THE TEA | August 2023

The Important Role of Your Birth Plan

By Nicki Knowles | Director for Baptist Health-Little Rock

Hi there! I’m Nicki Knowles, Nursing Manager for Baptist Health. Today, I’d like to share my insights, built from a background in cardiac and labor/delivery nursing, on the importance of preparing your birth plan and considerations for potential adaptability during childbirth.

The Basics

Understanding The Role of a Birth Plan

Let’s start with the basics. A birth plan is essentially an outline for how you envision childbirth. It encompasses the entire delivery process – from hospital arrival to the birth of your baby and it outlines your specific desires and preferences, covering things like pain relief options to postpartum care.

When to Prepare Your Birth Plan

Preparing your birth plan should ideally be done well in advance of your due date. We recommend considering and discussing your birth plan with your healthcare provider during your second trimester of pregnancy. This timeframe allows for sufficient time to research and gather information about various childbirth options and preferences and engage in open conversations with your healthcare team. By asking questions, and fully understanding all of your available choices, you can ensure your plan aligns with your values and expectations for the birthing experience. Early preparation also allows for any necessary adjustments to be made and gives you the confidence and reassurance you need as you approach your delivery date.

Lastly, let’s discuss the significance of family history. While conditions like endometriosis can impact fertility, for the most part, family history doesn’t directly affect you while preparing your body for pregnancy. Advanced technology and medical advancements provide us with more options and opportunities than ever before. Consider scheduling a preconception counseling appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your options.

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What to Expect at Baptist Health

At Baptist Health, we don’t just provide medical care; we create an environment where you feel comfortable and well-informed. Understanding that the birth experience can be overwhelming, our team is dedicated to making it as smooth and comprehensible as possible.

From the moment you step into our facility, our commitment to open communication becomes apparent. We make it a priority to maintain a transparent conversation with our patients about their birth plan, making sure to explain every procedure and what to expect, and answer any questions that arise. This practice extends to our collaboration with physicians. We work in tandem, discussing patients’ conditions, progress, and necessary adjustments to the birth plan.

Centralized Monitoring and Post-Delivery Care

One of our key strategies for achieving the best health results is our use of centralized monitoring. This system allows for continuous, real-time oversight of both mother and baby’s health parameters, enabling swift response to any changes that occur. It provides an extra layer of safety and assurance that you’re in good hands.

Post-delivery care is another essential aspect that we focus on as part of our comprehensive approach. As your birth plan takes shape, we discuss various post-delivery decisions. These might include delayed cord clamping, which can have significant benefits for your newborn, or the choice of immediate skin-to-skin contact, fostering a unique bonding experience and promoting early breastfeeding.

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When Things Don’t Go According To Plan

Childbirth is unpredictable, and scenarios may necessitate a deviation from your initial plan, but such changes do not equate to failure. 

Listening to your doctor, even if their recommendations differ from your birth plan, is important for the safety and well-being of both you and your baby. Their expertise equips them to make informed decisions in complex and rapidly changing situations, always keeping your health as a top priority. Being open to their guidance and experience allows you to benefit from their knowledge, ensuring that any necessary medical interventions or adjustments to the plan are made with care and consideration. Trusting your doctor’s judgment and maintaining open communication throughout the birthing process fosters a partnership where your medical team can provide the best care, combining your preferences with their medical expertise to create a safe and positive birthing experience.

Beyond Birth

Our commitment to you goes beyond the labor and delivery phase. We offer a wide range of pre- and post-natal services designed to equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to care for your baby. These include prenatal education, childbirth classes, newborn care classes, and sibling caring classes, all delivered by our experienced and dedicated professionals. Our support continues even after you’ve left the hospital, with services like our outpatient Lactation Office and 24-hour hotline.

We aim to ensure that you feel supported, informed, and empowered at every step of your childbirth journey, and a birth plan is an important tool for communicating your preferences. However, it’s essential to be prepared for potential changes. At Baptist Health, we’re committed to helping you navigate this journey with the utmost care and compassion. Your plan may change, but our dedication to you and your baby never will.

In service,

Nicki Knowles

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About the author: Nicki Knowles began her career with Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock in 1991 as a nursing assistant in the Cardiac Telemetry unit. She graduated from Baptist Health College-Little Rock in 1992 with a degree in Registered Nursing and continued with the telemetry unit for six years. In 1998, Nicki transitioned to the Labor and Delivery unit after experiencing amazing care with the birth of her first child. She obtained her Bachelor’s in Nursing from Western Governors University in 2017 and her Master of Science in Nursing Leadership and Management in 2022.  Nicki served as the Nurse Manager of the Mother and Baby Unit for several years and in 2022 was named the Women and Children’s department director. 

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