The Birth Plan
Beyond a structured prenatal care system, physicians delivering babies should use birth plans to reduce conflicts and misunderstandings surrounding the delivery. Avoiding such conflicts can reduce the likelihood of litigation and improve the quality of medical care. The best way to reduce conflict is to make agreements in advance about what will be done in a normal delivery and what will be necessary if an emergency arises. A written birth plan provides a vehicle for exploring the expectations of patients who are either reticent to state their preferences or who have not yet considered the issues attendant upon delivery. The exercise of preparing the plan gives the physician an opportunity to determine the patient’s level of sophistication and to educate her about the childbearing process. This avoids misunderstandings about which items are a matter of convenience or comfort and which are medically necessary.