Anatomy of a Birth Plan

“Birth Plan?” you ask. “Why would I do that?”

Yes, I know. I thought the same thing. “I’ll just go with the flow,” I thought. “I’ll just do whatever the doctors tell me.”

hgs face

Photo courtesy of Ashley Clauss

The midwives and doctors caring for me, and familiar with my birth plan, would have a smirk reading this. My eventual *exceedingly* researched birth plan was nothing near, “Whatever you say, doc!”  It was more like, “Whatever you typically do, I’ll do it differently.”

Trust me. You will only benefit from researching and pondering the process of birth, and routine interventions associated with it. If you research each item, it is highly likely that there will be at least one item in the routine that you would like to have done differently.

Before attending dental school, I completed a graduate program in Public Health at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Public Health has its place. There is much good done by the way of public health around the world, and in your hometown. Nevertheless, intrinsic to the concept of public health is disregard for individual circumstances, and a focus on the masses. Health measures meant to benefit the majority of the population will always fail to address a certain minority.

Couple routine public health measures that disregard individual circumstances with routine of the healthcare industry, and suddenly you have opened the door to potentially harmful, rote repetition.

I’m sure you would appreciate an example.  Antibiotics is one.  Antibiotics are widely known to be overprescribed. There is increasing concern over antibiotic resistance because of this.  The American Association of Endodontics has guidelines for when antibiotics should be used for dental infections.  This is something that is taught in dental schools, and it is something that has been published.  Nevertheless, I have seen this official protocol disregarded among my colleagues as the rote repetition of habit prevails in the dental profession.  Patients expect –even request– antibiotics, and doctors are accustomed to giving them.  This is one example from dentistry.  There are many other similar habits that prevail in dentistry and in medicine in spite of evidence-based knowledge.

Habits are hard to break.  They are even harder to break when patients expect or request status quo.  Do your research.  Own your birth experience.  Only you can do this.  If you do, you will be glad you did.

The example birth plan I’ve outlined for you on Sweet Sagacity is one that is pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum from typical protocol.  This is done for you purposefully.  If you start researching from the opposite end of possibility you will have more knowledge about and ownership of the decisions you make for yourself and your baby.

anatomy of a birth plan

Best wishes for a beautiful birth!

30+ Things I wish I’d known in the First Trimester

My husband and I just had our first baby; our angel arrived a few months before our eleventh anniversary. Needless to say, if any couple has had sufficient time to prepare for a little one, we did.

Over the course of the pregnancy, labor, delivery, and since beginning life with our angel outside of the womb, I learned more than I ever thought that I would. My experiences and research have topped the most frequently requested list of blog topics. Thus, I hope you will find the sweet sagacity you seek herein.


Pregnancy. Wow. Where do I begin? If you are not yet pregnant, but someday aspire to be, you should know that pregnancy changes everything. If you are pregnant, or have already experienced pregnancy, you know what I mean. Even with 4.5 doctors and 2 nurses in my immediate family (yes, I’m only counting siblings and parents), there was much left open to surprising discovery regarding pregnancy from both a practitioner’s and patient’s view.  I also made discoveries that would have been nice to know from a practical point of view.  I’ll just offer a few bullets that I believe to be of interest here, and you can let me know if you have any questions.

Good to know, or I wish I had known…

  1. You may or may not want to be social.  You may have symptoms that prevent social activity.
  2. Your bra size will change (possibly several times).  Purchase nursing bras during pregnancy. Even if you are unsure about your intention of nursing, at least the nursing bra gives you the option, and functions for you longer.  Do not purchase new (“regular”) bras during pregnancy. They would only be worthwhile for a couple of months during pregnancy, and may never be needed (or fit) again.
  3. You will probably require maternity clothes beyond the birth of your baby for a period of time.
  4. Considering how nursing-friendly your maternity wardrobe is, as you acquire it, will save you money (and frustration).
  5. Shoe size may change temporarily, or permanently. (I was able to handle the last few months (and a black tie event to boot) with ballet flats.)
  6. A birth plan is worth having and (*thoroughly*) researching, regardless of how much you think you do or don’t care about what happens during labor and delivery.
  7. A great doula is a priceless gift from heaven. Priceless. Worth every penny.
  8. Register for a doula, or gift yourself one. If finances are tight, a doula may be willing to accept a reduced rate. The best doulas support you in your birth the way that you desire your birth to be. They are your advocate in your labor and delivery.
  9. Midwives specialize in uncomplicated births. Obstetricians specialize in complicated births. You will want an uncomplicated birth (read: no cesarean).
  10. Midwives can and do deliver babies for women desiring epidurals.
  11. Ultrasounds are not necessary.
  12. Read ahead.  (Assume you will not have time to read after the arrival of your bundle from above.)  Audiobooks are a respectable option.
  13. There are decades of research in infant development and learning from books like “Montessori from the Start” and “Your Self-Confident Baby” to help you formulate a child centric nursery design and registry list.  No need to reinvent the wheel.  (I am not on board with everything in either book, but modifying these methods a bit to suit our situation has demonstrated a great advancement in development for our son.  This (after a bit of thoughtful preparation) is with less effort on our part as parents.  Thanks to this, our happily self-confident baby safely explores, entertains, and teaches himself.)
  14. Kelly Mom is a wonderful evidence-based parenting site.
  15. Keep the purchase of stuff to a minimum. (Even if you do this, you will still accumulate more than you need.)
  16. Sign up for classes (yoga, birthing, breastfeeding, etc.) in your first trimester.
  17. Acupuncture can help with virtually every pregnancy ailment. Sickness? Check. Insomnia? Check. Back pain? Check. (Trust me. If you go, you will love it.)
  18. Co-sleeping can be an optimal solution. Dr. Sears speaks to its many benefits.
  19. Take care of your back & joints.
  20. Stay well hydrated with water.
  21. The practice of relaxation during pregnancy truly helps during labor and delivery.  Try guided relaxation or guided meditation if you need help relaxing.  There are free podcasts from Meditation Oasis that are nice.
  22. Less is more.
  23. Organic is a gift to your baby.
  24. Unless your doctor does, do not fret about your weight gain.
  25. The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears is information every parent should read.
  26. Researching the benefits of breastfeeding is worthwhile.
  27. Attending La Leche League during pregnancy is very helpful. You’ll have a wonderful resource, friendships with other mothers, and an open-minded group of support.  (Of all mothering groups I’ve attended, I have found the most  widely and well informed mothers at LLL meetings.)
  28. Freeze meals for yourself ahead of time.
  29. Working mothers, or mothers who may like quality childcare from time to time, or mothers who would like a “less is more” parenting philosophy, respectful to infants and their needs, would love to learn about Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE).  (I melt methods from this philosophy into our breastfeeding, Attachment Parenting, Montessori, and Elimination Communication philosophies quite well.)
  30. Do your research, but you will probably want to delay cord clamping for as many minutes as your provider will wait. (I had hoped for a delay of 15 minutes or more, until the placenta delivered naturally, but waiting even 5 minutes is a great benefit to the baby.)
  31. Researching Vitamin K, bathing, Hepatitis B, eye drops, and every other routine intervention for your labor, delivery, and your newborn is worthwhile.
  32. Natural childbirth is truly amazing. I had fears that were derived from horror stories of others. Interestingly, all of the horror stories were from women who had epidurals (which prevent the release of natural pain inhibitors). Natural childbirth was not comfortable, but I was surprised at how doable it was. The level of discomfort was less than I expected.
  33. Placenta encapsulation may be of interest, especially for those who may want to prevent post partum depression.
  34. HypnoBirthing is something both women and docs rave about. The mother who told me about her hypnobirth experiences had labors lasting less than 4 hours with the first, and 1 hour with the second. Sounds great to me!
  35. Make no plans for the two months following your baby’s birth. (This is, of course, at your discretion, but you’ll see what I mean.)

Do you have additional pregnancy pearls?  What would you add to the list?  Do you have experience with a doula, midwives, maternal acupuncture, natural childbirth, water birth, HypnoBirthing,  Placenta Benefits, AP, RIE, infant Montessori at home, EC, troubleshooting breastfeeding?  Please share them!