Pregnancy & Birth

Envision your Dream Birth Plan


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 episiotomy

No Pitocin or Epidural

No C-Section

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.

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  • Jolene Brighten
    December 19, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    This is great advice and I completely agree with watching the tone of your birth plan. It is your birth, but you unfortunately have to walk a fine line to not give the impression that you are dictating to health care providers about how to do their jobs. But definitely important to make sure your team knows what type of experience you’d like!

    I might also add considering to include in birth plans to wait until the cord stops pulsing before it is cut. This ensures better oxygenation of the baby’s blood and gives infants better iron status during their first days, decreasing the risk of anemia. It isn’t standard practice in hospitals, but is among Naturopaths and midwives. Asking when your doc or midwife typically cuts the cord is a good way to start the conversation.

    • Haley
      December 19, 2012 at 6:12 PM

      Thanks, Jolene. That is great advice. Definitely something I’m going to consider as we get ready for Baby #3’s arrival 🙂

  • Aleena Hetzel
    January 18, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    My baby was born at 27 weeks. I was on preemie boards and met women who had this amazing birth plan all planned out in their head and when they needed a c-section or something happened, they felt like they were cheated. They didn’t have the birth they wanted and were so let down with the entire experience. You are not going to the store for a gallon of milk, you are having a baby and ALOT can happen that you have no control over. Having a plan is great, but at the end of the day, it’s not about what you WANT, it’s about what you and your baby need. Plan for the unexpected.

    • Stephanie
      January 18, 2013 at 4:02 PM

      Planning for the unexpected is great advice. In Birthing From Within Childbirh classes like the ones I used to teach we would go over scenarious of things parents were really hoping to avoid, and work through them, so that if they did happen, they hopefully are less likely to feel like they got the rug pulled out from underneath them. Another great concept BFW mentors teach is the “Next Best Thing” anytime your birth plan changes think about what is the next best thing to do?

  • Jess Guest
    January 19, 2013 at 9:36 AM

    I am gearing up for birth number 7 and don’t have a birth plan. However, my midwife has caught 5/6 of my other kiddos and understands very intimately exactly what we want for our births. She is an independent midwife and we have the choice of home or a free standing birth centre. It is a rare relationship to have in this day and age (even if you have access to an independent midwife, not many go back 7 times) but I highly recommend it!

    • Stephanie
      January 20, 2013 at 3:08 AM

      Very rare! So happy that you get to experience that. I wish every woman could.

    • Katrina
      January 23, 2013 at 11:49 PM

      We also use a midwife (our last 3 babies were born at home) and we are pregnant again (with our #10) and our midwife will deliver this one, too. So this will be our 4th delivery with the same midwife. Had I known about birthing at home back when I first started having babies, I would have had ALL our births this way. But with our #6 we decided to try something different (I really wanted a waterbirth) and so home delivery was our option with that. And now we wouldn’t do it any other way! (well, that of course depends on the health of me and the baby – if a hospital birth was required for safety, of course we’d go that route again.)
      Congrats on your #7!!

      • Haley
        January 24, 2013 at 1:57 AM

        Congrats on your 10th! Thanks for sharing your story:) I would love it if we were blessed with that many little ones!

      • Stephanie
        January 24, 2013 at 2:58 AM

        Katrina!! I am so excited to hear that you are pregnant again!!! I know how you long you waited. Sending lots of love your way. 🙂

  • Brittany
    January 29, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    I think that sounds like a very reasonable birth plan. As a labor and delivery nurse I see a wide variety of these, and you pointed out some really great facts. At the end of the day, or morning, all I want is for my patient to feel supported in her decisions, safe and healthy.

    • Stephanie
      January 29, 2013 at 2:44 PM

      Thanks Brittany! I love supportive nurses! There needs to be more nurses like you!

  • Amber
    February 21, 2013 at 6:41 AM

    I love this post! With my first, I had no plan and I only knew what would/could happen. Labor started naturally, I was given petocin because I had stopped dilating. I opted to get an epidural at this point (14 hours into labor!). Normal vaginal delivery. I waited 6 years for the next baby. This time I considered options, made a birth plan and was much more prepared.

    I started natural labor and his face was turned the wrong direction. Intensely painful! Long story short, his heart rate dropped and he would fight his was up into my chest with each push/contraction and he was born via c-section. Turns out the cord was around his neck and he was choking. My poor sweetheart! This was not my birth plan.

    The point, it may not have been what I wanted or what I prepared for, but my son is here. He made it. I feel many of us take for granted the child birthing process and how dangerous and complicated it is. We sometimes forget how many moms and children don’t survive. Honestly, I thank God everyday for him (and my daughter!) being here- no matter how they arrived.

    I am saddened to know that should we choose to have another baby, they WILL be a c-section. I feel robbed. On the other hand, if it happens I will remind myself that its only about the health and safety of my child. Whew! I feel better! Thank you for letting me vent! 🙂

    • Haley
      February 21, 2013 at 1:20 PM

      Thanks for sharing your birth stories (I LOVE hearing about birth stories!). And you’re right, what matters is a safe delivery and a healthy little one! So glad you and baby are safe even though things didn’t turn out how you’d hoped!