Why write a birth plan?
Writing a birth plan can help you feel in control of your birth. By writing out such a plan, you become more informed about your birth. And in designing your birth plan, you become engaged in the birth experience and can feel more empowered.
Furthermore, as individuals, we all have our unique wishes and expectations. The birth of your child is one of the most momentous and joyous occasions in your life. Then why not have some say in how it occurs? If the labor you envision is within the realms of safe procedures and little added hassle for the hospital staff, you should let your wishes be known by creating a birth plan.
What are my options? How do I start?
To create a birth plan, you must start by researching what exactly occurs during labor and delivery. Also research all the possible complications that could arise and would require special treatment. Be prepared! Once you’ve researched, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what would enhance your comfort during labor, or alternately, what would make you uneasy and should therefore be avoided.
Hospital staff are usually open to a birthing plan. However, as it demonstrates your active involvement in your pregnancy, some staff may see it as a hindrance to usual operations. Midwives tend to be more open to birth plans as they will focus more on the individual differences requested by couples.
Also, birth plans will look radically different depending on what type of birth you’re having. You will either have a labor birth plan, a cesearean birth plan (sic) or a midwife birth plan. However, unlike ceasarean (sic) birth plans, labor plans have many options from which to choose.
Read over the sample work sheet below and think carefully about your options. Then write down those that appeal most to you. These very general questions will hopefully lead you to create your own detailed and personalized plan.
A Labor Birth Plan Sample Worksheet
1. I would like to give birth:
- at home
- in a birthing room
- in a delivery room (more surgical facilities)
- in the shower
2. In my birthing room, the following is important to me:
- Dimmed lights
- Soft music playing
- Wearing my own clothes during delivery
3. I would like to have the following people present at the birth:
4. In preparation for my delivery, I would prefer:
- to use/ to not use an enema
- to be/to not be induced if I go past my due date
5. If inducing labor, I would prefer these methods:
- Breaking the membrane
- Castor oil
- Nipple stimulation
- Sexual intercourse
6. During the first stage of labor:
- I would / would not prefer to remain with my partner during labor or delivery
- I would like to eat or drink during labor
- Give me pain medication only if I ask for it/if the pain causes me too much discomfort
- I would prefer not to undergo internal exams unless medically necessary for the health of me or my baby.
7. Ways I would like to manage the pain
- Breathing techniques
8. Second stage of labor
- I would prefer not have an episiotomy, even if it means tearing vaginal tissue
- I would prefer having an episiotomy if there is a possibility of tissue tearing
- Unless it’s medically necessary, I would prefer not having an episiotomy offered to me
9. I prefer to give birth in the following position:
- Classic position-semi-reclined
- Standing upright
- Lying on my side
- Hands and knees
10. During my birth
- If it’s necessary to extract the baby, use either forceps or a vacuum
- I would like a mirror available so that I might see my baby’s head
- I would like to touch my vaginal area as my baby’s head crowns
11. After delivery
- I wish to cut the umbilical cord myself
- I wish to have umbilical cord blood preserved
- I would like a private room
- If my newborn leaves my presence, I would like my husband to attend to her
Cesarean Section Birth Plan
When writing your cesarean birth plan, you can choose whether to elect a c-section ahead of time, who you want in the room with you and whether you want any medical students in the room with you.
Midwife Birth Plan
Women are increasingly choosing to have a midwife deliver their newborn. Decide whether you want to have a water birth or stay in the bedroom. You can choose to invite your partner, parents, relatives and friends.
Interactive Birth Plans
An interactive birth plan will provide you with a checklist of possible options you may want to consider and speak with your doctor about. Once you have discussed the options, you then fill out your final birth plan and print three copies-one for your partner, one for the doctor and one for the hospital staff looking after you. You can simply use a sample birth plan as a place to start discussing options with your practitioner.
Revision date: July 5, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD