A birth plan is a written, detailed description of how you would like your labor and delivery to go. Although you cannot anticipate or plan for every outcome, it is a good idea to put your wishes down in writing so you can communicate with your doctor and the hospital staff who will be by your side when you deliver.
So, to properly introduce you to some of the things you may encounter, we put together this birth plan checklist. While there are some things in life you can plan for, the birth of a baby is not exactly one of them. Babies are infamous for disregarding their due dates, right along with all your hopes for a specific kind of delivery or birth experience.
The first step to creating a birth plan is talking with your healthcare provider. A while before your due date, meet with your doctor or midwife to go over your preferences and any medical conditions that would affect your labor and delivery. That way, you will have time to talk through any parts of the plan that might not work for you.
While you cannot plan every single detail of birth, discussing with your doctor or midwife what kinds of scenarios are most and least ideal for you—so you can advocate for yourself during labor and delivery—is extremely important.
Do you know What Is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is a list of your wishes during childbirth. It can include who you want with you during labor, whether you want pain meds, or if you want the lights dimmed. It is good to have one, but remember it is not written in stone and can change at any time.
A birth plan is a document that tells your medical team how you would like your labor and delivery to go. It describes who you want to be with you, what kinds of pain relief, if any, you want, and other details about the experience you are hoping for. Because giving birth is unpredictable, try to remember that a birth plan may change during your delivery.
What could be the Emergency Interventions?
If you have been pregnant before, you know that labor can be unpredictable. No matter how many times you have talked through a birth plan with your healthcare provider, something unexpected may arise during delivery — and you may feel pressured to make decisions regarding emergency medical interventions on the spot.
In addition to your birth preferences, you will want to identify the emergency interventions you would or would not like to have. Since emergencies can arise quickly and may leave little time for thorough explanations and discussions, you must think about these beforehand and indicate them in your plan so that your care providers are aware.
What Should I Include in a Birth Plan?
Preface any detailed conversation about your wishes and preferences with a quick summary. “I am looking forward to natural birth, which for me means trying to avoid certain things, such as an epidural or being hooked up to machines but being open if we feel I need them. In general, though, I would like us all to work together as much as possible to help me have the most drug-free birth possible.”
Starting your birth plan can be overwhelming, but it does not have to be. Although they vary depending on individual needs, most cover similar areas:
- When you are planning for your baby’s birth, you have many decisions to make. There are a lot of things to consider: Where will you deliver? Do you want pain medicine? Here is what to include in your birth plan — and some tips on the best way to share it with your health care providers and birth team. A birth plan can help your medical team understand how you want things to go. Make sure everyone on your healthcare team knows what is in your plan.
- Before you go into labor, write up a birth plan. Think of it as a road map to guide your laboring as you are preparing and amid labor. Your birth plan is a way to tell your medical team what is most important to you, so they can help you create the birth that is right for you.
- Think about what you would need to be as comfortable as possible during this important time. List any details of your birth plan (who will be there with you, music, lighting, whether photos or video can be taken) that will help you feel more secure and relaxed.
- You may have preferences for how you want to handle labor. A birth plan is a snapshot of what you hope for, based on what you know about yourself and your partner. Labor preferences can include whether you want to walk around or stay in bed. You may want to use a birthing stool, ball, or chair as well. Most birthing centers have showers or baths that are open during labor and many hospitals do as well.
- Pain is a normal part of labor and delivery, but it does not have to be unbearable. Your doctor can offer you several types of pain relief, including medication, breathing techniques, and massage. Work with your doctor to come up with a plan for how to keep you comfortable during labor and delivery.
- Even before your little one arrives, deciding how you want to care for your new-born in the hospital can help you to have a calm, comfortable birth experience. This includes tasks such as choosing who is present during labor and delivery, thinking about delivery (vaginal vs. cesarean), and choosing who will feed and bind your baby’s cord.
- This is an important, though sometimes overlooked, part of the birth plan. There are many feeding and care options available, so it is a good idea to talk to your doctor or midwife as you write this part of the plan. For example, you may want to include that you prefer formula with iron and lactose-free formula.
- If you have a long labor, you may want to make sure you have something to eat and drink. It is best to avoid snacks with too much sugar, like candy and cookies, since sugar can make you tired. Eating foods that contain protein and complex carbohydrates is a much better idea when you are in labor. If your hospital offers “labor packs,” they will contain healthier snacks. If not, ask your birth partner to bring some along to the hospital or birth center.
- If you are planning to use any hospital equipment, be specific, such as “I want an alternative pain relief method before an epidural.” If you plan to use alternative medications or treatments, ask your doctor if the course of treatment or treatment is safe, given your health and your baby’s health.
Who Need to Review your Birth Plan?
When you write a birth plan, you are letting your doctors and nurses know how you want things to go when it is time for your baby to be born. If you are at a birthing center or hospital, doctors, nurses, and midwives will be there to help you. They cannot read minds though, so it is important to let them know what you want.
In the months leading up to your due date, you may be researching (and googling) different labor and birth techniques. You will also come across birth plans as you prepare for one of the most exciting days of your life. A birth plan lets your doctor, midwife, or other care provider know what you want or do not want during labor, delivery, and after the baby is born. Writing a birth plan can help you think through your options and make decisions ahead of time by exploring.
You must review your birth plan with anyone else who will be in the delivery room with you. If there are any conflicts, you have time to resolve them before you give birth. You can share your birth plan with your doctor and caregivers to make sure everyone is on the same page. Review it with them before your delivery so that potential conflicts can be resolved well ahead of time.
To whom do you need to share a copy of your Birth Plan?
Doctors, nurses, and hospitals take birth plans very seriously and will do everything they can to help you achieve your wishes. Of course, unexpected twists sometimes happen during labor and delivery, so it is important to select the items that are most important to you. Your provider will work with you on every issue in your birth plan. You will not automatically be moved to a hospital.
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