Imagine you’re traveling somewhere you have never been before. You didn’t read anything about this place. You have no idea where you’re headed or what to do once you’re there. No plans for where to eat, what mode of transportation to use once you’re there or even what language they speak! You would get through, and it would be an adventure of a lifetime, but you might look back wishing you had made a few choices before entering such a wild, new territory. Maybe you’ve already been there, but you know what you want to do for next time.
A birth plan is MUCH like a travel itinerary describing what kind of journey you’re aiming to have. Will everything happen according to plan? Or course not, because life and birth are unexpected! But it will give you and your birth team a general idea of what you’re hoping to experience while you’re there.
Before creating your birth plan, we will assume you have found, and met with, a provider you feel comfortable with. You will want to find out the childbirth ideals of that provider. What does birth typically look like with them? Sometimes providers have strict rules to comply with that might impact your birth plan.
What kind of things should be in a birth plan?
- If you are birthing at a birth center or hospital, at what point in your labor would you like to head there? Or when to call your midwife.
- Eating and drinking during active labor. Some hospitals may have strict rules on this.
- Movement during active labor. For example, walking around or changing positions. Some hospitals may restrict this, particularly if you are receiving Pitocin or have an epidural.
- Atmosphere (music, lighting, things from home).
- The use of cameras or video recorders.
- Using mirrors (do you want to see the birth of your baby?).
- Using IV (intravenous fluids).
- How you plan to manage labor pain (using a doula, movement, laboring in a birth pool, etc.).
- Fetal monitoring.
- Inducing or augmenting contractions.
- Labor positions you’d like to, or are able to, use (birth balls, yoga positions, etc.).
- Warm compresses and perineal massage.
- Situations that warrant an episiotomy, forceps or vacuum extractor use.
- Cesarean delivery.
- The presence of friends and family at the delivery.
- How much your partner plans to help out (cutting the cord, catching the baby, etc.).
- When to cut the umbilical cord.
- Newborn care (suctioning, eye drops, vaccinations, who goes with the baby in event of an emergency, etc.).
Again, keep in mind that not all labors and deliveries go as planned so you may not be able to stick with your birth plan. Creating a birth plan will, however, give you a guide as you go through the process. You won’t want to be answering questions through your contractions. You might not be able to!
After creating your birth plan, be sure to go over it with your partner so they know your feelings ahead of time, as well as your provider. It would be a good opportunity to discover any other restrictions they have that you might not know about.
When creating your birth plan, keep it as simple as possible. One page is best, since most providers and nurses won’t have time to read through the whole thing as they go in and out. Provide simple detail and highlight the basic and most important things. Like if you plan to have skin to skin contact immediately following birth, or delayed cord clamping, should situations allow it.
If you are still struggling at what to include in your birth plan, contact a labor doula. Trained with a wealth of knowledge on birth in your area, a labor (or birth) doula can help you create and tailor a birth plan to fit your family.