Inside: Learning how to write a birth plan and why you need one!
Many women have at least some idea of what they want their labor and childbirth to look like. So how do you go from knowing what you want your childbirth experience to be like and taking actionable steps towards achieving this?
You write a birth plan!
Of course there’s always the possibility that something can come up that you didn’t plan for, and therefore your labor and delivery don’t go as planned.
However, having a birth plan is still such an important piece in achieving the labor and delivery you want.
But wait, what’s a birth plan? How do you write a birth plan? What do you include on a birth plan? Are birth plans only for intervention free, vaginal births?
Let’s dive in and answer all those questions!
How to write a birth plan & more!
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is a list of your desires regarding your labor and delivery. (This of course is assuming no emergencies arise).
You can include many things on your birth plan and you can have more than one birth plan.
(You can give your partner and/or doula copies of all your birth plans).
For example, you can write one that includes what you want to wear, if you want candles, essential oils, pictures taken, videos, etc. This birth plan would be given only to your partner and/or doula.
Your other birth plan would include only your most important wants for your labor and birth. This birth plan goes to your healthcare provider and your partner and/or doula.
For this one you could include things like, you don’t want an I.V., you don’t want them to ask you if you want an epidural, you want to be able to walk during labor, etc.
You’ll want to make sure the one you give to your healthcare provider is written politely, (as in not a list of demands). The nurses and doctors will be more likely to want to help you achieve your ideal birth if your birth plan isn’t a list of demands.
When you’re phrasing things you can say something like “I prefer” or “we would like”, instead of “I refuse” or “I don’t want xyz”.
Why should you write a birth plan?
If you have specific desires for how you want your labor and delivery to go or certain postpartum procedures you do or do not want, you will need to let your healthcare provider know.
Hospitals usually have specific procedures they will administer for labor and delivery unless they are told otherwise.
For example, it may be routine for them to hook up an I.V., line just in case you need one later. Or it may be routine for them to ask you during labor if you want an epidural.
If you are having a home birth, even though you may not have to worry about an I.V., or them asking you if you want an epidural, there are still certain procedures that you will need to let your midwife know as well.
For example, do you want your significant other to cut the cord? Do you want to have skin to skin?
When you are in labor and you go to the hospital, (or wherever you are giving birth) you’ll give them your birth plan so they can help you achieve the birth you want.
You should always research the hospital, birthing center, or midwife you want to use beforehand because you may find out that there are certain procedures that are mandatory that you aren’t comfortable with.
Knowing that ahead of time gives you time to find a more appropriate choice for your healthcare provider.
What are the benefits of writing a birth plan?
Sometimes, healthcare providers may not present you with options. They may make it sound like you have no choice in the decision.
However in reality, you do have a lot of control over your birth experience!
There are some decisions that you may not anticipate on the day of your delivery. There are also situations that arise which make it impossible for you to have your ideal birth.
When you’re presented with a choice, (or if they are telling you they need to do a certain procedure) there are questions you can ask.
- Are the mom and baby ok, or is this an emergency?
- What are the benefits or drawbacks of this procedure?
- If you do this procedure, is there something else you will have to do along with it?
- Are there any other options?
- Ask for some time alone with your partner to discuss what you’d like to do.
The point of the birth plan is that you have the knowledge of what is happening. You know that you can make decisions. You know what procedures you are comfortable with and the ones you are not.
This knowledge gives you the power to decide how you want your labor and birth to go, (again barring any emergencies).
Related: How To Have A Natural Birth
What can you include in your birth plan?
There are many choices you can make so keep in mind these are just a few of them!
- What you eat or drink
- Your activity, (walking) and positions you want to use during labor
- If you want your water bag broken or if you want it to break on its own
- The clothes you wear
- If you are induced or not
- Preference for episiotomy or tearing
- Who cuts the cord and when the cord is cut
- What happens in the event of a C-section
- If you want pictures or videos
- The procedures that are done to your baby, (bathing, eye ointment, tests, etc.)
- Where your baby goes, (if they are going anywhere)
- Having your partner or doula there with you at all times
- Skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after birth
- For you or your partner to catch the baby as they are being born
- Your environment, (lighting, sounds, scents)
- And more!
Who are birth plans for?
The short answer is they’re for everyone!
You may think that birth plans are only for women who are having a vaginal delivery or an unmediated labor and delivery but that isn’t true!
In some cases women want, or are ok with, certain medical interventions. However, they may not want others.
For example, you may be ok with an I.V. line or an epidural, but you don’t want an episiotomy or you don’t want Pitocin.
These are important to include in your birth plan!
If you are having a c-section you may want skin-to-skin right after the baby is born, you may want your partner to not leave the baby’s side, or you want to breastfeed.
Again, these are things you can include in your birth plan. So yes, birth plans are for everyone!
I said it before but it’s important enough to say it again.
Knowledge is power!
You absolutely have a better chance of achieving your ideal labor and delivery if you know what you want and you make your choices known to your healthcare provider.
The best way to do this is by learning how to write a birth plan and then actually writing it!
If you aren’t at the stage in pregnancy yet where you are writing your birth plan, pin this article so you can read it and refresh what you need when you are writing it!
If you are further in your pregnancy, make sure you take the time to consider what you want and make that birth plan!