A birth plan is a document that outlines the goals, wishes and preferences of a pregnant woman, her partner or both during labor and delivery. It is developed in consultation with the healthcare provider to ensure that they are aware of the family’s expectations for this very important day. A birth plan can be an invaluable guide to help you prepare for childbirth so it is best to have one even if you have no idea what you want it to include yet – just start making some notes!
If you don’t know where to start, we have a free printable birth plan you can use to start thinking about the decisions you need to be making. Keep reading to learn more.
What exactly is a birth plan?
A birth plan can be as in-depth or basic as you would like it to be. It is, at its core, exactly what it sounds like – a plan of action for your labor and delivery. It helps you to imagine how you want things to go once it is go time. While you should understand the need to be flexible (after all, birth doesn’t always go the way we hope it will), having a plan in place can help to think through many possibilities so that you are more prepared for what may happen.
Think of it as preparing for a final exam. If you have studied well, then you are ready for whatever the teacher may ask of you. Even if they throw in a trick question or two.
Do I need a birth plan?
Absolutely not. No one needs a birth plan. Women have been giving birth for thousands of years, and it is only recently that the concept of birth plans has been developed. However, many women find it extremely helpful to have a guide of expectations and goals to refer back to as they enter the unknown territory that is labor.
That said, having a plan may help if you are nervous or anxious about the experience. It provides a script and expectations to refer back to as you enter this important moment in your life. Ultimately, it is what you make it-it doesn’t have to be too long or detailed; something that gets you started down the right path can be very helpful.
Why create a birth plan?
Many women find it helpful to create a birth plan in order to help them visualize their goals for how they would like their labor and delivery experience to go. Some women even find it comforting or relaxing to use a template that allows them to think through options ahead of time, rather than having the added stress of planning their strategy on-the-fly during labor.
When do I bring out my birth plan?
When developing your birth plan, it is important to discuss it with your doctor or midwife in advance. You will want to make sure that your plan is not too stringent for you to handle on-the-fly decisions, and discuss what is realistic during labor.
Additionally, if you are planning a hospital birth, it is important to bring the completed document with you when you go into labor so that everyone who needs to know about your wishes – especially the hospital staff – is aware of your preferences.
What should a birth plan include?
To begin with, be sure to include your name, your support person’s name, your doctor and hospital’s name, the date and everything you know about your baby. Basic information is a necessity. Include other health information that may be important including blood type, whether you have group B strep, gestational diabetes, and/or an Rh incompatibility. All of these things are usually known to the mother in advance due to prenatal testing, but if not, be sure to ask your doctor or midwife.
Now, it’s time to plan your ideal birth. Bear in mind that all of the following considerations are made with the hope that everything will go as planned. You must have the understanding that the birth process is complicated. While your birth plan will be followed as much as possible, it is important that you stay flexible. For instance, you may plan to stay walking as much as possible and labor in a squatting position with no pain relief. However, you may change your mind and decide to have medical intervention that requires you to remain in bed laying down. This does not mean your whole plan has to be thrown out. It simply means it has to be adapted.
Some considerations for your birth plan:
- Who will be present for the birth?
- Will you want a doula?
- Will you want your other children present for the birth?
- Do you want delayed cord clamping for the baby?
- Do you want immediate skin to skin contact with the baby?
- Will you be breastfeeding immediately (or at all)?
- Do you want to get up right away or stay in bed?
- Do you plan to change positions and stay active during labor?
- Do you prefer a specific labor position?
- Have you made a decision regarding pain relief?
- How do you plan on staying hydrated?
- Are you willing to have an episiotomy should it become necessary?
- Do you want to listen to music or do you prefer quiet?
- Do you want access to a tub or shower?
- Should a cesarean become necessary, do you have special requests?
- Do you want your partner/support person to film/take photos?
- What kind of fetal monitoring are you okay with?
- Are you okay with membrane stripping/rupture?
- Are you okay should forceps or vacuum become necessary?
- Do you want to bank/donate cord blood?
- Would you like your partner/support person to cut the cord?
- Are you intending to keep the placenta?
- Do you want your baby bathed immediately?
- Do you want your baby circumcised if it’s a boy?
Printable Birth Plan vs Handwritten
If you have a Type A personality, you may feel extra excited to get on with creating a highly detailed birth plan with one inch margins and perfect fonts. But the truth is that there are plenty of people who have put a ton of thought into the whole idea already. A good printable birth plan is a great place to start. Either it will work for you as is, or it will help you to answer a lot of questions to get you started on your own birth plan.
Feel free to download this free printable birth plan where you can check off your answers to a ton of the most important questions about your upcoming birth experience. Let it be a guide for you as you create your own magical experience to bring your new baby into the world.
At the end of the day, having a birth plan in place will help you to know what to expect when it comes time to give birth. However, it’s not always possible to have everything go exactly according to plan. Keep your expectations managed, and always have a backup in place. Your doctors know what they are doing, and they are your best guides. Make sure you go over everything with them in advance, and make your decisions with their input.
You’ll be glad you did.