How to Create Your Birth Plan

A new mom is happy and holds her newborn baby face to face in the hospital bed

Welcoming a new life into the world is a monumental moment. As an expectant mom, it's only natural to want your labor and delivery experience to go how you prefer.

While it’s important to make your plans for your labor and delivery, it’s crucial to understand that the unpredictability of childbirth may require adjustments to your initial preferences.

While there are no guarantees in the birthing process, a birth plan is a helpful tool that can help you communicate your preferences and expectations with your health care team.

What is a Birth Plan?

A birth plan outlines your preferences and wishes for labor, delivery, and postpartum care.

Think of it as your voice on paper, ensuring that your health care providers understand your priorities and goals during your labor and delivery.

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When Should I Create a Birth Plan?

You can start creating your birth plan at any point before your due date.

However, it's a good idea to view your birth plan as a dynamic plan that evolves as you learn more about your labor and delivery options.

As you gather more information, you may want to revise and refine your plan accordingly.

If possible, consider taking a tour of the birthing facility to familiarize yourself with where you will be and identify what will make you most comfortable during your labor and delivery.

Remember, your birth plan is not set in stone.

It's okay to make changes as many times as needed up until your delivery. You can also change your mind about anything during labor or delivery.

Think of it as a guide rather than a rulebook, allowing you the freedom to adapt based on your current preferences.

Who Should Be Involved in Creating the Birth Plan?

While creating your birth plan, involve your partner, your OB-GYN, a midwife if you have one, or any other support person who will be present during labor.

Their insights and support can help you comprehensively view your labor and delivery.

You should also include what you want their roles to be during labor, delivery, and after the baby is born.

What Should Be Included in a Birth Plan?

Your birth plan should be a detailed guide of what your ideal labor, delivery, and postpartum period would look like.

Include everything important for you, including your preferences for: •

  • Atmosphere during labor
  • The type of birth you prefer, vaginal or cesarean section
  • Medical interventions for you
  • Medical interventions for your baby
  • Who you want in the room during the delivery
  • Where you’d like your baby to be immediately after birth
  • If you have any medical conditions or health issues, be sure to include any necessary details

Here's a checklist of essential topics to cover in your birth plan.

Birth Plan Checklist:

Labor Preferences:

  • Preferred Environment: Consider dim lighting, soothing music, or personal items to create a calm atmosphere.
  • Movement and Positioning: Discuss your comfort with various positions and movements during labor. Do you want a birthing ball? Do you prefer a room to walk around?
  • Fetal Monitoring: Choose between intermittent and continuous monitoring. How do you envision balancing the need for fetal monitoring with the freedom to move around during labor? Talk to your doctor about your options.

Your Partner’s Role:

If you have a partner or support person involved, specify how they can help throughout the process. Your support person could be a family member, a close friend, or the baby’s parent.

  • During Active Labor: Do you want them to keep you company, distract you from contractions, or give you space? Outline ways they can help through each stage of labor, including breathing techniques, massage your back or shoulders, and encouraging words.
  • During Delivery: Specify their role during a vaginal birth and, if needed, a C-section. Do you want them beside you in the delivery room? Do you want them to help you understand what’s happening if you are unable to see?
  • Postpartum: Do you want your partner to cut the umbilical cord? Do you want the baby to get skin-on-skin time with your partner immediately after birth? If your baby needs to go to a different room, do you want your partner to go with them?

Pain Management Options:

  • Preferred Pain Relief Methods: Choose from options like pain medication, epidurals, breathing techniques, massage, cold therapy, or nitrous oxide.
  • Approach to Pain Management: Indicate if you prefer exploring non-pharmacological methods at first or are open to medical interventions.
  • Comfort Methods: Specify any comfort measures you’d like to incorporate, such as aromatherapy, music, a bath or shower, or breathing exercises.

Delivery Preferences:

  • Preferred Birthing Methods: State your delivery plan. Are you planning a vaginal birth? What are your preferences if a C-section is needed?
  • Preferred Birthing Positions: Outline preferred positions that may aid labor progression and alleviate discomfort.
  • People Present During Delivery: Who would you like in the room with you during delivery? Your partner, a support person, or your midwife?
  • Preferences for Assisted Delivery Techniques: State your stance on the use of forceps, vacuum extraction, episiotomy, or perineal massage while delivering your baby if needed.

Postpartum Preferences:

  • Immediate After-Birth Preferences: State your preferences for skin-to-skin contact, delayed cord clamping, and early breastfeeding initiation.
  • Newborn Procedure Preferences: Specify your wishes regarding medical care for your newborn baby. Some options include vitamin K injection and antibiotic eye drops or ointment. These are often recommended to prevent infection or preventable diseases. Talk to your doctor about your options.
  • Postpartum Pain Management Preferences: Include your preferences for managing postpartum discomfort and pain. This could include medication, icing, or a shallow bath.

Medical Interventions:

  • Preferences Regarding Inductions and Augmentations: Discuss your stance on inducing labor. Do you want this performed only if the baby is in distress? Which method of augmentation do you prefer?
  • Preferences on Artificial Rupture of Membranes: To encourage labor and dilation, physicians may recommend intentionally breaking your water. Talk to your OB-GYN about the methods and your preferences if this is recommended.
  • Cesarean Section Preferences: Outline your preferences for a cesarean section if necessary. Talk through what to expect with your OB-GYN or midwife.

Use this checklist as a general guide to articulate your preferences for a personalized and informed birthing experience.

Remember to discuss your choices with your health care team and partner to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Advocating for Your Birth Plan During Labor

Effective communication is key when advocating for your birth plan during labor.

Clearly express your preferences, ask questions, and trust your instincts. Your support person can also be your advocate during labor and delivery. If they are familiar with your birth plan, they can work with your health care team to make sure your preferences are the priority throughout the whole process.

Remember, your health care team is also there to support you.

How Flexible Should the Birth Plan Be?

While it's crucial to communicate your preferences, it's equally important to remain flexible.

Especially if you’re a first-time mom, you may think you want one thing and then change your mind during labor or delivery.

Also, unexpected situations may arise during labor, and flexibility allows you to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining a positive mindset.

How Do I Communicate My Birth Plan with Health Care Providers?

Discuss your birth plan with your health care providers during prenatal appointments. Open communication ensures everyone is on the same page, fostering a collaborative and supportive birthing environment.

What Happens If My Birth Doesn't Go According to Plan?

Sometimes, birthing experiences deviate from the plan.

Embrace the unexpected, stay informed, and trust your health care team. Your well-thought-out birth plan serves as a guide, but adapting to unforeseen circumstances is sometimes needed.

Changing your plans is often a testament to your strength and resilience.

Creating a birth plan is an empowering step toward ensuring the birthing experience aligns with your preferences and values.

As you prepare for this exciting journey, may your birth plan be a source of confidence, communication, and celebration of the life you are creating.

Pregnancy and Parenting

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Pregnancy and Parenting Services

Looking for expert support for pregnancy, birthing, newborn, or postpartum care? Find a class or service near you.

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