Ahh…the birth plan – that mighty document everyone talks about but which to you may seem mysterious or complicated. Maybe your friends have already written theirs, or maybe you are the first in your tribe to need one. Either way, writing a birth plan is a project you’ll need to think about in order to know two important things:
- What matters to you
- What’s possible with your pregnancy health status
Studies have shown that women who write birth plans are more confident during labor and delivery.
When should I start writing my birth plan?
Many people begin writing their birth plan as soon as they know they’re pregnant. Some people wait until the last minute. Even if you start in the middle of your pregnancy you still have a lot of time to think about the choices involved.
Your birth plan is a type of research project about your dreams, values, and what’s right for your family. By imagining what your perfect labor and birth would look like you’ve started writing your birth plan without even putting pen to paper.
When you imagine the birth of your baby, who do you see you there? Where are you? What’s happening around you?
As you think about your birth and the answers to those few questions above, you are beginning to think about your birth preferences. Those preferences are the foundation of your birth plan.
Some people are very specific about what they want
This means they’ll need to do a lot of research to figure out how to get as close as possible to their dream birth. These people know where they’ll feel best giving birth, who they want with them, and whether or not they’ll use things like movement, music, or medication.
If this is you, writing your birth plan must begin with deciding which birth preferences you’ll include. These can require significant time and energy to research. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll find the answers that will put your mind at ease.
If you don’t want this kind of control – and feel best leaving most of the decisions to the doctor, nurses, or midwife – you may not need to do as much research. Your birth plan could be much simpler, in which case you can start later to write it.
Many people enjoy spending a lot of time during pregnancy questioning, thinking about, and planning for their baby’s birth.
That’s the beauty of having nine long months of preparation time and those delicious hormones that tend to make us quiet and reflective. You have a lot of time to write, change your mind, and make a new birth plan–as many times as you want!
Either way, your birth plan needs to fit onto one page.
Who should I expect to help me figure out my birth plan?
Answering the multitude of questions that become part of a birth plan isn’t solely your job. Many other people can give you input, if you want it.
If you have one, your partner can be a main contributor. After all, they will probably be with you during your labor and delivery. They may have strong preferences that could affect how comfortable they feel and how well they can support you during the intense hours you’ll spend together bringing baby into this world.
Your care provider
They are an important source of information and answers to your questions. But more than that, talking with them about your birth preferences and your vision for labor and delivery opens up the conversations you need to have so that you’re both on the same page. Talking with your care provider will show you if you both think the same way, if your care provider will work with you, or if you need to get a second opinion in order to plan the birth of your dreams.
Friends and family
They can offer you their experience and knowledge, if you want it. Talking with your friends who have given birth can help you decide on your own preferences. They can tell you what worked and what didn’t work for them. Try to keep these conversations as helpful as possible and not drift into drama.
Groups like La Leche League
New mother support groups, or prenatal classes can all be great sources of information. If you plan to have a doula, she can tell you what has worked for other people and you can brainstorm together to clarify what’s important to you.
Remember, medical issues that change your pregnancy risk level can also change your birth plan. Care providers, doulas, and prenatal educators can help you write a birth plan that accommodates your medical needs but is flexible in case emergencies arise.
What should a birth plan include?
A birth plan explains what you want to happen during your labor, delivery, and afterward. By knowing what your vision is, it helps everyone involved in your birth work together. It should also include some statement about what happens in case of an emergency.
There are many, many choices to make about your birth. But here are the big ones most people include in even the simplest of birth plans:
- Where will you give birth?
- Who will attend you at your birth?
- Do you want your partner with you?
- Do you want your other children with you?
- Do you want a natural birth or do you want medication for pain?
- Do you want fetal monitoring?
- Do you want to eat and drink during labor?
- Do you want to move around during labor?
- Do you want immediate skin-to-skin contact with your new baby?
- Who’s going to cut the cord, and when?
- If you have a cesarean section and your partner is in the operating room with you, do you want your partner to hold baby immediately?
- Do you want to nurse immediately, as soon as baby is ready?
- Are you going to breastfeed exclusively?
- If you’re in the hospital, do you want your baby to be given sugar water or a bottle?
- Do you want your baby to have eye drops?
- Do you want your baby to have a vitamin K shot?
- If you’re in the hospital, where do you want baby to sleep?
So, these are some of the main question people answer in their birth plans. For help writing your birth plan and considering some things you might not normally think of, click here for a thorough guide to help you think through these important choices.
To learn more about good questions to ask, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.
This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.
Published: December 15, 2016 | By SP Turgon, Certified Labor Doula | Reviewed by: The Best Ever Baby Expert Team | Last reviewed: December, 2016