Let’s be honest… childbirth never goes completely as planned. Labor is one of those things that has so many influences, invariables and unknowns. So, why write a birth plan?
Why write a birth plan?
Birth plans can give women a voice and sense of empowerment over their childbirth experience. I think that sometimes as women we are made to feel that we have no say in what happens to us in a medical setting during labor and childbirth. We feel forced to abide by hospital protocol and routine and are given little choice in the matter. However, this isn’t the way it should be. More and more women are taking back their labor, educating themselves on their options and making informed decisions about their care and that of their newborn babies. A birth plan can help you convey your wishes to your doula, midwife, OB and nursing staff prior to and during labor, in turn setting you up to have a more positive experience and help you to feel more of a sense of control.
Is a birth plan for me?
A birth plan is for everyone! Regardless of your thoughts, wishes or expectations, it is a good idea to write a birth plan to make sure that you are on the same page as your caregiver, spouse and other family members that will be present. Birth plans are even necessary for those of you with a planned C-section, as you still have a say in some of the things that will take place and especially in terms of care for your newborn baby.
First things first!
Prior to writing your birth plan, be sure to do some research to find out what hospital or birthing center protocols are out of your control. This way you won’t have added stress later when your wishes aren’t obeyed during labor. You should also be sure to have all of your questions answered by your caregiver ahead of time so that you’re well informed going into the writing process. Finally, be sure that your spouse takes an active role in writing your birth plan, as he will likely be the one carrying out your desires as the intensity of labor jades your rational thoughts and actions! 🙂
Things to consider:
- Who do you want to be present in the room?
- How often do you want to be monitored for contractions/checked for dilation?
- Do you want an automative IV upon arrival?
- Presence of visitors, both medical and non-medical (friends/family)
- Movement restrictions
- Pain management resources (bathtub, birthing ball, walking the halls, massage, etc.)
- Do you want pain medication? Would you like it offered or only requested? Offered at what point.
- Ways to progress labor in the event of it stalling (medicine, non-pharmacological, etc.)
- Do you want to wear your own clothing, listen to music, have special requests for lighting, etc.?
- Number of people present (including family and medical staff)
- Are you will to have an episiotomy or would you rather the natural tear process? Do you want to be notified of a repair (stitches) if need be?
- Is there a certain position in which you want to give birth?
- Do you or your spouse want to help “catch” the baby?
- Who do you want to cut the cord? Prior to or after it stops pulsing?
- Do you want the baby brought to your chest immediately or after s/he is cleaned up?
- How much skin-to-skin contact do you desire?
- How soon after birth do you want medical procedures performed? Who will accompany baby during initial procedures/check-up?
- Do you want the baby to undergo all initial medical procedures? (Circumcision, vitamin K shot, eye gel/drops, hepatitis vaccine)
- Do you want to be present for initial testing and baby’s first bath? Do you have specific bath products you would like to be used?
- Do you plan to breastfeed or bottle feed? Do you want a pacifier offered?
- How soon after delivery until you’d like to be able to be up walking around, eating, IV removed, etc.?
- Your birth plan should be no longer than 1 page
- Take the time to go over your birth plan with all those who will be present ahead of time, including your caregiver
- Be sure to have several copies with you when you go into the hospital/birthing center (for your spouse, doula, OB/midwife, nursing staff)
- Don’t just copy and paste information unless you understand what it’s saying and agree with it
- Unless you have a medical background, write your birth plan in “normal” language, not medical terms
One last (important) note…
Although it’s a good idea to plan ahead and write a clear plan for how you want your labor and childbirth experience to go, it is important to remember that labor is unpredictable and each woman’s experience is unique. Be flexible and willing to deviate off of your plan if need be. In an emergency or abnormal situation, getting too hung up on your birth plan can just cause added (unnecessary) stress. Remember, at the end of the day you want to have a safe experience that results in a healthy mama and baby. It’s an added bonus is everything goes according to “plan”! 🙂
Here are some great resources!
There are lots of examples of birth plans floating around the internet for you to use as inspiration. Here’s My Birth Plan that I wrote for M’s birth (disclaimer – there are things that I would change now before I use this birth plan for the next baby). You should also check out Earth Mama, Angel Baby’s birth plan template – it’s a super easy step-by-step generator for creating a personalized birth plan.
- Earth Mama, Angel Baby – Free Birth Plan
- American Pregnancy Association – Creating Your Birth Plan
- Baby Center – Birth Plan: Your Expectations and Preferences
Whether or not your labor and childbirth experience actually follows your birth plan, taking the time to educate yourself, take a stance and advocate on behalf of you and your new baby empowers you as a woman and allows you to take the first step in taking back your childbirth!
**I’d love you hear about your experience! Did you write a birth plan? Was it followed?! Comment below and tell me about it!!**
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