You may have heard of something called the “birth plan curse”, or something along those lines. The basic idea being that the more detailed a birth plan, the more likely a woman is to end up with a c-section. I’ve heard this idea tossed around, encountered it in online labor and delivery nurse forums, and I’ve even had a client once report that a nurse told her after her Cesarean birth that it was essentially her detailed plan that caused it. Today I’d like to call this ideology out for what I believe it is. Complete and utter BS.
Not only do I think this notion is completely untrue, I also think it’s incredibly harmful. Telling women about the “birth plan curse” is shaming to women who have certain goals for their birth, and discouraging and dismissive to those who simply want to have a voice in their birth experience. It even prevents some women from doing one of the most powerful things they can do to positively impact their birth experience- explore their options and express their desires.
Here are 3 things I do believe to be true:
1.) Negative provider attitudes toward women with certain birth plans, not the actual plans, are the problem and can lead to poor outcomes.
It is extremely important for a women in labor to feel safe and supported, and to avoid conflict and stress in order for her labor to progress normally. Even if nothing negative is explicitly said to the patient about her birth plan, negativity isn’t difficult to pick up on. A nurse who rolls her eyes as she reads a birth plan while making a comment at the nursing station about prepping the OR, is not likely to then enter the birthing room and come across as very supportive to the patient. I'm not saying this is the norm- I've worked with a lot of wonderful and supportive nurses. I'm just saying it happens, and it shouldn't.
2.) A detailed or low-intervention focused birth plan does not equal rigid.
Just because a person has done their homework and decided to explicitly outline their desires, or has decided they would prefer minimal medical intervention that may be considered routine- does not mean they will be unwilling to be flexible should a medical complication arise. Planning for the best outcome does not mean they are trying to control the uncontrollable or are unwilling to acknowledge that a “plan b” may be needed.
3.) As stated earlier in this post, and it does bear repeating: birth planning is actually one of the most powerful things you can do to positively impact your birth experience.
Start by choosing the right team of people, including finding a provider who is genuinely on board with your desired approach. Explore your options and learn what choices will be right for you and your baby. Don’t be afraid to speak up about your desires, or to type it up for your entire care team to read on one of the most important days of your life. If you don't feel you are receiving supportive care, you can and should speak up. It's not high maintenance to do all you can to ensure you and your baby receive the best care possible.