A birth plan is a document that contains everything you would like to happen before and during your labor and after birth. Creating a birth plan is by no means compulsory however it can be a great tool to help your healthcare providers understand your preferences and help you manage expectations.
How to plan?
It’s recommended to sit down with your doctor or midwife well before your due date and discuss all the details. A birth plan is a great tool to help you with this conversation and make sure that everything you envisioned is covered and possible.
Keep in mind that a birth plan is not a legal document and it’s not legally binding. This also applies to you and you have the right to change your mind about certain things even during your labor.
Chances are that if your plan was previously discussed and approved by your practitioner it can be carried out the way you planned it but it’s important to remain somewhat flexible.
It’s essential that the document states your name and all your relevant personal information. This is especially important in case your labor starts at an unexpected time and the doctors and nurses on call might not have met you before. If you need assistance or an interpreter during your labor make sure you discuss it and make arrangements in advance.
Most births take place in hospitals but some people prefer to give birth in birthing centers or at home. Make sure you clearly state your desired location in your plan. This should be decided well before your due date however it’s good to have it included in your birth plan.
This is especially important during a home birth. Make sure you note the room you would ideally like to give birth in and all the details that are important for you (the lighting and the clothing you would like to wear for example). If you are giving birth in a hospital medical students sometimes monitor or assist procedures. Make a note in your birth plan whether you are comfortable with it or not.
Company (photo of people in the delivery room)
Name one person who you would like to be your main support throughout your labor and delivery. This can be your partner, a family member, or even paid help like a doula. Make sure you name everyone you would like to be allowed in the room. This should be discussed with your healthcare provider in advance. Most places will have a limit as to how many people can be present without disturbing the help. It’s a good idea to clearly state whom you would like to cut the cord and help you postpartum.
Most hospitals will only allow one birthing position, however, if you have opted for a home birth you have many different options available. Make sure you note what you would like to try in your plan and discuss it with your midwife beforehand.
This is one of the most often discussed parts of a birth plan and one of the most important ones too. Many mothers feel very strongly about their pain management methods while in labor. You should clearly state what is your accepted method of pain relief in your birth plan. Make a note whether you want epidural and if so when? If you have any alternative ways of dealing with the pain – for example massage or acupressure – it’s important to mention them here as well in order to avoid any confusion in the delivery room.
Make sure you discuss the possible delivery help methods if your labor is not progressing and state clearly in your birth plan your accepted procedures. There are multiple methods doctors can use to help you along such as episiotomy or vacuum-assisted-delivery. Discuss them with your practitioner before your due date. You should understand the potential risks that come with them before including them in your birth plan.
After birth care (photo of a newborn in hospital)
You have some decisions to make after your baby was born. Would you like the nurses to clean and wrap your baby before holding them or would you prefer skin-to-skin contact straight away? Delayed cord clamping is considered general practice in most places however it could be a good idea to include it in your birth plan. In most cases, your baby will be offered a Vitamin K injection straight after birth. If you prefer them to have it orally make sure you make a note.
Discuss any possible requests (religious or other) well before your due date. Let them know if you would like your child to be circumcised. Remember to include your preferred feeding method as well, whether you would like to breastfeed or use formula instead. Some hospitals allow your newborn to stay in your room overnight instead of the nursery. If you would prefer to keep your baby with you include it in your plan as well.
Have a solid plan for an emergency situation as well. This is especially important in case you are giving birth at home. Make sure you have the details of your preferred hospital included as well as all emergency contacts. If you have any preferences in case a c-section is needed make sure you include it in your birth plan.
A good birth plan can be a very handy tool especially if you go into labor at an unexpected time and the doctors and nurses are not fully aware of your do’s and don’ts. It’s better to have a written plan laid out that they can just read through rather than having to explain what you want while distracted and in pain. Keep the plan short, no more than one page and you can also use bullet points or highlighted keywords. Remember that even if the doctor and the nurses know you they probably assist many other births. A well-written birth plan can be a helpful reminder to make sure they are aware of all the details as well.
Is there anything else you would add to your birth plan? Let us know down in the comments!