Birth plans have grown in popularity over the last several years as a tool to help improve communication during labor.
It’s becoming household knowledge that in the US, maternity care is in a bad way. Many families experience disrespect, coercion, and worse during one of the most meaningful experiences of their life. And for black people and people of color, it’s even more dire.
So it makes sense that birth plans have become a go-to for many families who want to be treated respectfully and autonomously, as a way to make their wishes known and their voices heard. The idea is that a birth plan helps parents become more involved in their care as they learn about the options for birth, and that a written birth plan helps communicate a family’s wishes with their care providers during labor.
But many birth plans are problematic.
It’s common for birth plans to fall into one or more of these categories:
They’re too long (it’s hard for nurses to read and fully digest a multiple-page birth plan while they’re managing care for several birthing people at a time),
They come off as defensive (many birth plans can feel a bit accusatory when read by care providers, rather than helping to build bridges of good communication)
They are based on misconceptions (when creating a birth plan, research and learning is necessary to find out more about certain medications, procedures, and monitoring options that may be offered during labor. But most birth plan templates don’t provide any education around these topics, so often parents are making decisions based on incomplete - or incorrect - information).
In late 2018, Motherboard Birth came on the scene “to reclaim what birth plans were meant to be: a concise, easy to read, positively-phrased list of your most important birth preferences.”
One of the things we hear often from our birth doula clients is, “I don’t know what questions to ask.” Motherboard is an online birth plan platform that also offers a ton of (free!) balanced, evidence-based educational content written for parents regarding the risks, benefits, and alternatives to common options involved with birth. This helps parents have more context so they can understand what types of questions they may want to ask. Many of the educational topics also include beautiful artistic renderings (the founder is also a renowned artist).
Motherboard offers paid memberships that allow parents to create their own Motherboard (birth plan) for vaginal and/or cesarean birth.
We include complimentary memberships for all our birth doula clients because we believe Motherboard has become the best resource available for parents to create a birth plan that actually helps to facilitate person-centered care and positive communication with care providers.
We know the founder and CEO of Motherboard Birth, Amy Haderer, personally, and are so excited to see where Motherboard is heading. Amy is a creative, soulful, dedicated birth professional who is committed to improving birth not only in her own community, but across the US (and probably beyond). She and her team designed this much-needed tool to bring parents and care providers together in a constructive way, and we’re so grateful and excited to have this resource available for our clients.
Amy was kind enough to answer some questions for us here to help parents learn more about this comprehensive resource as they prepare to welcome their little ones!
Tell us a bit about yourself, and what inspired you to create this project.
I've been a doula for 10 years now and am passionate about helping families navigate the birth process and make informed decisions. It can be so difficult to navigate all the information thrown at you while you're pregnant or giving birth, so I wanted to provide easy access to benefits/risks for each decision in a non-judgmental way. One of my birth clients, Andy, made the very first Motherboard almost 6 years ago. The nurses and docs loved it and I had an idea to pair content with a communication tool, their "Motherboard," aka visual birth preferences/birth plan. I think you are able to absorb information better when you are turning it into something interactive and fun.
How does Motherboard work?
STEP ONE: Sign up and start creating your first Board. You can create either a vaginal or cesarean birth board (or both), and you can make as many boards as you'd like to think through different scenarios (induction, medicated vs. not, etc).
STEP TWO: Research your options and select your preferences.
STEP THREE: Refine your preferences down to your "Sweet 15," your 15 most important preferences.
STEP FOUR: Invite your team and share. Invite anyone you want to support you as you make your Board (doula, care provider, friends, family, etc.). They will get a free, read-only linked account and can see all your preferences and your Motherboard in real time, from any device.
What does Motherboard offer expecting parents that they can’t find in other birth plan templates?
EVIDENCE-BASED INFORMATION: Most birth plan websites and templates are great for people who already know what they want, but Motherboard is for people who aren't sure what different procedures are, when they're appropriate, and what they mean for your birth.
COLLABORATION: Since our software is interactive, your care provider and support team can know what's important to you at a glance, from anywhere, on any device.
ONE PAGE: Motherboards are always one page and easy to read. We're bridging the gap between parents and care providers by prioritizing and simplifying that communication.
How does Motherboard help facilitate positive communication among all the members of the birth team?
POSITIVELY PHRASED: All of our options are positively phrased and flexible. No more "demanding" birth plans.
FLEXIBLE: Our content isn't black-and-white. Every procedure is a tool. We're about helping find the right tool for the right person at the right time.
DIFFERENT SCENARIOS: Create Boards for different situations, think through what your needs will be in those moments.
SUPPORT AT-A-GLANCE: Nurses and staff can know what's important to you and how to support you at-a-glance.
Why do you feel that the visual aspect of a birth plan is so important?
People get lost when there are too many words. Nurses and birth teams are unfortunately very busy. No one has time to read an entire paper, and often parents include things that the staff doesn't need to know (how they're getting to the hospital, who's taking care of their kids, etc). Pictures are so much easier to absorb and understand for everyone.
How do you envision Motherboard being used by new parents, childbirth educators, doulas, and medical professionals?
Parents can research, select, and share their birth preferences from anywhere. They can also look up content in the moment if they're faced with a decision they weren't anticipating (cesarean, offers to break the waters, pitocin, etc.).
Doulas and childbirth educators are able to work Motherboards into their prenatal visits, replacing traditional birth plans. They can also reference the content in classes and prenatal visits. We have also launched a Partner program which gives professionals access to community, teaching materials, illustrations, handouts, etc. Some educators are also creating add-on classes that help parents prioritize and review their Motherboards (or other birth plans), talk about informed decision-making, how to navigate hospital hierarchy, etc.
Care providers (doctors and midwives) can encourage people to sign up for Motherboard when they enter the practice, or partner with us to license the software. I recommend that they remind their patients to make their Motherboards around 32 weeks, then have a meeting around 35 weeks to go over their Motherboards and answer questions.
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“Motherboard is for people who aren't sure what different procedures are, when they're appropriate, and what they mean for your birth.”
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What aspect of Motherboard are you most excited about?
I'm most excited about including care providers, nurses, and teams in the process! I really think to have the best, most meaningful change we HAVE to engage and collaborate with medical professionals. Doula work, childbirth ed, birth plans... they only get you so far!
Is Motherboard intended for families planning any specific kind of birth? (Home birth, hospital birth, low-intervention birth, induction, cesarean...)
Any situation you can envision, we can help you made informed decisions! We have lots of content centered around cesarean births (because they ARE still births). There are many things you can advocate for that can help preserve some of the intimacy of a vaginal birth.
I want to help parents feel empowered, like they're a part of their birth process, not that their birth "happened to them." Helping parents make decisions even in an un-wished-for or unanticipated event is so important for reducing birth trauma.
Are there any misconceptions about this project you've heard that you want to clear up?
Some feedback I've gotten is that the content is “too overwhelming." It's definitely a challenge to have content that's both thorough but not too overwhelming. It's why I broke the content down to "In a Nutshell" first, which is basically what that topic is about in 2-5 sentences. Parents can build on that basic knowledge until they feel "full."
Some people also don't like that you can only select 15 options to include on a Board, but that was a very deliberate choice as well. Studies show that satisfaction actually goes DOWN if you have more than 15 options, because there's more of a chance you don't get something you asked for. Motherboards aren't meant to be a laundry list of everything you want or don't want. It's saying "Hey, I know this is unpredictable, but if we can preserve these 15 things I'll be super happy." This is how we bridge the gap with providers. No more six page birth plans!
The last misconception is that doulas and educators need to pay to use Motherboard. Your invited collaborator account is 100% free. The only reason you'd pay is if you wanted to provide memberships to your clients through the Partner Program.
How do you envision Motherboard growing? What are your biggest aspirations for this project?
We're doing a "bottom-up" approach: Parent offerings first, then doulas/educators, then care providers, then hospitals, then systems, then insurance companies (though insurance can come in at any time!).
Right now I'm working on creating an OB Navigator program to train nurses how to use our software, lead Navigator meetings, and discuss preferences with new families. My BIG dream would be to integrate Motherboard into care providers’ offices to communicate and collaborate prenatally, then have our content on the L&D floor to help families make educated decisions. I'll know I've "arrived" when I can help systems center care around families in a more sophisticated way.