, drink and move around freely, a midwife may be a more compatible caregiver for you.

Expect the unexpected

No matter how much time you spent doing vagina exercises and envisioning your perfect birth, when true labor comes on, you may find yourself cursing your childbirth educators and wishing you could smack them upside the head with a ginormous birth ball. Don't despair! This is real life and even if you end up ordering a Stadol cocktail on the rocks when you had planned to Birth from Within, you are not a failure. Accept your birth for what it is and be proud that you are capable of bringing another precious human being into this amazing world.

Tools and resources

Tags: birth from within childbirth classes childbirth educators kegels midwife nipple stimulation obstetrician realistic expectations water birth

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Comments on "Realistic birth planning"

Kristi Valentini October 20, 2010 | 6:07 PM

Thanks for the great article and useful advice. You give good info on how to plan with a heavy dose of reality that birthing is anything but predictable! I'd just add that the most important part of negotiating your best birthing experience is having someone advocate on your behalf in the hospital room whether it's your spouse, partner, doula, midwife, whatever.

marina delvecchio October 19, 2010 | 8:36 PM

Naomi, you have a good thing here. Where were you when I had my kids? LOL. I had no plan...I just went with what my doctors told me, and then I was happy it was all over. You provide very valuable information here. Thanks!Redditt and Dugg ya! Marina @ http://marinagraphy

Rebecca October 14, 2010 | 1:06 PM

I was very very lucky as I have 3 healthy children and the births all went very well. I did have a birth plan and the midwife I had (same one from antenatal checks through labour and delivery every time) was wonderful as she did refer to it. I had 3 water births with no drugs apart from a bit of gas & air which is exactly what I wanted. But as I said at the beginning, I know I have been very lucky.

Emmaatbaghappy October 14, 2010 | 12:18 PM

I think maybe key points you'd like if possible is a good way to plan. For my first birth, I didn't write anything and was never asked what I'd prefer to do whilst they finished the ceasarean. For my second birth (also ceasarean) I listed key points and got everything I wanted.

Heather October 14, 2010 | 11:58 AM

I didn't have a birth plan, it seemed somewhat presumptuous that things would go a certain way. I think some women get to stuck in their mind about what their birth will be like and then consider it a failure when it doesn't go to plan. Good advice.

Megan (Best of Fates) October 14, 2010 | 11:49 AM

KLZ made my funny comment before I got to! Now my comment's just a shell of what it could have been.

Wife on the Roller Coaster October 12, 2010 | 12:58 PM

What great tips mixed in with your trademark humor! I especially agree with expecting the unexpected. With my first, I had it all planned out...until baby boy decided to make his appearance a month early and I was tossing items in my hospital bag in between contractions. And there was no way I could expect anything when having my second in Japan. I don't think Brad Pitt would have made the flight over. :) Great post as always.

Truthful Mommy October 11, 2010 | 7:18 PM

Love it! I hate the X factor! On my first child, the x factor just about took me down. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. the damn stadol cocktail didn't do much fro the pain and the epidural man was trapped in another surgery. Transition labor with no epidural is not for the weak...and not suggested.I know some of you granola Mommies think its taboo to want to dull the pain/bliss that is birth. but let me tell ya sister, there are no awards for withstanding the most pain and your kids will certainly not remember or care about that sacrifice. Take the drugs and stay in school:) Happy MOthering!

Danny October 10, 2010 | 4:04 PM

That's what's up. Do not let physicians rule what you want to do because so many are so big headed. They think they know it all.

MOMSICLE VIBE October 09, 2010 | 9:32 PM

Fantastic advise! This is what I tell all my friends. A birth plan was more like a hope list, as in, if the stars could align exactly as I imagine I would like them to I would birth like... this! But, the pesky x factor must be considered. Educate yourself, surround yourself accordingly and keep an open heart and mind. No matter how that babe finally finds his/her way out of there, you've done an invaluable job!!

June October 08, 2010 | 2:42 PM

Such clarity and good advice on a topic that could hardly be more important. And. . . wonderful writing!

Dawn Webb October 08, 2010 | 1:33 PM

It is important to have medical staff that supports your birth plan. Between them, you, and your spouse then you have a united partnership. It is such a special time regardless of how the baby is delivered. Amen, Naomi

Steve October 08, 2010 | 10:30 AM

Should my wife become pregnant again I will now be able to come over all new man-ish and impress her with my understanding! Thank you!

Very Bored in Catalunya October 08, 2010 | 10:16 AM

Very wise list, we don't really do birth plans here in Spain, but if we did mine would have read, 'get in, push out, get out'.

Dina October 07, 2010 | 5:45 PM

Very true. Accept it for whatever it ends up being... cuz after all, we get those precious gifts at the end either way. :) Perfect.

Valiz October 07, 2010 | 5:25 PM

So true! It's so important to be prepared for no matter what outcome you may have with your birth. My belief about birth is like the quote "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." Shoot for a natural birth. Learn everything you can about it and talk to people who have had success with it. Don't listen to the horror stories. Obviously, that is not your goal. But prepare for all the various circumstances related to medical birth so that you know your choices. There are choices even among all the medical options. And take care of yourself and envision a beautiful experience with all its twist and turns. Even the most challenging of births are still something you will look back on and remember that little someone who came into your life bringing you joy.

Shaheen October 07, 2010 | 5:02 PM

The last sentence is essential, and can be construed both as good advice for giving birth or just living your life into adulthood. Excellent article.

laura October 07, 2010 | 4:38 PM


Dawn October 07, 2010 | 2:54 PM

Educate yourself, like-minded practitioner, expect the unexpected.....Great Topics! It's a wonderful starting point for a workable birth plan! I wish I had been more prepared for the unexpected at our first birth. I was expecting to go to the birth center and labor and have a focal point and yada yada yada, but what actually happened was contractions and full dilation in about an hour, resulting in wonderful home birth! Didn't expect that.

liz October 07, 2010 | 12:18 PM

I think the best plan is to NOT have one. It's important to educate yourself on the process, but ultimately, L&D will play out in whatever way it chooses, and you have no control over that.

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