A Birth Plan is a brief written document outlining your preferences for giving birth. While it can help you communicate your wishes for giving birth, the word “plan” is a bit of a misnomer. Many birth professionals point out that your plan may change, because delivering a baby is a dynamic process and unexpected twists and turns can arise. So while a Birth Plan can help you feel educated and empowered when it’s time to meet your baby, it’s equally important to be flexible if things don’t go as you’d hoped.
How to Create a Birth Plan
When creating a birth plan keep these points in mind:
First, learn about the birth process. Stating preferences without fully understanding them (especially when it comes to pain management and medical interventions) can create confusion during labor and cause unnecessary disappointment if things don’t go as you’d hoped.
Avoid using a pre-designed birth plan or copying one from the internet. These can serve as a starting point and guide, but experts warn that using them for your final Birth Plan can discourage really learning about the birth process.
Once you decide where you want to give birth, tour the facility and ask if they can accommodate things that are important to you (such as holding your baby skin-to-skin for a certain period of time immediately after delivery).
Keep your birth plan brief! One page of easy-to-read bullet points is more likely to be read and remembered.
Keep it positive. Birth professionals agree that demanding birth plans tend to create unnecessary negativity or even hostility around the birth process. A positive tone promotes mutual respect.
Review your Birth Plan with your healthcare provider well ahead of your due date. This allows you to communicate and get on the same page about your wishes.
What to Include in a Birth Plan
This includes your name, due date, and the names and phone numbers of your healthcare provider and pediatrician.
List anything (pregnancy-related or not) that could impact you or your baby during and after labor and delivery.
Who you want in the room.
List any family members, friends, or support persons (like a doula). If you plan to give birth at a teaching hospital and do not want students present, state that.
How you hope to give birth.
This could be vaginally, via Cesarean-section, VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section), or even a water birth.
Your preferences for labor.
Do you want to be able to walk around, use a birth ball, take a shower, listen to music, or do anything else during labor?
Your preferences for managing pain.
Do you want an epidural? Another type of pain medication? Do you wish to avoid pain medication and use an alternative, such as breathing techniques?
This is a good place to point out the importance of flexibility. Research shows that a surprising number of women who wished to avoid an epidural ended up getting one. What’s more, greater than 90% of women who got an epidural were happy with their decision. That isn’t to discourage you from avoiding pain medication, it’s just to remind you it’s okay to change your mind.
Anything you hope to avoid.
This could include labor-inducing medications like Pitocin, procedures like an episiotomy or a C-section, or continuous fetal monitoring. Perhaps more than any other part of your Birth Plan, be sure to communicate with your healthcare provider about things you hope to avoid, and understand what types of circumstances might lead to them being recommended or required.
Your post-birth preferences.
Do you want to hold your baby skin-to-skin or breastfeed her immediately after she’s born? If so, for how long? Do you want to be with your baby (or have a support person present) for post-birth procedures like bathing and getting checked by a pediatrician? Do you plan to have blood from your baby’s umbilical cord collected and stored (you can read what the American Academy of Pediatrics says about cord blood banking here)? If your baby is a boy, do you want to have him circumcised?
Once you’ve finalized your Birth Plan, make several copies and pack it in your birth bag. Wondering what else to pack? Head over here to find out.