Listen to this article.
CARRYING TO TERM ENCOURAGES MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS AND PARENTS TO WORK TOGETHER TO CREATE A COMPREHENSIVE BIRTH PLAN THAT ALLOWS PARENTS TO PLAN FOR THE EXPERIENCE THEY WISH FOR WHILE ALSO INFORMING MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS ABOUT THE SUPPORT THEY NEED THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS.
Patients look to medical professionals and rely on their expertise as they navigate prenatal appointments, labor, delivery, and postpartum care. Addressing patient questions and discussing the labor and delivery experience prior to a baby’s birth ensures that parents feel prepared.
The process of creating a birth plan is the parents’ time to dream and plan for the lifetime of parenting they hope to fit into a painfully short amount of time with their child. This process encourages parents to consider and build their network of support. It helps them understand their options for labor, delivery, and postpartum care. It helps them think through how to handle logistics such as lactation, making preparations with a funeral home, and considering neonatal donation. It provides space for the parents to plan for keepsakes and memory-making before the time comes to meet their baby. This process also encourages parents to engage with their medical professionals by seeking your advice, insight, and expertise.
When you, the medical professionals, engage with a parent throughout this process, you are empowering them. You are helping them gain some sense of control in the midst of an out-of-their-control situation. While there will likely be many decisions that have to be made in the moment during labor, delivery, and postpartum care, a birth plan serves to help you advocate for and ensure that your patient’s wishes are honored, allowing your patient to focus their emotional energy on the time they will have as a family.
There is no right or perfect birth plan, and fundamentally, it really is not about the plan itself. The importance lies in how parents feel heard and supported, and when you enter into this process, medical professionals, you are giving these parents a precious gift: your awareness and sensitivity to the nature of the experience. As your patient navigates creating a birth plan, inform and equip them, establish an environment of support, and prioritize their parenthood.
“A birth plan allows parents to plan for the experience they wish for, and it supports and informs medical professionals as you advocate for your patients’ wishes.”
INFORM AND EQUIP
Receiving a diagnosis and choosing to continue the pregnancy is an emotionally complex and challenging experience for parents. Following the news of the diagnosis, there is so much for parents to process, learn, and navigate. As they take in and sort through this new information, it is common for them to feel overwhelmed and incapable of fully understanding everything their care providers are saying. In a way, this process is like a crash course in what you have spent your career learning and putting into practice. As a result, these parents will have questions and need your support at each step of the process.
As you present the diagnosis, their options, and other new information to these parents, equip them with the tools, resources, and support necessary for decision-making and navigating the entirety of the carrying to term journey. The best way you can inform and equip your patient is by walking them through the process of researching their options and creating a comprehensive birth plan.
Carrying To Term offers an interactive birth planning tool designed to walk parents through all of their options in a way that it is sensitive to the difficult nature of this process. Our tool helps parents and their providers make the necessary medical and logistical decisions while also providing the space for parents to express their wishes regarding the emotional and social aspects of labor and delivery.
As parents begin to wrap their mind around the diagnosis and all that follows, they may not know where to begin or what questions to ask. To help these parents engage with their medical providers and feel informed and prepared for this process, Carrying To Term’s birth plan walks parents through decisions regarding:
- How they want their baby referred to throughout care
- The network of support they want present during labor and delivery
- Induction, vaginal birth, VBAC, and C-Section
- After care for their baby
- Lactation and breast milk care
- Funeral Home preparations
- Neonatal organ donation
- Chaplain services
- Logistics such as room requests and visitation
- Keepsakes and memory-making
- Continuing comfort and care
Throughout the process of creating a birth plan, your patient may need additional resources, insight, and guidance. Carrying To Term offers a range of resources to help parents navigate this process from diagnosis through life after loss. You can find our resources here.
A birth plan and other tangible tools and resources help parents process, retain, and utilize the information you provide to them at each step of the way. In addition to your support and the tools you offer to your patient, local support such as organizations, counseling, and support groups can be a tremendous help to parents as they make decisions, process their grief, and navigate life after loss.
ESTABLISH AN ENVIRONMENT OF SUPPORT
Human connection is a powerful force, especially in the provider-patient relationship, and this is particularly true for the relationship between carrying to term parents and their providers. You play an integral role in the lives of these families from diagnosis through the bereavement period after loss. You provide insight, expertise, and support in a way that is both powerful and wholly unique to you as the doctor, nurse, or other professional. You bring the kind of clarity, distance, knowledge, and language of compassion that parents need and connect with. Your empathy and support are evident in the words you speak, the way you include parents in decisions, and the considerations you make for their unique needs each step of the way.
You display empathy, provide support, and build relationship when you acknowledge the effect this process has on parents and how the diagnosis has changed their vision for the future. A birth plan is a tool designed to help parents reframe what the birth experience will and can be like for them. When you help them think through their wishes and priorities, you are helping them make sense of a series of complicated and devastating decisions. Not only are you helping them weigh their options and encouraging them to do some research, you are showing them that they still have the right and ability to parent, make memories as a family, and be present in the most precious moments with their child.
Throughout the pregnancy and the process of creating their birth plan, you can establish and foster an environment of support by inviting parents to ask questions, seek insight, and discuss their birth plan in a care conference setting. By including parents in meetings with the professionals on their care team, you both empower parents and ensure that every member of the team is on the same page and aware of the wishes expressed by the parents. When the care team and parents both play an active role in the creation and implementation of a birth plan, parents feel both validated and open to the differing opinions, important insights, and expertise offered by the professionals providing them care. This process also allows you, as the providers, to set clear and supportive expectations by encouraging your patient to hold their birth plan with a loose grip while also promising to do everything you can to provide them with the experience and memories they are hoping for.
“When you help them think through their wishes and priorities, you are helping them make sense of a series of complicated and devastating decisions. Not only are you helping them weigh their options and encouraging them to do some research, you are showing them that they still have the right and ability to parent, make memories as a family, and be present in the most precious moments with their child.”
PRIORITIZE THEIR PARENTHOOD
Even in the best of circumstances, labor and delivery are consuming. This process is a physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual experience. There are no words to adequately explain the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual toll laboring to deliver a baby who will die takes. It is a pain like no other, and yet, it all falls away the very second these parents lay eyes on their baby. All of their focus is on the depth of the love they have for that child. As they soak in every feature, movement, and sound their child makes, it can be easy for these parents to be so present that they forget to take pictures, read books, or create keepsakes. Being that present in these moments with their child is beautiful and important, but these parents will also want memories and keepsakes to sustain them throughout a lifetime of grief.
When you prioritize their parenthood by respecting their wishes during labor, delivery, and postpartum care, you help shape the experience into something positive and beautiful despite the devastating reality of what is happening. You are protecting a precious and vulnerable time for these families when you let their birth plan be a guide as you advocate for your patient in the middle of an experience that is emotionally challenging for both patient and provider. Your support and permission have incredible power and influence in the lives of your patient. How patients feel heard, cared for, and respected by their providers can drastically change how equipped and capable they believe themselves to be in the carrying to term process and in the bereavement period that follows the loss of their child.
By honoring a birth plan, you are recognizing the importance of the parents’ need to have a say, feel heard, and enter into life after loss with as much positive experiences and the least amount of regrets possible.