What Happens When Your Birth Doesn't Go To Plan?

What Happens When Your Birth Doesn't Go To Plan?

My advice in managing birth preferences and when your birth doesn't go to plan

So you're finally pregnant and the months are starting to tick over, getting to the tail end of it all. You might have started to think about how you want to get this baby out, it might be a vague plan or pretty detailed. But what if it's your first time labouring, how do you know what to expect and how could you possibly plan for that?

So many women walk into their first labour leaving it up to the professionals assuming they will always do what's best. Before the birth of my first baby I would always say "I've never done it before, how will I know what I'll need". But the problem here is not all woman have the same expectations, ideas or needs when it comes to their labour and not all care providers have the same birth philosophy as you do. Think of it like this - not everyone cooks their spag-bol in the same way. Yes there are key elements, but each individual will have different ingredients that are thrown in based on their own individual taste.

If you walk into that birth suite with a "see how I go" kind of attitude you may expect the journey to be lead in a direction not aligned with what you truely wanted. The spag-bol might not taste quite right. If you have strong preferences aligned with what feels right for you from the outset, whether you have never birthed before or a hundred times over you still have an idea of what you want. Stay confident with your birth philosophy and don't let anyone belittle your vision. 

It is up to your care provider to then work with you in making this happen. If things change, they change, but you and your care provider should have discussed what these changes may look like during your antenatal appointments and in the moment while it's happening. Remember, you always get a say and you can always say "NO" if it doesn't feel quite right for you and your baby.  

This is where a lot of women feel like their birth didn't go to plan and come out the other end thrown into Motherhood feeling like "looking back, I actually didn't want that". I have my own personal experience with this.

Birth suite with mood setting fairy lights

I went into the Assessment Centre at the hospital wanting a natural labour but with a "see how I go" attitude. What I really needed was guidance and situation specific information from someone with a natural birth philosophy, but I was met with hospital policy and their idea of how my birth should go because I didn't enforce my strong birthing preferences. Side note: hospital policy doesn't mean you have to or don't have to do something. You can always say NO, ask questions and push back if you feel something isn't what you want. Hospitals must give you informed consent and they don't always do this. I was told after the CTG monitor kept beeping that "your daughters heart rate has dropped twice" and there was "nothing to worry about, its probably just the monitors slipping off your belly. We're just going to break your waters". I thought fantastic! My daughter is happy and I knew this meant my labour would speed up but what I really wanted looking back was options, or INFORMED CONSENT. I needed someone telling me the full picture. Because I left it up to the hospital, they chose for me. 

I later went on to have a cardiac arrest and was having CPR while my daughter was pulled from me due to a mismanaged epidural. That certainly wasn't in my birth plan! My subsequent labours I went in with extra strong birthing preferences and decided that I wanted a hands off approach - and most importantly no epidural. It didn't end up completely intervention free, but I walked away feeling confident and empowered because it was my decision based off what I was dealing with in the moment and at each step along the way. I never had another epidural but there was extensive conversation around what would happen if I needed a C-section (or any intravenous medicine for that matter) and what I would feel comfortable with in managing a change to my preferences. 

My Top Tips: 

1. Surround yourself with care providers that are aligned with and/or understand your birth preferences and why. If your midwife or obstetrician isn't quite your cup of tea, ask for someone else! I have done this before and while it may feel uncomfortable at the time, it's definitely worth asking for what you really want. 

2. You can grow your support team with the extra care of a doula (this can be during your labour and/or postpartum) or even experienced family members/friends you are comfortable with. 

3. You can have strong birth preferences AND be open to adapting to a changing environment. It doesn't have to be one or the other. Don't let them use the "all that matters is a healthy baby" card. The process of you becoming a Mother is also important. 

4. Post labour, find out the full picture. If you are struggling with how your birth unfolded then ensure you go back to the hospital, sit down and talk through the specifics of why your birth went in the direction it did. You can also source the services of experienced women who conduct independent birth de-briefs.

5. Do your own research! Find out as much as you can about how birthing a baby works. Find out about the different stages of labour, coping strategies and common outcomes. This way you can have an idea of what you might want your labour to look like. There are plenty of amazing podcasts, books and other resources available. Talk to other woman who have birthed before (they may tell you their war stories but ask lots of questions to find out more than just the negative parts).

You can always contact me if you would like to know some of my favourite resources! 

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1 comment

That was a fantastic read. So empowering. Trusting yourself is so important. And hospitals do not always put you first. Hospital policy wins every time. Thank you.


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