So, you’re starting a family. What could be more important than welcoming your new baby into this world? Traditionally women have given birth in a variety of settings, some women are pleased with their experience while others unfortunately are left wishing things had gone differently. More women today are educating themselves about their birth options. They want the opportunity to have their own “perfect” experience for bringing baby into this world. By creating a birth plan, mothers are preparing for that very experience. Birth plans communicate, in writing, your wishes for your ideal birth experience.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is an organized, written document that provides an outline of preferred care that a woman would like to receive when she delivers her baby. These plans are reasonably short, varying from 1 to 2 pages in length. Birth plans are relatively new but more and more women are using them as a part of their pregnancy experience. Birth plans outline the preferences and wishes that are important during the time of delivery. A written birth plan can help to lessen the need for repeating while in labor/in pain, reducing stress and more focus during labor.
Those who may read your birth plan include your care providers, doula, and others involved in your care. Birth plans help to open lines of communication, help you to better understand your care provider and allows them to get to know your preferences as well. A mother who writes out her goals for birth helps the care team to “personalize” her care. Plans help to foster or further the bonds of trust between caregiver and patient. Caregivers involved in your birth plan gain a better understand of what is important to you for the delivery of your baby.
Even if you’re having a planned C-section, you’ll still want to write a birth plan, there are still so many options and things you may want to plan for in advance.
When should I write my birth plan?
Most women write their birth plan early, but not at the beginning of a pregnancy. To ensure that you’ll have all research and questions answered for your birth plan, it’s best to try to finalize your birth plan during your third trimester.
Before Writing Your Birth Plan
Birth plans should have flexibility, they may need to change depending on your preferences and also depending on how your delivery goes. The most important thing you can do for yourself and for your baby is to educate yourself and do some research. Research, research, research! Learn what options are available to you, especially focusing on options that will be available where you will be delivering you baby. Each facility and care provider may be different and what is provided for one woman’s birth experience may not be available for another.
Before you start creating your birth plan, be sure you are comfortable with your care provider. You’ll want a care provider whom you feel you can trust, someone that you feel comfortable with during your delivery. Your birth plan will not be a contract, care teams cannot guarantee that plans can be followed. If you write a birth plan, you’ll be providing upfront information to your team of caregivers. While this can be a wonderful tool for opening the lines of communication, it is also important to understand that birth plans are not legal documents, nor are they permanent.
During the course of laboring, changes often occur and you, yourself may want to change something on your birthing plan. For instance, you’ve grown tired and find yourself unable to deal with the pain. Your birth plan states, no pain medications, but you always have the ability and choice to change that for yourself. Another change might involve accepting a procedure for the benefit of your baby’s health.
This plan will not be set in stone, but rather a set of “guidelines” to help caregivers better understand your wishes for this birthing experience. If emergencies happen, your plans may have to change. It is important to remember that if you chose to give birth in a hospital setting, there are often policies that care providers must follow. Birth plans do not override hospital policies. If there are aspects of your birth plan that cannot be followed, advice would be to speak with your care provider to find out why these policies are in place and if there are other ways to compromise to reach your goals.
Things to consider and include for plan:
- Where will you deliver (hospital, birthing center, home birth)
- Support, use of doula or other individual present for support
- Fetal monitors
- How often would you like to be checked
- Pain management
- Labor progression
- Environmental aspects
- Who will you want in your room
- Your feelings on an episiotomy
- Laboring positions
- Specifications for umbilical cord (would you like spouse to cut, would you like to delay cutting)
- Would you like the baby brought immediately to you or prefer baby to be cleaned up
- After delivery care
- Skin to skin holding
- Newborn examination delayed or immediately following birth
- Feeding (breast or formula)
After you’ve written your birth plan
After you’ve looked into your options and have a plan written out, you’ll want to run the plans by your care provider. As mentioned earlier, birth plans help to foster communication between mom and care provider. Your birth plan helps to give each care provider a better idea of what you hope to gain from your birthing experience. Be sure to ask your care team if there are options that you are not familiar with or if you have specific questions.
Ask if there should be any changes made to your birth plan, you’ll want to know upfront if your plans are practical. Often times, your wishes may sound wonderful on paper, but are they realistic to the policies/procedures that your facility must abide by? Your care provider should be able to clarify any aspect that may need some adjusting on your birth plan.
After you’ve finalized your ideal birth plan, type it up! Make copies for yourself, your care provider, and doula or other support team member. Be sure to also pack a copy in your hospital bag, you won’t want to worry about trying to find one when you need it fast!
What if my provider won’t use or look at my birth plan?
Not all care providers are fans of birth plans. Try to be honest and communicate your wishes. If they continue to refuse, it’s your right to find a different care provider that you can trust and who will work with you as you feel you need.
My birth plan template is available here for purchase through our Etsy shop!