When we wrote our birth plan for our first baby, my husband and I were surprised to realize how many things we hadn’t thought about before. Who was going to cut the cord? Did we want our newborn wiped off or just handed directly to me for skin-to-skin contact? Did we want to circumcise? Eek! Those questions hadn’t even crossed our minds yet, and we were so glad that we had a chance to research and consider our decisions before delivery.
A good birth plan can be a great way to communicate your wishes to your health care providers or doula. A birth plan is a written out description of what you would like your birth to look like and what procedures you desire to have or wish to avoid. It is a great exercise to help moms and dads-to-be consider decisions and details about their upcoming birth.
But I want to be clear about what a birth plan is NOT: It is a not a guarantee that your birth will go exactly as planned. It is not your ticket to an easy and perfect birth experience. Every birth is different and complications sometimes arise that change our well-crafted plans. So think about your birth plan as a well-thought out expression of your ideal wishes for your birth (and keep a big dose of flexibility right by your side!)
At my second child’s birth, one of our nurses actually loved how we structured our birth plan so much that she asked to keep a copy of it to use as a model for a birthing class she teaches. So, I wanted to share some ideas for you mamas-to-be to consider as you’re brainstorming.
Composing your birth plan:
- Keep your birth plan short enough that it’s readable.
- Include and emphasize your most important priorities for your birth experience.
- Be well-informed and confident in your birth choices; however, be kind and tactful. Try to avoid a condescending or hostile tone. You want anyone who might be assisting you (midwife, OB/GYN, doula, or hospital staff) to be on your team, not to feel like the enemy.
- Include a brief description of your ideal birth experience as well as procedures you wish to have or avoid.
- Include specifics for what you desire to happen as the baby is delivered. Do you want dad to cut the cord? Do you want breastfeed immediately after delivery? Do you want to opt out of any common procedures for the newborn like the Hep B vaccine, or circumcision? Any wishes for your birthing environment such as low lighting, or your own music to birth to?
- Emphasize your top priorities by bolding or italicizing those phrases.
Put simple procedure preferences – such as whether you want to have an epidural – in list form for readability.
- Type it up in order to avoid confusion over handwriting.
Share your birth plan in advance with your midwife/OB-GYN, doula, and anyone else who will be attending your delivery. Be on the same page with your caregiver before the big day. If you are planning on a hospital birth, your health care provider can also advise you on any aspects of your birth plan that might be out of the ordinary for the hospital staff and will need to be reiterated by your midwife or doula (while mom and dad-to-be are focusing on labor).
Should you bring your birth plan to the actual birth? I think that depends on your individual situation. Some mamas may feel incredibly disappointed, even devastated, when unexpected complications arise and their birth plan isn’t followed like they’d imagined. Where you’re birthing is also a consideration. Pregnant mamas birthing at home or at a birth center have a little more flexibility as to what procedures they do and do not want for their birth and after sharing your birth plan with your midwife in advance, having one at the birth may be unnecessary.Because we chose a midwife-assisted hospital setting for both of our births, but wanted to labor naturally and drug-free, arriving with a birth plan was very important for us. We were able to pass out our birth plan to our nurses so that I could be “in the zone” focused on labor, and my husband could be focused on supporting and encouraging me instead of answering questions about epidurals, IVs, etc. (Especially since for both births we arrived at the hospital before our midwife, who would have already been familiar with our wishes, showed up.) We were very lucky to have supportive and encouraging nurses! If you’re unsure about whether to pack your birth plan in your hospital bag, Stephanie has a great alternative idea: bring a sign for the door saying: Natural Birth in Progress, Please Support Us! Below is my most recent birth plan that might help you consider what sort of things are important to you to add in yours. I’m not including it because I think your birth plan should be the same as mine or because I think the way I choose to birth is the only or best way. It’s what works for me. Feel free to use it to brainstorm what works for you.
Just as every birth is different, every birth plan is different. Brainstorm what is important to you. Share your plan. And stay flexible. Wishing you a safe and wonderful birth!
Our Birth Plan
We have been very happy with the prenatal care we have received at ——– and have heard wonderful things about the labor, delivery, and post-partum care and amazing staff at —— hospital. We are hoping for a natural drug-free birth and would appreciate all of the kind support that you can provide. It is very important to us that Haley (the mama) is not separated from Daniel (the daddy) who is her birth coach and also important to us that Haley is not offered pain meds by the hospital staff unless she asks for them. We would prefer that there are as few interventions as possible in this birth; however, our primary goal is for a healthy mom and healthy baby so we understand that in emergency circumstances intervention may be necessary and we are happy to trust the midwives and OB-GYNs of —— and the hospital staff to guide us if an emergency arises.
Ideally, we would like the following:
Freedom to move around during labor including taking a bath, walking, etc.
Not being continuously monitored (intermittent fetal monitoring instead) and not being continuously hooked up to an IV
No Pitocin or Epidural
That our baby girl is handed to Haley for skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth and for breastfeeding and bonding.
We would like our baby girl to receive the Vitamin K shot, but not the Hepatitis B vaccine during our stay at the hospital.