Everything you need to know to create your perfect birth plan. What is a birth plan, when to create it, and what to include in it.
Giving birth is a pretty big deal. Beyond the life-changing impact of giving birth, the actual act of giving birth has a lot that can happen medically. In the moment, it can be overwhelming to make decisions.
You might think you do not care in the moment (because you are in too much pain to care), when in reality, it is something that matters to you.
For this reason, it is wise to think through a birth plan ahead of time. It is good for you to be informed of the decisions that might need to be made or will definitely need to be made. Then you can think through and decide what you would ideally like to happen.
- What is a Birth Plan
- When To Create Your Birth Plan
- What To Include in the Birth Plan
- Location, Doctor, and Your Personal Info
- Room Conditions
- Photos and Videos
- Labor Conditions
- Support During Labor
- Pain Medication
- Medical Interventions
- Delivery Preferences
- Feeding Baby in Hospital
- Baby Care
- Birth Plan Printables
- Reviewing the Birth Plan
- Distributing Your Birth Plan
- Related Posts
What is a Birth Plan
Before we get into what to include in your birth plan, we need to discuss exactly what a birth plan is.
A birth plan is an outline of what you would ideally like to happen during the labor and delivery of your baby. These are your desires and goals for labor and delivery.
There are many decisions to make in the moment, and it can help to have thought things through before you are in the process of delivering a baby. One of these decisions can be whether or not to medicate yourself for pain.
It could also be little things like do you want the television on or off, how bright do you want the lights, do you want someone to rub your back, etc.
It is important for you to be willing and accepting of changes that might need to happen during delivery. You never know what will happen during delivery, whether it is your first child or fifth child. I have a friend who delivered over 6 babies vaginally with no issues (including twins) and then had a cesarean.
Every birth has the potential for things to go differently from your ideal path.
You will also want your partner, doula, mom, or whoever is there to help you to be willing to go off-script of the birth plan if needed.
For example, before delivering a baby, I thought it sounded nice to have my back rubbed when I was uncomfortable or in pain. When the time came, however, I didn’t want anyone touching me. At all. So you might feel differently once you are in the moment.
So make a plan, but be mentally ready to be flexible.
Another note, if you are creating a birth plan to hand out to others, make sure it is not too long. Keep it simple and easy to scan. If you can keep it to one page, that is ideal .
When To Create Your Birth Plan
Ideally, you will not deliver your baby until 37 weeks at the earliest. It is good to create your birth plan between 32-36 weeks along, although you can definitely go sooner!
Some of the facets of a birth plan are dependent upon your practitioner. You might want to go through this as soon as you know you are pregnant and make sure your OBGYN is lined up with the facets of a birth plan that matter the most to you.
For example, if you are against an episiotomy unless it si absolutely necessary, you will not want an OB who routinely performs an episiotomy.
What To Include in the Birth Plan
Some people are more particular than others. I will include a full list of things to think about for your birth plan, but you might not feel the need to include everything.
Location, Doctor, and Your Personal Info
You will want to have down where you intend to deliver your baby. Which hospital? Do you plan to use a birthing center instead? Will it be a home birth?
You will also want to include your doctor’s name. Will you have a Duola? How can your medical professionals be contacted?
What is your name? Who should be contacted on your behalf? Is there any health factors the labor and delivery nurses should be aware of?
Get this basic information down.
Who can come into your room? Who is your main support person?
Who can come in while you are in labor? Who can be there during delivery? Think this through so you have those you want present and you do not have those you do not want present.
If you have older children, do you want them to be able to be present at any point in the labor or delivery process?
How do you want the room to be while you labor? Do you want lights on or dimmed? Do you want the room quiet or do you have a labor playlist going on?
Photos and Videos
Do you want photos or videos taken? If so, by whom? When are pictures okay and when are they not okay?
When you are in labor, do you want to be able to walk around? Do you want to be able to get into a bathtub or to shower? Do you want a ball to sit on? Perhaps you would like a birthing stool or a chair? Do you want to get in bed and be left alone?
Do you want to be able to eat and drink? Do you want a certain smell in the room?
What do you want to wear during labor? Will you wear what is provided or do you have something you want to wear?
Support During Labor
How do you want to be supported? Do you want someone talking to you or do you want to be left alone? Do you want to get back rubs or a massage? This can be hard to judge if you have never been in high amounts of pain, so make your best guess and let your loved ones know this could change.
Do you want someone to breathe with you? Put it all down.
What type of pain meds are you okay with? Are there any you definitely want? Are there any you definitely don’t want?
Here are some common pain relief options:
- Hot and cold packs
- Walking Epidural
- Standard Epidural
- Spinal block
How do you feel about various possible medical interventions?
Are you okay with membranes being swept? Are you open to your water being broken?
Do you want baby monitored during delivery? If so, how do you want that to look? Your choice will impact how mobile you are or aren’t during labor.
Are you okay with an IV? What about a catheter? What about an enema?
Are you okay with medication, such as oxytocin, being used to start or speed up labor contractions?
As a review, think about your preferences with each of these. Are you completely against any? Do you want them used only when medically necessary? Are you okay with them being used routinely? Be aware of what the risks are if you say a hard no to any of these.
- Membranes swept
- Break water
- Baby Monitor
- Cervical exams
How do you want delivery to look?
Are you aiming for a vaginal birth? If so, are you okay with an episiotomy? Are you okay with vacuum extraction or forceps being used? What do you want tried before moving to a cesarean?
Are there any birthing positions you want to try as you deliver baby?
Do you want a mirror to see what is going on?
Do you want someone to catch the baby (like dad)? Who do you want to cut the umbilical cord? When do you want it clamped? Do you want baby on your tummy right away or do you want baby taken and cleaned up a bit first?
If a cesarean becomes necessary, who will be in the delivery room with you? Do you want to be conscious? Do you want to see baby come out? Do you want to try to breastfeed as soon as possible?
It is wise to discuss what the hospital policies and practices are for these delivery options. It might be standard procedure to have the father or family member cut the umbilical cord, or that might be not allowed at all. Some policies could affect where you choose to deliver your baby.
Feeding Baby in Hospital
Once your baby is here, how do you want feeding to go? Do you want to exclusively breastfeed? Are you okay with supplementing with formula if needed? Do you want to only bottle feed?
Do you want to use a breast pump at the hospital?
Do you want a lactation consultant to help you with breastfeeding?
Where do you want your newborn to sleep in the hospital? Do you want baby in the room with you always (commonly referred to as room-in)? Do you want baby to go in the nursery for periods at night or in the day?
Is it okay for your baby to have a pacifier? If you are having a boy, do you want your baby circumcised?
Do you want to bank the cord blood? If not, do you want to donate the cord blood? Do you want the placenta?
Are you okay with vitamin K and with antibiotic eye treatment?
Birth Plan Printables
I have a couple of birth plan free printables for you.
One is a document to brainstorm with. You can go through this post and write out the options and what you want. You could certainly use it as your final draft, also. Get that here.
The other is more of a final draft version once you have worked out your rough draft. You would put your preferences in that document. This is what you would distribute. Get that here.
Reviewing the Birth Plan
Once you have your birth plan created, you should go over it with your doctor and/or doula. Medical professionals and those familiar with hospital or birth center policies can let you know if you have plans or expectations that will not be able to happen.
Medical professionals can let you know if something is not possible or practical that you have on your birth plan. Some adjustments might need to be made.
Distributing Your Birth Plan
Once you have the birth plan all set, you will want a copy for you, a copy for your doctor, a copy for anyone in the room with you for delivery, and a copy for the hospital or birth center. It is wise to have a couple other copies on hand in case someone new delivers your baby.
You do not have to print out an official birth plan. If you are not super particular about the process, you might just think through each step, ask your doctor about hospital policies, and have a general plan. Talk it through with your spouse or partner.
You could just write down the things of most importance to you.
If you do want things more official, you can type it all up so everyone is on the same page and knows what you want in an ideal birthing experience.
Remember to be flexible for unforeseen events, but also do not be afraid to voice your preferences.