The Pitfalls of a Birth “Plan”

By definition, “plan” can either mean:

  • A detailed proposal for doing or achieving something or
  • An intention or decision about what one is going to do.

If you’re planning something, you have laid out how things are going to get done, and by virtue of planning, you’re probably counting on it going that way - hence the “plan” vs. let’s say, winging it?

Let’s think about a plan that went accordingly - you probably were left feeling like Hell Yeah - who rocks the party that rocks the party? ME. That’s right. Whether it’s work related, a birthday party you planned for someone, a surprise for your honey - when it all works out - it’s pretty awesome. Rock on with your bad self.

Now let’s think about a plan that did NOT go accordingly - something fell through, didn’t happen, go right, the flowers didn’t arrive at the wedding, someone let the cat out of the bag for the surprise you were planning and with that - bubble burst, plan “failed” and/or fizzled. Depending on your personality and ability to let it go, you may not be feeling so hot about things, pretty disappointed and may even feel like a failure.

This is what I think is so challenging when it comes to having a birth “plan.”

Childbirth and meeting your baby is something you will never forget. It’s a day that some of us may wait years for and that we all wait ~9 months for, once becoming pregnant. So, why wouldn’t we want to plan this day like our wedding, right? Put thought into how we want it to go and have an incredible desire for it to all go swimmingly? But if you think in terms of the above when it comes to “plans” and something as unpredictable as labor, there are some pitfalls.


Pitfalls of a Birth “Plan” 
We can get attached - the more attached we are to a plan or outcome - the bigger the upset, disappointment, feelings of failure, etc. when it doesn’t go that way. These feelings can stay with us after childbirth and cloud our experience and memories.

Childbirth is not predictable therefore the “plan” may and very well will need to change - now what?

If we’re attached to a particular birth “plan” we can miss what’s right in front of us and have our judgment clouded when we need it the most to make choices necessary in the moment


Birth Preferences or Intentions 

I like to encourage the Mamas in my classes to create Birth Intentions or Preferences. Intention can be synonymous with a plan, and yet I think it has more of a “this is what I’m putting out there to the Universe and let’s see what we get” vs. the “this is the way it’s going to go.” Preferences are also a great way to identify what’s important to you and what you would prefer and leaves room for other options if that’s the direction your labor takes you.

This is key - your body and your baby innately know what to do - and there is no “controlling” that. So, for as much as we want a particular outcome and have desires for how we want labor to go - it’s so not up to us! The only thing we can control is how we meet the unpredictability of it: how we set ourselves up in terms of mindset, how we educate ourselves and understand our options and with what our support team looks like.


The Pitfalls of Going with the Flow or Winging It in Birth 

One other thing real quick - the other end of the spectrum is to not plan and to “wing it” or “go with the flow.” I don’t recommend that. Many women who have less than positive outcomes or traumatic birth experiences often wish that they had known more and understood what was happening in order to make more informed choices. Informing and educating yourself doesn’t mean you have to “pick a plan” or “make a decision” per se about how you want your birth to go (i.e. choose natural vs. medicated) but it most definitely does allow you to better understand the process and your options, so that if and when there are choices to be made, you’re better prepared.

I personally wish looking back at my birth experiences that I had been less attached and brought more of a “let’s see what happens and know that I’m as prepared as possible” vs. my fierce attachment to how I wanted my births to go - I could have saved myself from a lot of disappointment, heartache and unmet expectations that haunted me for a long time.

If you’re looking for a childbirth education class that is evidence-based, unbiased, well-rounded and designed to empower you for your big day, take a look at my Empowered Birth Series. I’d love to be part of your journey!


Learn more about childbirth education with Dawn Herring from Empowered Birth and Beginnings.

About Dawn Herring

Dawn Herring helps expecting and new parents set the stage for Empowered Births and Beginnings through childbirth education classes, and birth and postpartum doula services. She brings an incredibly warm energy, lot of love and laughter to her classes and conversations, and is humbled by the opportunity to serve women and their families during such an incredibly memorable time. She is a wife and Mama of two beautiful children, Savannah (5) and Benjamin (4) and to her fur baby pup, Xavier (11).