A birth guide can be a valuable tool in the birth space. Often referred to as a birth plan, the birth guide terminology is often better received by providers as it implies the acknowledgment that births cannot be planned. The birth plan term has a bad reputation due to the way they are all too often presented and used. Often in a militant perspective, families present a birth plan with the believe that a signature on that plan will guarantee a certain style of birth. Unfortunately, this is not the case. You are in all ways encouraged to utilize all of your legal rights for choosing the birth that you desire. You have every protected right to speak up, request, refuse, or delay any procedure. You have the legal right to get up, sign yourself out of a facility, and birth at home or another location as well. Providing your birth team with a holistic visual birth guide helps start the conversation to reduce unnecessary additions to the birth guide and keeps a flexible approach to the changes of normal labor.
The key with using a birth guide is to choose a birth environment (birth team and location) that supports your birth philosophy. A birth guide should never be used as a means of changing the way someone practices. If you need a contract to tell someone how to attend a birth... that's a huge red flag for you not being in a space that is knowledgeable or respectful of your birth philosophy. A birth guide is a reminder for your birth team to support you in the way you desire. At times, your birth location and care provider may be more than happy to accommodate your wishes but routinely practice in a different way, in which case, a birth guide acts as a reminder to those supporting mom to speak up during these times and remind the care team of any changes. A doula supporting a wide range of births in a wide range settings will enjoy having a copy of your birth guide to ensure your individual wishes are met.
Esali Birth has free holistic visual birth guides for download that include all of the most common requests for family-centered birth with spaces for you to fill in your individual care suggestions and emergency birth location requests. Selecting a support environment first reduces all unnecessary interventions. Requesting minimal interventions of any kind allows you to have more control over the procedures - even if later you decide to have a few, or all of the, interventions available. Requesting your care team ask your permission for any procedures (which is what they should legally be doing anyway) vs. asking them to just limit procedures, provides you with the opportunity to decline as well as request a procedure and be the leading person in your birth (as it should be). Ultimately, if your birth choices have placed you in a concerning situation and you feel like you need to tell the providers and birth location how to perform every aspect of their job - it is time to explore other options. Change practices with your choices - this is the most effective way. If we bow to an environment's routines when we don't agree with them, they're getting paid and they'll still perform those routine procedures. If we set ourselves up for demanding and arguing in labor, we reduce not only the positive view on our birth but the safety of our birth due to heightened adrenaline. If we intentionally select our birth location based on compatibility, a happy healthy birth is created and the more women approach birth choices in this way, the more policy changes we see. These options may include changing obstetricians, switching to midwifery care and should always include exploring home birth options. The more aware you are of all the ranges of options, the more choices you have. In most locations there are providers who offer fully respectful and individual-oriented care without you needing a birth guide for biological birth choices.
Download the birth guide from the Esali Birth Course Handouts & Resources page of the Esali Birth Online Birth Class or here.