Making a Birth Plan

Every important event needs planning, and what could be more important than the birth of your baby? As you near the finishing line of your pregnancy, you are probably spending more and more time thinking about labor and delivery. You may be wondering what type of birth to have, who to have in the delivery room with you, and whether or not you want to try a natural birth. Well, a birth plan can help you to outline your preferences for the big day. Having a well-organized birth plan will help to keep your health care providers and support team in the loop and will also add some comfort and structure to what can otherwise be a pretty hectic day!

What is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is a document that puts your specific preferences for labor and delivery in writing. It may include information regarding labor techniques, medications, or what you would like to happen in the event of a cesarean section. This birth plan is given to all members of your health care team or support group, and helps to keep everyone participating in your baby's birth informed about your desires for the big day. A birth plan is not set in stone it is merely an organized plan of what you would like to take place barring unforeseen events or complications.

Why Create a Birth Plan?
A birth plan can be beneficial to you and your partner, and often proves invaluable on delivery day. Working on a birth plan will help to get you and your partner prepared for the birthing process. It gives you the opportunity to discuss what you would like for yourself and your baby. Preparing a birth plan will also help to familiarize you with the procedures that you will follow when the big day arrives. This is sure to help reduce those labor nerves!

A birth plan is also beneficial when it comes to dealing with your health care provider. By preparing a birth plan, you will be better able to express to your practitioner what you want for your labor. This will help your practitioner prepare for birth. A birth plan can also help to bring any new members of your support team up to speed on delivery day.

Types of Birth Plans
There are various types of birth plans, ranging from simple to extremely detailed. You are free to design whatever type of birth plan you and your partner feel most comfortable with. If you are having a cesarean section or a home delivery, you may want to tailor your plan specifically for this. Types of birth plans include:

  • home birth plan
  • cesarean birth plan
  • multiple birth plan

Sample birth plans or birth plan templates are available from your midwife, local birthing center, or online.

Starting a Birth Plan
You may find that you have been planning your labor and delivery since you found out you were pregnant. Other women tend to avoid thinking about labor until much later in their pregnancies. Generally, around the third trimester of your pregnancy you should begin to consider what kind of birth you would like to have (if you haven't already) and how you would like to see it progress.

Start by researching what actually occurs during labor and delivery. Find out about the different stages of labor and how a typical labor progresses. You may also want to research any possible complications that could arise during birth. You will want to take these into account when designing your birth plan.

After you have completed your research, write down some ideas on a sheet of paper and discuss them with your partner. You may like to consider:

  • who will be in the birthing room with you
  • if you would like to be offered medications or pain relievers
  • if you would like to have an episiotomy
  • if your partner will cut the umbilical cord
  • where baby will stay after delivery

Creating a Birth Plan
There are many different types of birth plans out there, and yours may look very different depending upon whether you have elected to have a vaginal or cesarean birth, or whether you are using a doctor, a doula and/or a midwife. Typically, birth plans outline what you would like to see happen during each stage of the labor, delivery, and postpartum period. Your birth plan may look something like this:

1. Labor

  • I would like to be able to move around freely in the birthing room.
  • I would like to be able to eat and drink when I wish.
  • I would like my baby's heart rate to be monitored at all times.

2. Medications

  • I do not want to be offered any pain relievers.
  • I will ask for pain relievers if I need them.

3. Delivery

  • I would like my partner to be present during delivery.
  • I would like my children to be present during delivery.
  • I would like to push freely and when I feel the need, unless my baby's health is compromised.
  • I would like to film the birth.

4. After Delivery

  • I would like my partner to cut the umbilical cord.
  • I would like my baby to be placed on my chest immediately after delivery.
  • I would like to begin breastfeeding immediately.
  • I do not want to receive any medications before delivering my placenta.

Sharing Your Birth Plan
It is important to share your birth plan with those who will be involved in your baby's birth and the sooner you share this plan the better. If there are any issues, you and your health care provider can discuss them and work them out in plenty of time for your baby's birth.

Between the 32nd and 36th week of pregnancy, take a semi-final draft of your birth plan to your health care provider. Together, discuss the different aspects of your birth plan and work on any modifications. Your health care provider may be able to advise you on exactly how flexible your hospital or birthing center is. She may also be able to provide you with some more birthing options.

Remember to make extra copies of your birth plan before the big day arrives! Copies should be handed out to:

  • your partner
  • your practitioner (for your medical files and chart)
  • the reception staff at the hospital or birthing center
  • other medical staff or birth supporters

Feel free to post a copy of your birth plan in your birthing room too.

Birth Plan Worries
You may have some worries about creating a birth plan for your labor and delivery. Many women worry that creating a birth plan will somehow upset their health care provider or prevent their baby from receiving any emergency medical care. Well put your fears to rest.

A birth plan is not a binding document it merely outlines your preferences for the big day. Obviously, labor and delivery is not always routine, so plans must be flexible. If you or your baby require extra care that is not included in your birth plan, your health care practitioner will advise you of it. Your baby will also receive any required emergency care.

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