Birth Plan Guidelines and Tips

Pregnant woman packing hospital bag

How to Make Your Perfect Birth Plan 

Having a birth plan specific to your needs is so important. A birth plan is an outline of your preferences during your labor and delivery. For example, your birth plan may include who you want with you during labor, whether you want pain meds, or if you want the lights dimmed. You can include anything you think will make your labor and birth more comfortable for you. You go over your birth plan with anyone who will be at the hospital with you as well as your medical provider such as doctors and nurses. The birthing process varies from one person to another so it is important to discuss all possibilities leading up to the birth of your child. 


Importance of a Birth Plan

If a baby is in your future, you’ve likely been planning ahead — stocking up on diapers, newborn clothes and blankets, as well as considering how you'll name your new little one. But before the baby is born, you should make a plan leading up to the very moment of birth. This is known as a birth plan, and it’s an important piece of two-way communication.

A birth plan is a way for you to communicate your wishes to those caring for you during your labor and after the birth of your baby. Every birth is a unique experience. Creating a birth plan empowers you to become informed of all your options during labor. At the same time, it’s a tool to let the team caring for you know about your preferences.

Birth Plan Checklist

You don't have to create your birth plan from scratch. Many hospitals have a standard form or booklet that you can complete at your convenience. It’s recommended to review your birth plan with your provider during your pregnancy. Find out if the location at which you are delivering can accommodate your wishes. For example, if your pregnancy is high risk, your provider may advise against certain things on your birth plan. It’s a good idea to have this conversation before you arrive at the hospital.

Before Birth

In the middle of labor, you might not have the energy to turn down an unwanted visitor in the delivery room. Specify who you’d like to be present during childbirth, such as the father, labor couch, doula, or other family members and friends. Be sure to ask if your birthing site limits the number of people who can be in the room with you. Make sure each person who is there serves a purpose to the experience. Give each person, including the father, duties such as cutting the umbilical cord. 

During Labor and Delivery

Before you write your birth plan, research your labor and delivery options ahead of time. Tour your hospital or birthing center and find out their procedures and practices. Do they have labor and birthing equipment, like a tub or shower, birthing balls or birth stools? Do they offer nitrous oxide for pain relief during labor? Are there limits on how many people can be in the delivery room at one time? This will help you determine what you want for your labor and delivery, and what to include in your birth plan. Every woman will have a different plan and it is essential to understand what is acceptable to say after or during childbirth.

Newborn Care

Newborn procedures are also important to include. Desires for the Vitamin K shot and eye drops, bathing the baby and PKU testing are some things to consider. If you have a boy, will you want him to be circumcised at the hospital? Do you want your baby to sleep in your room or in the nursery? Any other special requests for the immediate postpartum period? Make sure to add a couple of bullet points regarding your preferences in the case of a cesarean section or if baby needs to go to the neonatal intensive care unit. It’s better to have a plan written out for a surgical birth and not need it.

Things to Consider When Creating a Birth Plan

It would be nice if our "best-laid birth plans" always went according to, well, plan. Of course, that's not the case. Use this part of your birth plan to discuss what you would like to happen if your first choices become non-choices, say, due to an emergency procedure. Who should stay with you? Who should communicate what to your family? Do you want your doula to go to the ER with you? Create a portion of your birth plan for plans B and C. Self care for new moms is what a birth-plan is all about so don't dismiss any detail too small.

Disclose Personal Information

You can’t sugarcoat your way to a healthy pregnancy. When it comes to your birth plan, honesty rules. Everything you tell your doctor leads to the best possible care for you and your baby. Your health history—all of it—determines the way forward. Be open. 

Items to Bring into the Room

Ideally, you should have your bag ready to go (besides last-minute items like your toothbrush) by 36 weeks or 37 weeks pregnant, just in case you go into labor before your due date. Some items are essential (you’ll need a car seat, for example); others will make you feel comfy and remind you of home. Also don't forget any organizational items such as bags, a diaper caddy or other baby gear that can help during your hospital stay.

Educate Yourself About Your Choices

Your birth plan is tailored to meet your personal wishes. There are lots of birthing options outside of the traditional hospital delivery such as a birthing center or home birth monitored by talented midwives. Keep in mind, there can be circumstances where the medical team needs to depart from the plan to ensure the safest possible delivery. Remember, the ultimate goal during delivery is to have a healthy mom and a healthy baby. Your birth plan can help communicate your preferences to the care team during one of the most exciting times of your life.

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