Making A Birth Plan

By: Julie Fletcher

What is a birth plan?

A birth plan is a document that is either printed or written by hand which includes all of your preferences for the birth of your child. It is normally about one page long and everyone who will be involved with your labor and birth should have a copy. This will let all of you, (you, your doctor/midwife, and partner), communicate your ideas before labor actually begins. A birth plan is not a list of orders that must be adhered to in every situation, rather it is a guideline of what you would like to happen in an ideal birth and delivery.

Often during childbirth, women do not feel confident and may feel as if they are losing control of their emotions and body. A birth plan will allow you to know you are still in control of this experience. You can even include the unexpected in your birth plan by adding in your wishes concerning a cesarean if it is unavoidable. You can still be in control if you add in your wishes for such situations.

Keep your birth plan short and simple

A birth plan should be no more than a page long for an uncomplicated birth. A bulleted list of your wishes is easier to read than one long block of text. Before you put together your birth plan, check into all of the routine procedures of the place you plan to go for your birth. Knowing the routine of a facility can help you tailor your birth plan according to your needs.

Try to keep your plan written in a positive manner. A birth plan with positive wording will help you and everyone involved stay focused on the positive factors of the birth experience. Wording phrases positively with key words like, hope, plan, and anticipate instead of ‘do not’, ‘avoid’, and other negative impacting words or phrases will make your plan easier to follow with positive feelings.

You may be provided with a checklist for your birth plan from your doctor or birth center/hospital. You can use this plan or use the internet to find a prewritten plan you can customize and print. Be sure to discuss your plan with your doctor for input. Some doctors will sign a birth plan in case you go into labor while they are out of town or if you are visiting another area and go into labor.

Headings for your birth plan

Once you are familiar with the process of labor and birth, you will want to place headings on your birth plan. Headings will allow you or your health provider to quickly scan the plan at a moment’s notice. This can be extremely helpful if something unexpected arises.

If you have a document processing software or picture manipulation software, you can also make a copy that is decorative to place in your Pregnancy Scrapbook or Baby Book. A duplicate that is placed into one of these memory books is a wonderful way to document your hopes and wishes for your child to have in the future. You can place this in the very front of your book or on the page that documents your labor and delivery.

- Who do you want with you? (partner, children, friends)
- Do you want fetal monitoring?
- What position(s) do you prefer for birth? 
- How do you feel about pain management?
- Do you wish for an episiotomy? 
- How do you feel about routine IV’s?
- Do you plan to use a certain method for relaxation?(Lamaze breathing)
- Do you wish to avoid routine shaving/enemas/ or other procedures?
- Have you any preference for a tub or shower?
- Is there any person who should not be admitted to visit?
- Who will cut the cord?

Postpartum (after the birth)
- Do you wish for baby to be in your room or in the nursery?
- Will you breast feed? If so do you wish for the nurses to not supplement with formula when you are sleeping?
- How do you feel about circumcision?
- Do you plan for pain management during aftercare?
- Do you have a plan if you start feeling down/depressed?
- If you have experienced Post Partum Depression, will you begin medication in the hospital?

Complications (Your desires if things do not go smoothly)
- In event that you need a cesarean, do you have any special requests?
- Do you want your partner with your for each procedure if possible?
- If you are planning a home birth what are your wishes if hospital transport is needed?


Be flexible with your birth plan

Every labor and delivery is different. For each birth you need a birth plan that is specific to your needs for that birth. Occasionally the unexpected does arise and you need to be ready to ‘roll with the punches’. If you factor in the unexpected with your birth plan, you will not feel as if you are spinning out of control of your birth experience. Along with your birth plan, have a copy of a form you have signed that has the name of your Health Care Proxy (if you have one) in case of an emergency procedure if you are unable to make your own decisions.

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