From birth plan to birth partnership: enhancing communication in childbirth

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Jan;216(1):31.e1-31.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2016.09.087. Epub 2016 Sep 21.


Birth plans were developed with the intention of enhancing a woman's prepared decision-making in the labor and delivery process and to offer obstetric care providers with important details about those decisions. Through the use of birth plans, women can reflect on their values and choices regarding what care practices and interventions they do and do not want in birth; they can communicate these values in advance to their care providers. However, birth plans are often ineffective at accomplishing their goals for a number of reasons. They may reflect outdated concerns about routine practices or overly emphasize minor matters. Many popular pregnancy websites offer birth plans that use checklist formats, and women who use these are not counseled about which options may require or preclude other options. Some women may have inappropriately rosy expectations of how their labor and delivery processes will progress or have received poor advice. The use of a birth plan may invoke hostility from hospital staff members who may disregard the plans and look down on the women who make them. An alternative approach to the use of birth plans to enhance a woman's participation and informed consent in the birth process is the birth partnership, in which women and their obstetric care providers take time to discuss thoroughly the choices to be made in birth in advance to have those choices best reflect the values of the woman giving birth. Meeting to discuss values and choices before labor offers the opportunity for mutual education between provider and patient about the choices to be made and the values that inform those choices. Effective communication and working to build mutual trust can serve as preventive measures to avoid many conflicts that arise in the birth process.

Keywords: decision making; labor; pregnancy; pregnancy outcome; prenatal care.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obstetrics
  • Parturition*
  • Patient Participation*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care