Why having a Birth Plan is Essential to a Successful Labor Experience

For a mother who intends to have a natural childbirth, a birth plan can be a crucial tool to aid in ensuring that the mother’s wishes are obeyed and that her beliefs in regard to the birth are respected.

What is crucial to remember is that at no point may anyone do anything to you without your permission. Oftentimes women are asked to sign blanket consent forms upon admittance to the hospital. According to informed consent laws present in many countries you may revoke consent or refuse to sign forms at any time. An example of revoking consent would be to clearly vocalize that you revoke any consent that you have previously given, or to write something to a similar effect upon a piece of paper and sign it. Any actions performed or treatment pursued without your informed consent is illegal.

Birth plans are often frowned upon by caregivers because of a lack of “flexibility”. However, if you feel strongly about something in regard to your birth you have no obligation whatsoever to be flexible. You, as a consenting adult have a right to informed consent even if it means that harm may come to you or your baby. (Which is often the voiced concern from caregivers when a mother is asked to consider another option than what was outlined on her birth plan.) You have a right to refuse any and all treatment and you have a right to be treated with respect. You have a right to make your own choices based on your own beliefs about your care.

If you have very specific wishes for a birth plan, you can use your birth plan as a physical copy of your informed consent. Simply write out your wishes for the birth and state that your birth plan constitutes your signed written consent under the circumstances listed in your plan. This ensures that your birth plan is respected as a legal representation of your consent to treatment.

You may wish to be flexible and abide by your caregivers wishes and that is your right. However, you also have the right to refuse anything that doesn’t feel right to you or that you don’t want to do.

Some hospitals and physicians will state that you can not be admitted or treated unless you sign their consent forms when in all actuality they have a moral and legal obligation to treat a woman in active labor and there are very specific guidelines for refusing patients. You may wish to look into your local consent laws. All doctors however are bound by the Hippocratic oath and if a woman is in active labor and seeking treatment she has the right to that treatment and physicians are obligated to attend if the woman so wishes, regardless of what her personal beliefs, philosophies or wishes are surrounding her birth.