Creating Birth Plans to Suit Your Needs
Birth plans are personalized documents which express your wishes for labor and delivery. It’s likely that your midwife or obstetrician will help you to develop your birth plan in one of your third-trimester appointments. But it pays to start thinking about it now. In this article, we give a basic guide to birth plans and the things you might like to think about and include. But every pregnancy is different and your needs are unique to you. It is important that you develop a specific birth plan with your partner and your professionals.
Why is it Important to Create a Birth Plan?
Whether you decide to give birth at home, in the hospital, or at a birthing center, your birth plan keeps you in control of the process as much as possible. Your birth plan is a means of communicating your wishes to the midwives, obstetricians, and other professionals who work with you throughout your labor and delivery. Often, there will be people present who haven’t been part of your pregnancy stages. It will also include notes and information about any pregnancy complications which might affect your labor and any medical history the professionals should be aware of. The birth plan is not set in concrete, changes can be made if anything unexpected develops during your labor. But it makes a very useful guideline for everyone involved.
What Should be Included in my Birth Plan?
Of course, you can’t plan for everything. I’ve never heard of a woman who’s labor went exactly to plan. But, you can be in control of many aspects of your labor and delivery. Here are ten things you might like to consider:
Any Specific Needs You Have:
If you have a medical condition or disability which means you will need extra support during labor, this should be clearly stated in your birth plan.
Your Birth Partner/s:
Who would you like with you throughout your labor? Your husband or partner? Friends or family? Your pregnancy doula? You can also stipulate what parts of the labor you would like people present for and whether you want time to discuss privately if an important decision needs to be made. Do you want your birth partner to stay with you if you should need a caesarean section or assisted delivery?
Pain Relief and Medication:
There are many different options when it comes to pain relief and some of the decisions need to be made in advance. Do you want to have a drug-free delivery (natural birth)? If you choose to have an epidural, it needs to be clearly stated as it is administered in the early stages of labor. Other options include nitrous oxide (laughing gas), tranquilizers, narcotics and spinal blocks. Talk to your pregnancy professionals about pain relief options that will suit you.
This may depend on the prenatal education you have chosen. Are you using Lamaze breathing? Or Hypnobirthing? Would you like a birthing pool or other equipment (such as bean bags or birthing balls) available?
If a situation arises where you need an assisted delivery, you can stipulate a preference for forceps or ventouse. This will be a guideline only and your doctor or midwife will help you to make the best decision based on your situation.
The delivery of the placenta is known as the third stage. You can choose to deliver it naturally (drug-free) or to be given medication to speed the delivery (managed third stage). In some cultures, the placenta is kept and buried, but unless you specify what you would like to happen with it in your birth plan, it will be disposed of by the hospital.
Who will do the honor of cutting the umbilical cord? This is usually the husband’s job, but you may choose another preference such as your mother or birth partner.
Meeting Your Baby:
When Baby finally arrives, you can choose what happens. Would you like your husband to hold him or her first? Would you like the baby to be placed immediately skin to skin with you to start the bonding process? Or would you like the baby to be cleaned and wrapped before he or she is given to you? If you don’t already know the sex of your baby, who will be the first to find out if it’s a boy or a girl?
If you’ve made a decision about whether you’ll be breast or bottle feeding, you can add it to your birth plan and your delivery professionals will act accordingly.
Notifying Friends/Relatives/Social Media:
This is probably the farthest thing from your mind right now. But it pays to think about how you will notify friends and family of your baby’s birth. There’s nothing worse than news of your baby’s birth getting out “through the grapevine” when you really wanted to tell people your big news yourself. Make sure your husband or birth partner has their phone handy and choose when, where, and how you tell people that your new arrival has finally arrived.
Anything Else that’s Important to You?
As I said, your birth plan is uniquely yours. While your midwife or doula probably has a worksheet or checklist to help you go through the process, it is a guideline and you can choose to put anything that’s important to you on your birth plan. For example, you might have important cultural or religious values that affect the decisions you make around labor and delivery. The more information you include, the more in control you are of what happens to you. Good luck!
More Pregnancy Info:
There are a number of different schools of thought on the best way to give birth. Hundreds of books have been written by experts on natural childbirth, medically-assisted childbirth, decreasing anxiety during labor, and much more. If you’ve got time to but your feet up and do some research before you create your birth plans, it’s a great way to find out more. Check out our recommendations for the top five childbirth books by doctors and experts on the subject.
Anytime from the 28th week of pregnancy, your body might start playing tricks on you and giving you signs of false labor. But what are the actual signs that your labor is starting? Find out what you should look out for here.
And finally: the big day! There’s bound to be one or two surprises in your delivery because every pregnancy is so different. But, the more you know about this “great unknown” the more prepared you’ll be. Read our comprehensive guide to labor and delivery here.