Having a baby is an intense, life-changing experience and you will want it to be just right, which is why a birth plan is so important. Although you don’t have control over when your baby will arrive, you can at least plan how you would like the labor and delivery process to go. Before you get started on your birth plan, write down a few ideas about what you think your ideal birthing situation would look like.
Your birth plan is going to be a one-page statement that outlines all of your preferences surrounding the birth of your little one. There should be one copy made for every person who is attending the birth, so that everyone can work together. Your birth plan should be laid out well in advance of your deliver date, so that any potential conflicts can be handled.
Although we always have an ideal situation in our minds as to what our birth and delivery will look like, it is important to remember that every birth is different and there are some occasions where it may be in the best interest of the baby to divert from your plan. By being somewhat flexible you can ensure that your labor and deliver runs smoothly.
Step One: Considerations
First you will want to find out all the procedures and guidelines for taking care of the mother and child during labor and delivery where you plan to give birth. If there are certain routine procedures that you don’t agree with you will have time to talk it out with your doctor or midwife. Once you completely understand how the process works you will be able to fully formulate your birth plan.
Below are some questions you may want to ask yourself in order to get a better idea of what you want to include in your birth plan:
- Who do you want there with you?
- Are you hiring a doula?
- Do you want your other children present?
- Do you wish to be mobile throughout labor and delivery?
- Are there certain activities you want to be allowed to do? IE: walking, squatting, hands and knees, etc.
- Are there certain birthing positions you prefer?
- What pain relief options do you prefer? IE: medication, massage, relaxation, shower or tub, etc.
- Are you okay with fetal monitoring?
- Do you have any preferences for keeping hydrated? IE: IV, ice chips, small drinks.
- Do you have a preferred pain medication, or do you want to avoid them all together?
- How do you feel about an episiotomy?
- What would you prefer when it comes to your baby’s care after birth?
- Would you prefer an IV or no?
- What would you like to wear? IE: hospital gown, your own clothes, nothing at all, etc.
- Would you like music in the room?
- If giving birth at home or at a birth center, do you have a plan for hospital transport if needed?
- Are there any special requirement s in case of a cesarean section?
Talk To Your Health Care Provider
Health care providers are generally used to having a certain set routine in how a labor and birth is handled. As such, some health care providers may not be as open to changes in the routine as you would hope. It is important that you don’t present your birth plan as a list of “I wants” or demands, rather it is merely a guideline of your preferences or wishes in a normal birthing situation. By keeping this in mind you will get more cooperation, and be less disappointed if things don’t turn out as planned.
Besides the delivering doctor or midwife, you will want to have support staff review your birth plan as well so they can provide their input. If there are certain areas that both sides cannot agree on you may want to consider looking at other hospitals or birthing centers, as some can be more flexible than others.
Many women, once labor actually begins have a habit of surrendering to the staff against their own wishes. If you have a birth plan then try to stick with it, as it will give you the confidence you need to stay in control of your birthing experience. If you have already gone over your birth plan with the staff and doctor, then there is no reason to deviate from it unless an emergency occurs. Remember that this is your birth and as long as everything progresses normally you are in control.
When you are finalizing your birth plan, try to use positive statements instead of negative ones. For example, replace phrases like “we don’t want” or “we want to avoid” with “we plan to” or “we hope to”. Giving your birth plan a positive spin helps will help to keep you positive should you have to deviate from your plan.
Here are some sample phrases to use:
- Pain management: I understand the types of pain medication available. If I feel the need for pain medication I will ask for it.
- Episiotomy: I hope to protect my perineum, and have been practicing ahead of time to give it more flexibility (massage, Kegels). I would like to avoid an episiotomy if possible, and thus would appreciate guidance on when it is the right time to push, or stop pushing to allow the perineum to stretch.
- Baby: I would like to keep the baby near me right after the birth. Unless there is an emergency or unusual situation I would prefer that the baby be evaluated while staying with me.