So you’ve thought of all things baby: names, monitors and how cute those little baby socks are. Now, it’s time to think about the big day. Labor might be closer than you think, so here are a few tips while you construct your birth plan.
What’s a Birth Plan?
Think of your birth plan as a checklist for your medical team. It’s all of your preferences related to labor and delivery, medical options and the immediate care of your newborn. It serves as a guide for when you’re in active labor, so you don’t have to worry about anything besides bringing your baby into the world.
While you can’t control everything during labor, a well thought out birth plan can help you play a role in key decisions.
Before You Begin
Birth plans can be simple or lengthy—it’s completely up to you. But before you start writing it all down, consult with your medical team, insurance and hospital about what’s available to you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! They want the best experience possible for you.
We recommend scheduling a guided tour of the hospital or birthing center, or request a list of services the location provides. It’s important to research your chosen location’s services beforehand so you know what to expect. Do they have labor and birthing equipment (birthing balls, stools, tubs, etc.)? How many people can be in the delivery room at a time? This will help you better grasp your own preferences as you get to know your location better.
When you start putting pen to paper, staying positive is key, the American Pregnancy Association explains. “Instead of making a list of what you don’t want, focus on what you do want.” Also, try to avoid exclusionary phrases like, “we don’t want” or “under no circumstances.” Labor and delivery is unpredictable, so let your staff know you understand your plans may change.
So you’ve done your research, what’s next? Start simple. With any birth, these are the things you need to note, as outlined by Pampers.
- Your name
- Your baby’s due date
- The doctor, midwife, doula and pediatrician’s contact information
- Where you’d like to give birth (in a hospital, birthing center or at home)
- The birthing location’s address and contact details
- The name and contact info of your birth partner or support person who will be with you during labor and delivery.
- Any important medical issues your medical team should be aware of (high blood pressure, any allergies to medicines, etc.)
Your birth plan doesn’t need to be exhaustive to be effective. We recommend keeping it short and concise. Stick to one page (if possible) and use bullet points.
Your Delivery Room Must-haves
Besides your birthing partner and medical staff, what does your delivery room need to make you most comfortable? This can be anything from additional support—like a parent or best friend—to your favorite band playing. Would you like to wear your own clothes or the hospital gown? If you have a preference, make note of it.
Outlining your labor preferences is probably the most important thing on your list. Here are some things to consider when planning your labor experience according to Texas Children’s Hospital and Cook’s Children’s.
- Delivery method of choice (Vaginal, caesarean, VBAC)
- Birthing position of choice
- Who will assist you at birth (OB/GYN, doula, midwife)
- Will you use pain management?
- What should you know about fetal monitoring?
- Pushing and delivery details, such as would you like coaching from a nurse? Would you like to see your pushing with a mirror?
- What are your thoughts on episiotomies?
- How do you feel about assisted birth details, such as using forceps, or vacuum extraction if necessary?
- What pre-labor procedures do you want? (Enemas, shaving the pubic area, etc.)
- What do you want to happen immediately after delivery? (Delayed cord clamping, cord blood donation?)
- What will happen with baby and the post-birth care? (Immediate skin to skin, breast vs. bottle feeding, rooming-in)
Even if you plan your birth backwards and forwards, things might not go according to plan. And if things deviate, it’s important to note your preferences in these circumstances, as stated by Texas Children’s:
- If an induction of labor is indicated
- If an operative delivery is indicated
- If a cesarean delivery is required
- Visitation: Do you want your family in the room right away, or would you like alone time with your partner and baby?
Discuss Your Plan
Now that you’ve dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s, have a chat with your medical team and partner so you are all on the same page—your birth plan may be limited by your physician’s philosophy or your birthing center’s policies. Discussing your plan early will help all parties understand how they can make you most comfortable on that special day.
Once you’ve finalized your plan, print and disperse copies to your birthing partner and necessary medical staff. You’re ready. Congrats, Mom!
Need Extra Guidance?
These hospitals have birth plan templates:
Giving birth at a birthing center? Reach out to see if they have any templates you could use.
Image courtesy of iStock.