Courtesy of Wavebreak Media/Fotolia

Here's What Your Doctor Is Actually Thinking When They See Your Birth Plan

Ad failed to load

Birth plans are a hot topic among pregnant women. Some people swear by the importance of having one — and a detailed one at that. Others find them kind of laughable, on the grounds that the “best laid plans” are the ones that are most likely to fall apart. For those who want to make a birth plan, there are plenty of templates you can find online, which contain everything from the details about your delivery room (low lighting? music? a birthing ball?) to major medical decisions like episiotomies and c-sections. But when we talk about birth plans, we rarely ask the question: what does your doctor actually think about your birth plan?  

After I found out I was pregnant, I scrolled through the birth plan checklists on the internet, wondering if I should make my own. I eventually decided against having a birth plan, because I was worried about how I'd feel if I made one and then broke it later. But I also couldn’t help but wonder: What do doctors think when they are handed a birth plan with so much detail, especially so much medical detail? Do they have to hold back the biggest eyeroll ever, to the point where they regularly get together and laugh at their patients' birth plans? I decided to find out for sure.

Courtesy of Tyler Olsen/Fotolia
Ad failed to load

I spoke with two OB-GYNs: Dr. Amy Tuteur, a former clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School who has since left the medical field and blogs as the Skeptical OB, and Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, who practices at Yale New Haven Hospital. Both doctors had plenty to say when I asked them about birth plans, as well as a variety of experiences fielding reasonable requests — and outrageous ones.

Dr. Tuteur tells me that she thinks birth plans are “worse than useless,” likening them to making a weather plan on the day of your wedding. “There’s no way to know what's going to happen and your personal preferences have no impact on how things proceed,” she says, emphasizing that the process of labor and delivery is an unpredictable one, and that birth plans can sometimes create unrealistic expectations for soon-to-be mothers.

“The most outrageous request was to have the room in absolute darkness. I pointed out that the only reason I was there was to intervene if there was a problem, and I wouldn't be able to tell if there was a problem if I couldn't see.”
Ad failed to load

“The worst thing about birth plans is that they don’t work,” she says. “They don’t accomplish their purported purpose... and, ironically, predispose women to be less happy with the birth than women who didn’t have birth plans" in the event that the birth plan doesn't work out.

However, Dr. Tuteur adds that it’s absolutely important for women to share their preferences with their medical providers — as long as they understand that they are preferences, and not demands. She tells me that she’s received a lot of birth plans over the years, and that she’s always tried to comply when possible — but sometimes the requests were just too ridiculous. “The most outrageous request was to have the room in absolute darkness,” she says. “I pointed out that the only reason I was there was to intervene if there was a problem, and I wouldn't be able to tell if there was a problem if I couldn't see.”

Courtesy of Jbrown/Fotolia
Ad failed to load

Like Dr. Tuteur, Dr. Minkin tries to honor patients’ requests when they’re reasonable. But she believes that sometimes, birth plans contain details that interfere with best medical practices. One patient, she says, "had on her birth plan a request that I not offer her any pain relief during labor. I told her I just could not do that — she could certainly refuse to take any pain medication I offered, but I considered it unethical for a physician who sees a woman suffering not to offer her any pain relief.”

Dr. Minkin stressed that there should be a solid communication between the patient and the medical provider from the start — something that supersedes the plan itself. “I think the patient needs to be in a relationship where she trusts the provider,” she explains. “She should know that the provider will do what is in the best interests for her and her baby.”

"The patient should know that the provider will do what is in the best interests for her and her baby.”
Ad failed to load

Both doctors agreed that it’s crucial for pregnant women to voice their preferences and have an open dialogue with their health care providers. But there needs to be a middle ground between what you hope will happen and what actually happens in order to have the best medical outcome for both mother and child.

“Birth plans aren't a hassle for the staff in and of themselves," Tuteur tells Romper. "Most nurses, midwives, and obstetricians want to meet patient preferences. The big problem is that birth plans assume that the outcome of a healthy mother and healthy baby is a foregone conclusion and, therefore, focus entirely on process.”

The takeaway seems to be this: If drafting a birth plan feels like the right thing to do, then by all means, do it. It can help instill a sense of control in a process that is full of uncertainty and unpredictability, and that's certainly valuable. But it seems important for all pregnant women to understand that things might not go the way you want, and that you should be open to suggestions from our doctors. After all, the doctors are the professionals in the room, and they want what’s best for both us and our babies.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Umm, Toys "R" Us Has A BOGO 50 Percent Off Deal So You Better Stock Up

After the holidays, you were probably hoping that your kid's massive toy collection would keep him entertained for a little while, at least. But that was wishful thinking, wasn't it? Because now that a couple of months have passed, all those must-hav…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

A Hot Mess Mom's Guide To Surviving Winter

As I sit here at my home office in Connecticut, it's cold. Damn cold. Winter is a rough season in New England and it's even worse when you're a parent and have to manage cooped up, restless children. It's even worse when you're a hot mess as it is, u…
By Jamie Kenney

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

8 Reasons I Let My Toddler Play Outside Unsupervised

I'm not a helicopter mom, but I'm not exactly a free-range parent either. I like to think of myself as safely ensconced somewhere in the middle. I insist on certain safety measures, like car seats and helmets. I prefer to keep my 2-year-old in my sig…
By Kimmie Fink

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack