A birth plan is a written document that expresses all of your hopes and desires for your delivery day. All members of your maternity team should receive a copy of this guide so everyone is on the same page. In this article, we provided an example of a birth plan so you’ll know how to get started.
Before your due date, it's a wonderful idea to put your thoughts into words. It not only communicates your feelings with your the hospital staff, your family, and anyone else involved in the birth, but it also makes you consider all of the options that are available to you.
Childbirth is unpredictable. There are no guarantees that all of your requests will be granted. The birth plan is a wish list, not a list of demands. Still, in your guide, you can request alternatives to the birth process if things don’t go according to plan. No matter what, be prepared to go with the flow.
There are several aspects to consider during labor and delivery, but we'll break it down one by one. These are some points you should include in your birth plan. And don't forget to check out the last page for a sample birth plan that you can customize.
The delivery room is not exactly an intimate environment. Your birthing team will consist of a doctor, nurses, medical students, your partner, and that’s just the bare minimum. Even if your family and friends do not enter, there will be between five to ten people in the room.
Understandably, many people will want to witness the birth of a baby in real life. It’s a phenomenal event. First, consider if you mind your family and friends seeing your private parts. Your body will be in a compromising position during labor. You may feel vulnerable and flustered among a crowd of onlookers.
Second, you may not mind being physically exposed, but consider the unexpected events can happen during childbirth. For instance, the intensity of labor pain may be surprising. You could sweat profusely. You could pass gas or have a bowel movement. If such things occur during labor, it really makes you think about with whom you want to share these intimate moments.
Despite the fact that everyone will want an invite into the birthing room, it is your choice. Your job in that moment is to deliver a baby, not worry about who is in the room. To decide, ask yourself, are you completely comfortable with this person watching you give birth?
On the other hand, you'll want someone in the room you know you can trust. If you want your family and friends present for moral support, you can always ask them to stay close to your face. Enforce a no-looking-down-there rule. That way, you can have privacy during childbirth while sharing the blessed moment with your loved ones.
Double check with your healthcare provider about the number of people you wish to have in the delivery room. Some hospitals do not mind visitors, as long as they do not interfere with hospital procedures. Others are strict, allowing few people into the room at the same time. If your hospital does not allow many birth attendants, you may need to revise your birth plan.
A cesarean section is a birth that extracts the baby through incisions in the abdomen and the womb. This surgical procedure is only performed when it is the safest option for the mother and the baby. Your birthing team will evaluate if a surgical intervention is right for you.
If the maternity staff determines you need a Cesarean section, you can still have choices in your childbirth:
Some women describe labor pain as intense menstrual cramps. Others say it feels like awful constipation or an intense tightening in the lower back. Whatever the description, it hurts. To help you through the process, you’ll want to consider pain relief options.
Some methods use medications while others are completely natural. No one option works for everyone, which is why some women choose a combination of methods. There are pros and cons for each. Here are just two examples:
More than 50% of women choose epidurals to reduce labor pain. This method uses a needle injection with a local anesthetic.
Between specific segments of the spine, a small tube is fed through a guide needle. When this needle is withdrawn, it leaves a fine tube in place. The anesthetic flows through the tube directly around the nerves of the spine, temporarily reducing the sensation in the lower half of the body.
Many women opt for this method to reduce labor pain because an epidural can tackle major pain. Still, due to the numbing effect on the lower body, epidurals may weaken contractions, and slow down labor.
Warm Water Birth
Many women choose to give birth in a pool of warm water. It is a subtle adjustment for a baby entering the outside world because it simulates the watery atmosphere of the womb.As a plus to mom, the buoyancy of the water improves circulation, lowers blood pressure, and oxygenates the muscles, taking the edge off labor pain in a natural way.
Some women do not find enough pain relief from warm water alone. Also, you may want to reconsider a water birth because you may be asked to exit the pool for various reasons: if the water becomes dirty, if you develop a fever, if your baby’s heart rate suddenly changes, or to deliver the placenta. If these situations arise, you’ll need another pain relieving strategy in your birth plan.
To manage labor pains, you can also consider massage therapy, hypnobirthing, changing positions, narcotics, and music therapy. Check with your medical team to confirm that your birthing room can accommodate your request for pain relief.
Some points on your birth plan will be a collective decision, but pain control is a personal one. It is your body, and your partner and your relatives will need to understand that only you can make this decision.
Deciding to breast or bottle feed your baby is a major decision. No one can argue that a newborn’s digestive system works best with a mother’s milk. In an ideal world, breast milk is the perfect nutrition for your baby. Despite the fact that nursing is highly recommended by pediatric groups, breastfeeding does not work for all women.
Nurses and midwives will encourage you to start nursing usually within the first hour after delivery. If breastfeeding is not your choice, don’t be afraid to write this information in your birth plan.Midwives, nurses, and doctors should encourage you no matter how you decide to feed your baby.
Some hospitals may have formula available for your newborn, but others may not. Be prepared with your own bottle if they don’t.
If during labor your doctor or your midwife discovers your baby is in a breech position, there are a few options:
In some circumstances, a breech presentation will require a Cesarean section. This procedure may be necessary if labor is not progressing as it should.
External Cephalic Version
Your baby’s breech position can be inverted with a nudge. Your obstetrician or midwife can perform an external cephalic version (ECV). For this procedure, you will be given medication to relax your uterus. The doctor or midwife will locate the baby’s head. With hands-on pressure on the outside of your abdomen, the baby’s head is gently, but firmly, pushed downwards. There are risks with this procedure that need to be discussed with your medical team.
Vaginal Breech Birth
A vaginal birth is not out of the question if your baby is breech. If it’s safe, your medical team may encourage a vaginal birth. It has a faster recovery than a Cesarean section. Again, there are risks involved with this type of birth.
Ultimately, you’ll need to be flexible on the day as plans can change. Just remember that everyone involved wants a safe birth.
After your baby is born, your nursing staff will ensure that your postpartum surroundings are safe and comfortable. If you have specific desires for you and your newborn in recovery, express your ideas in your birth plan.
Caring for your infant after birth will help you bond with your baby. Typically, the medical team will let you keep your baby beside you. If you’d prefer to care for your baby only when you’re awake, let the medical team know.
Your partner or a close relative may want to stay overnight for support. In your birth plan, clarify your preferences for an overnight visitor. You can even request a cot for their stay.
After delivery, the hospital staff will evaluate your recovery. Usually, new mothers and their babies are released from the hospital within two or three days. If you prefer to leave the hospital as soon as possible, it’s a good idea to let your maternity team know your wishes in your birth plan.
In this sample birth plan, we have included common requests. Since this is a condensed version, you will need to add your personal touches. For instance, you may have a religious or cultural custom that you would like to incorporate during the birth process. Here’s an example of a birth plan that can help get you started:
Sample Birth Plan
My partner and I are excited to share the birth of our baby with you. We have written a birth plan to convey our preferences for childbirth.
We understand that labor and delivery can be unpredictable and that our requests may not be possible. Still, we hope that the maternity team will help us fulfill these wishes as much as possible.
•Unless there is an emergency, I would prefer not to have an IV during labor.
•As long as the birth is progressing normally, I prefer to walk around during labor.
•I would like my husband, my mother, my sister, and my best friend in the birthing room.
•My preferences for pain relief include a birthing pool and massage therapy.
•If a cesarean becomes necessary, I would prefer a non-drowsy medication.
•We prefer to keep our newborn with us at all times.
•I would like to breastfeed as much as possible to stimulate my milk production.
Keep your birth plan short and sweet. One page will do.
You don’t have to create a birth plan, but it will help you and everyone involved prepare for your labor, delivery, and neonatal care.