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Say What?! Nurses Weigh In on ‘Ridiculous’ Birth Plans

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It’s no secret how I feel about homebirth (loved my experience with it and fully support a woman’s right to it in a healthy pregnancy) and why I chose it for my second birth and this upcoming one (a pretty traumatic hospital birth—due mostly to feeling like even my simplest wishes were disregarded and ending up with numerous interventions as a result). I know that a lot of women feel that they have very positive birth experiences in hospitals, and I’m happy for them—but it’s not something I ever want to subject myself to again unless there is a medically necessary reason, and a large part of my negative hospital birth experience was because of a particularly callous nursing staff. Don’t get me wrong—I have tremendous respect for nursing as a profession and know that there are many, many phenomenal nurses out there (we worked with a number of them while my mom was being treated for breast cancer, and I’m grateful for the excellent, compassionate care they provided)—but there are also a number of them (as in any profession) who have, maybe, gotten so used to doing things in a particular way that it’s very hard for them to consider other methods of accomplishing the same task.  A recent FB post by Scrubs magazine (for nurses) asking, “Nurses! We wanna know: What is the most ridiculous birth plan you've ever heard? We’ll publish the best answers in a future article!” has been getting moms around the web fired up about attitudes toward and treatment of laboring moms.

Some nurses weighed in with comments like:

  • The people who come to the hospital and won't let you do anything to them. No saline lock, no vitals, no vag exam, no fetal monitoring. NOTHING! I feel like asking them "Why didn't you just stay home?"
  • It involved an African birthing swing. Unfortunately there are no trees on L&D to hold it up.
  • Giving birth in a pool of dolphins yes I understand they are sweet creatures but they stillll animals
  • The greater the detail in a birth plan, the greater the likelihood of a stat C/section...
  • got to love the cookie cutter ones off the internet... i don't want an IV I don't want this I don't want that.. should have done a home birth then... birthplan= every intervention available will need to be done.. its Karma 
  • Sad to say but every birth plan I ever saw was ridiculous! Not to mention it was always a curse that led to a c-section!

Which led some other nurses and plenty of moms to chime in with responses like:

  • I am absolutely appalled that Scrubs Magazine would post something asking for nurses to ridicule and demean patients! This is the reason women feel the need to write a birth plan--because they KNOW they will not be respected. Shame [sic] on you!!!
  • Birth is a sacred and holy event to some.mothers. when is the plan for the greatest moment in a woman's life ridiculous? And maybe the no exam no fetal monitoring weirdos couldn't stay home for some reason? Maybe they couldn't find a midwife or don't have adequate home support? Just because they don't want intervention doesn't mean they don't want needed and justifiable medical intervention available? (All the more reason to normalize homebirth/unassisted.childbirth since folks don't want to treat laboring moms humanely)
  • I can not believe that this huge thread demeaning patients exists. While I may not agree with every decision a client of mine makes, it is NOT my place to judge her, it is my job to support her and do my best to help her meet her goals. Just something to think about...
  • maybe if birth plans were respected and the patients feelings were validated "those women" wouldnt end up with ao many complications. while my plan wasnt in writing, i made my wishes known, and then overheard my nurse badmouthing me in the hall. all over a heplock. fortunately they switched her with someone more supportive and i went on to have a beautiful natural birth. but it truly is a shame that we have to fight for it with someone that views us as cattle.
  • What is unusual is to hinder a completely normal physiological process by making a woman lie on her back hooked to wires and monitors, doing uneccessary exams and other interventions, stripping her of her voice, not allowing her to eat, drink, or move as she pleases, then separating mom and baby immediately after birth, which can cause all sorts of issues. THAT is what is unusual. MANY things mentioned here as "ridiculous" is actually how NORMAL birth should be.
  • I had a birth plan with my second. I did not curse myself to c-section by having a birth plan. I had a wonderful med-free, intervention free VBAC. But I also had supportive nurses. Connection? I think so!
  • This is what's wrong with a big part of the medical community. So sad to see women put down because they try to have a voice. Thank god I never had to deal with nurses like some of you when I had my first, I would've left the hospital!
  • I would have hated to have nurses like some of the women posting on here. I'm thankful for doctors and nurses who respected my wishes and let me labor in a quiet room, dim lights, music playing, let me walk around and bounce on my birth ball, and only checked me when I asked them to. When they checked our vitals, we were stress free and perfect. Everything went exactly how I wanted to and that's hugely related to having a great support team. I even had the nurses and on call doctor talking about how awesome I did my entire stay there...the on call doctor even called my doctor and told her all about it! It CAN be done and it's beautiful. Nurses need to learn more about it. I had some tell me I wasn't "allowed" to move around before I went in...they truly have no clue!!!!
  • if there are things in the plan that are truly unsafe (not just things you are uncomfortable with) then that should be discussed in a patient and understanding way with the parents, they deserve to know why you cannot follow heir wishes, and they deserve to be respected throughout the process. no matter how "ridiculous" you think they are being. they are still people, and they are supposed to be experiencing something beautiful, just like all the "normal" people that let you do whatever you want. 
  • I will share what my "ridiculous" birth plan entailed, and was subsequently ridiculed by my doctor. I wanted the unreasonable ability to walk during labor (gasp!), not be offered pain relief unless I asked about it (so stupid!), and that hospital-policy-breaking intermittent fetal monitoring (life threatening!). I also wanted to be able to have water instead of ice chips (completely insane!), delay cord clamping (ridiculous!) and wanted to breastfeed my baby immediately after the birth before anything else was done to her (complete idiocy!). All was stated in a "in the event of labor progressing normally" viewpoint. But alas, my ridiculousness was laughed at and I took my business elsewhere. I got on board with those trendy Amish... Had all 4 of my babies at home (shocking!!). As a worker in the birth field, this is excellent information to put in the hands of those I come in contact with. Your willingness to ridicule a woman/couple for having the audacity to want a voice in the most important event in their lives is discouraging to say the least.
  • I hope that every medical "professional" who responds with their story gets fired. Because you have just COMPLETELY missed the point of your job. You are a boil on the face of humanity.
  • WOW. I had a birth plan (actually called it "birth preferences") with both my previous delivers. First ended in c-section due to Dr giving me too much pit. No fetal distress, just worried he had overdone it. Second was a beautiful VBAC in a different, supportive hospital, with an an amazing nurse who respected my wishes and sat with me for 4 hours while I pushed my asynclitic baby out! I'm due any day with my third, will be delivering at the same hospital and have a simple, 1 page, bullet style, birth preferences sheet typed up. This hospital ENCOURAGES women to have a preference sheet. Yes, some women come in completely uneducated about birth, but don't punish those of us who come in informed and prepared.
  • This posted question and answers are appalling. You are professional and if this how you treat people, get out. Putting an IV in someone without consent, coerced vag exams, procedures etc. Its called medical rape. In the ER, I would lose my job and license if I did any of these things to a competent person. You will be sued. You deserve to be punished. It is just a matter of time. TAKE DOWN THIS THREAD.

The magazine eventually commented in the same thread that it would like to re-phrase the question from “ridiculous” to “unusual,” but that hasn’t silenced its critics. While it might be easy to just chalk this up to a social media misstep, unfortunately, I think that it’s part of a more systemic problem that leads medical staff to view pregnant and laboring women as opponents and vice versa. While obviously a hospital isn’t going to provide a pool of dolphins in which to birth, what’s so wrong about a laboring mom wanting to have to ask for pain relief instead of having it pushed on her or requesting intermittent fetal monitoring (like I did—and was denied because of “hospital policy” which as it turns out was a bald-faced lie by my less-than-awesome nurse) instead of continuous monitoring, to allow her to walk around to help labor progress instead of getting strapped into a bed on her back? There’s no question that birth plans need to be viewed by expectant parents as what they hope or wish for—not a guarantee of what’s to come, as there may be reasons why certain requests can’t be honored—but to ridicule and ignore those women for wanting the best possible birth experience is downright callous, unprofessional and in some cases even dangerous.

Did you have a birth plan for a hospital birth? What did it request—and was any or all of it honored? Please share below in the comments!

Edited to add: the editors of Scrubs magazine have since apologized, pulled the offending post, and announced their intentions to do a more in-depth look into birth plans on Scrubsmag.com. They're now inviting feedback from nurses about the "importance of birth plans and respecting parents' wishes." Kudos to all who spoke up about the original post and to the magazine editors who listened.

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