As a doula, one of my favorite parts of preparing for the birth of babies is partnering with the parents to help them build a birth plan. Birth plans are guidelines of an ideal birth situation. Some are rigid - others are simple with loose preferences. Birthing mothers may want to make their needs and wants known to their care providers or nurses. Many times I use a birth plan to guide a mother through the labor experience. First time mothers might not be thinking ahead to the immediate moments after birth, or their options for pain management. It's just difficult to anticipate what to expect when you've never been through it before!
Parents can find several options for birth plans available online, in a variety of formats. Most are split into categories - some are almost in a timeline of sorts. Pre-birth preferences, post-birth bonding, special circumstance for baby post-birth, etc.
Where do you plan to give birth to your baby? Are you hoping to spend early labor at home? Is a birth center an option you're comfortable with, or would you prefer a home birth?
Who can be in attendance during labor? Some mothers who give birth at home welcome their other children to witness the moment, while others arrange for childcare as they give birth in a hospital. Birth support partners can be added to visitor approved lists. Did you know you can even ban people from the labor & delivery ward?
Would you like to seek pain management options? Which options are you comfortable with seeking? Have you asked your provider which pain relief options are available at your birth location? Writing this out ahead of time can especially help when you hit transition - because the contractions can become so intense you might beg for pain relief in the moment.
A lot falls under this category. Would you like a birth ball or warm tub of water? In terms of fetal monitoring - would you prefer continuous or intermittent monitoring? Would you like the option to move about? If you have a c-section, would you like to have a clear drape to witness the moment of birth? Would you prefer assistance so you can hold your child skin-to-skin in those first moments with your child? Is delayed cord clamping important to you? Perhaps you'd like to collect your child's cord blood for a bank?
After birth, do you want skin-to-skin contact with your child? Will your birth facility perform post-birth wellness checks on baby while you're performing skin-to-skin care? Did you know you can delay bathing? Have you heard the benefits of delayed bathing?
Through all of these decisions, ask yourself: has my provider fully explained the benefits of these choices? Has my provider fully explained the risks of these choices? What is my partner comfortable with? The more you consider before labor begins, the more you can focus on the task at hand instead of these minute decisions.
Birth plans are just that: plans! The best-laid plans of mice and men, right? Birth is not an event anyone can control or dictate. Instead of being a hard-and-fast set of "rules", the best birth plans are a way to promote collaboration between mothers, birth partners, and care providers.