Why It’s Important To Have A Birth Plan
Many months back, before I was pregnant with baby number two, I saw a peer on Instagram telling her followers that writing a birth plan was an “unnecessary waste of time.” I thought to myself “wow, what horrible advice!” Yes, it’s true penning your ideal plans for giving birth won’t ensure that everything will go your way. However, there are still several pros to having a plan in place. Birth plans are more than just deciding on whether you want to listen to Theta meditation music or Trap music. They serve as a reference for your partner, primary support person, and anyone else involved in your birth. They also give you the time and opportunity to ask and answer big questions beforehand.
What Is A Birth Plan?
A birth plan irons out your wishes, preferences, and decisions on everything from the moment you go into labor. Its purpose is to inform your doctor, midwife, and anyone else on your birthing team of what you (and your partner) may want, or not want to happen. It addresses labor and delivery, newborn and sometimes postpartum care.
Before You Write Out Your Plan
Before you write out your perfect birth plan, talk with your midwife or doctor to find out what the possibilities even are. For example, if you’re delivering at a hospital, but you want to labor in water, you’ll need to figure out if you’re going to do that at home or if the hospital has a birthing tub or bathtub and if that option is available to you.
Find out what the hospital rules are in terms of the delivery room. Besides your partner or primary support person, would you like to have a doula present? Your mom? Both of them? Is there a limit to how many people can be in the room with you while delivering your baby? Does that number of people change if you have to a C-section birth?
You’ll want to know what options you have, and you’ll want to be sure your doctor is aware that you intend to have some requests and may choose to deny certain standard practices.
Of course, if you have a home birth, you’ll have more options available to you, but it’s still imperative to involve your midwife before presenting her with a copy of your birth plan.
What You Should Address On Your Birth Plan
You want to start with your personal information, your name, age, any health concerns or allergies. You also want to list your partner or primary support person, their relationship to you and their telephone number. Other information you want to list are the names and telephone numbers of your midwife or doctor, your doula (if applicable) and your pediatrician. Even if you are planning to have a home birth, having everyone’s information listed ensures those on your birthing team are contacted easily and quickly.
Next, you want to address your labor preferences. Some questions to consider are:
- Who do you want in the room with you?
- How would you like the lighting to be set in the room/house?
- What kind of music would you like to listen to?
- Do you want the room kept cool or warm?
- Do you plan to bring a birthing ball?
- Do you want to walk around, take a shower, labor in a bathtub?
- Will you want someone taking photos of you?
- Do you want someone massaging you?
- What type of food and beverages do you want to have on hand?
When it comes to delivering your baby some questions to answer might be:
- Are you planning a vaginal birth?
- Would you like to induced by a drug called Pitocin?
- What are your plans for pain management? Have you been practicing hypnobirthing? Are you using affirmations? Or are you planning to utilize an epidural?
- What are your thoughts on continuous electronic fetal monitoring? Might you prefer hands-on listening?
- How do you feel about the use of interventions like forceps or vacuum extraction?
- Would you like your partner to catch your baby? Who will cut the umbilical cord?
- Do you want the umbilical cord clamped and the blood banked? Or do you want to delay the clamping of the cord and allow more blood to transfer to your baby?
In terms of newborn care you’ll want to make some decisions on the following:
- Would you and your baby meet immediately after birth before going through newborn care?
- Do you plan to partake in skin-to-skin? If for some reason you are not available for skin-to-skin, who should step into that role?
- Would you like your newborn to be given a bath?
- Do you want a Vitamin K shot administered?
- How about eye ointment or drops?
- The PKU test?
- A hearing test?
- Will you be breastfeeding? If not (or just in case there are any issues) did you bring the formula you would like to be administered? (The hospital should have formula on hand but do you know what brand that is? Do you know what the ingredients are? Is that a formula you want to give your new baby?)
Other Important Things to Consider
While your birth plan is a serious document, it isn’t written in stone. That’s why researching your answers, investigating the options at your hospital and talking your thoughts through with your midwife or doctor prior, is crucial. You also have to be completely open to change.
You may have plans for a home birth but ultimately need to be transported to your backup hospital. That’s why it’s super important to make sure your birth plan covers all scenarios.
Are you planning a vaginal birth? Just in case, include some decisions regarding an emergency C-section in your birth plan.
Maybe you initially wanted an epidural-free birth, but at some point, during labor, you decide you need some help managing the pain. That’s OK!
Be open and flexible. There’s no way to predict or control exactly what your birth experience is going to be like. However writing out a plan allows you (and your partner) to put some serious thought into these decisions. You want to know you are making the healthiest choice for mama and baby. Having a stance on some of these questions in advance is very comforting.
Even if things don’t go exactly as you planned (and they probably won’t), having a birth plan allows everyone to do their part to help create the best experience as possible for you and your baby.
Print out several copies of your birth plan. Put one copy in your hospital bag, give your partner or primary support person a copy as well as your midwife or doctor.