Expert Advice

Birth Plan or Birth Preferences?

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Hurray! You’re pregnant and it’s time to plan for birth and baby. Are you asking yourself – what’s the difference between writing a birth plan or birth preferences?

It’s a valid question — the terms “birth plan” and “birth preferences” are often used interchangeably.

Your birth preferences are the foundation of your Birth Plan, and your first labor of love for your new babe. Only through research and education will you know what you like and don’t, what’s available for you medically, and what you think is best for your baby, your family.

By dedicating time to reading, researching, and talking with knowledgeable people, you will learn what your options are and have an educated opinion on what’s right for you.

It takes time and attention to be thorough and clear about your birth preferences of who, what, when, and where. Knowing your answers to a hundred questions gives you confidence – the beginning of the strength you’ll use during labor.


A Birth Plan is based on that mountain of birth preferences you chose and is a statement of your desires, but isn’t a legal document. It’s to help hospital staff or your birth team know what you want during labor and immediately after baby is born.

It should be only one page. Be friendly, concise, and clear. How you state your desires may influence staff to support you better.

In your plan, say where you want to give birth (home, birthing center, hospital), who will be there (partner, doula, friend, relative, your other children…), how you want to manage your labor (moving around, in bed, eating or drinking, un-medicated or medicated…), what medical interventions you allow or refuse (pain meds, episiotomy, routine IV…), what tools you want available (birthing tub, music, birth ball, pictures…), when you want your baby to be given to you (placed on your bare chest immediately at birth, after you’ve rested, at feeding…).

If you have strong feelings against routine actions the hospital takes — vitamin K injection, eye drops, cutting the cord immediately – include these preferences in your plan.

Some people create a labor and delivery plan, then a second one-page plan for post-partum, which states their desires for baby’s care.

Whether you have a low-risk or high-risk pregnancy, you can still have a birth plan. The health of mom and munchkin, the circumstances of labor and birth, and the flexibility of the people involved will determine what parts of it are realized.

Your doctor or midwife should have a copy for their files. Pack a second copy in your hospital bag.

With birth, flexibility is the name of the game. Labors and babies can be surprising. Things may not go exactly according to plan, but no matter how they go, they bring baby to you!


To learn more about including your birth preferences in your birth plan, 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: August 19, 2015 | Reviewed by: Kim Walls, Natural Products Expert, Elizabeth Bachner, LM, CPM, L.Ac., Midwife | Last reviewed: August, 2015

Kim WallsBirth Plan or Birth Preferences?

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