What is a Birth Plan? Tips for Creating Your Ideal Plan
You’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about all things baby during your pregnancy: names, which car seat to buy, whether you’d like to breastfeed, whether you plan on staying home or heading back to work after birth. But if you haven’t already, it can be helpful to give some thought to your labor and delivery experience. Now is the perfect time to create a birth plan. The big day will be here before you know it!
To help figure out if a birth plan makes sense for you, read on for tips on what to include and the benefits of having your preferences all in one place as well as a birth plan template to help you get started.
What is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is just what it sounds like – a written plan that communicates your wishes and goals for before, during, and after labor and delivery. In it, parents-to-be share their best-case birthing scenario and how they’d ideally like labor and delivery to play out if all goes according to “plan.” Besides listing your preferences, a birth plan factors in what’s practical, what’s feasible, and what your practitioner and hospital or birthing center can accommodate.
Review your birth plan with your partner and anyone else who will be with you in the delivery room, such as a labor coach or doula. Then ask your doctor to take a look at your birth plan, too. Your doctor, or the hospital or birth center, may have their own delivery policies. Reviewing your birth plan ahead of time gives you time to help resolve any potential conflicts.
Once your birth plan is finished, highlight keywords and preferences on it for fast reference. That way if a care provider only has time to glance at it, they will easily be able to spot the most important elements of your birth plan.
Give a copy to your doctor to keep with your medical records, and pack another copy in your hospital bag to bring to the hospital or birth center. You’ll also want to give copies of your birth plan to anyone who will be with you during labor and bring a few copies with you to the hospital or birth center. This way you can have them available for the nurses on your labor and delivery and postpartum teams.
Birth Plan Checklist
There’s no right or wrong way to write a birth plan. Some birth plan checklists cover just the basics, while others are extremely detailed. Every expecting mom is different, both in what she’d like out of the birth experience and what she can likely expect given her particular pregnancy profile and history, so every birth plan should be individualized.
- Your name
- Support person’s name
- Hospital/birthing center
- Due date/induction date
- Practitioner’s name
- Before-labor care plan
- Health factors
- Planned delivery method
- Birth team
A birth plan is in place to help you feel most at ease during your birthing experience, and setting a proper atmosphere in the delivery room can play a big part in how you feel during the process. Think about what will help you feel most comfortable. Would you like the lights dimmed? Do you want your room as quiet as possible or would you prefer soft music? Would you like a support person to take photos or a video of your labor or birth?
Pain management during labor is an important consideration. You may not plan to have an epidural, but you could change your mind during labor. Or you may know that you definitely want to have an epidural, if possible. As you’re defining your birth plan, ask your doctor about your options for pain relief as well as any questions you have about them. These could include breathing or massage.
Labor & Delivery Preferences
Be clear about how you want to labor, the manner in which you will manage labor pain, and what labor procedures you are comfortable with. Just keep in mind that some of your preferences may need to be adjusted depending on how your labor is progressing. Include any preferences you have for your labor. For example, do you want to walk around freely? Do you want to use a birthing stool, ball, or chair? Would you like to take a warm shower or bath?
When it comes to delivery, there are many options to consider for your baby’s birth. If you’re planning on a vaginal birth, would you prefer not to have an episiotomy unless it’s medically necessary? Do you want a mirror to see your baby’s birth? Would you like your partner to cut the umbilical cord? Do you want your baby placed on your abdomen right after delivery? If you need a C-section, who would you like with you in the delivery room?
Newborn Care in the Hospital
Once your baby’s born, you’ll need to think about feeding and care. For example, do you want to breastfeed right after delivery? Or are you thinking about bottle feeding or combining bottle feeding with breastfeeding? Would you like your baby in the hospital room with you at all times, or would you prefer your baby stay in the nursery sometimes? Is it okay for the medical staff to offer your baby a pacifier or sugar water? If your baby is a boy, would you like them circumcised at the hospital?
Creating a birth plan can be a helpful step in your labor, delivery, and postpartum plans. Not only will it help give you peace of mind, but it will also help your medical team understand your ideal situations. That being said, your medical team will likely try to stick as close to your plan as possible, but their main goal is to have a healthy delivery for you and baby. Be prepared for your birth plan to not 100% go to plan, but know that no matter how your birth story goes, the end will be worth it!