How To Create A Birth Plan

Written by: Janel Duffy
Posted: February 15, 2024
Creating a birth plan goes beyond just daydreaming about your birth during your lunch break or watching birth videos while you're experiencing pregnancy-related insomnia. It's an actual plan-- something detailed and documented for you, your partner, your practitioner and any other support person you have with you during birth.

A birth plan is a document (physical or digital) that outlines your preferences for labor, delivery and postpartum care.

Creating a birth plan is an important step as you prepare for the arrival of your new baby as it ensures a personalized and empowering birth experience. It serves as a communication tool between you and your providers so everyone is on the same page when it comes to your desires surrounding the details of your birth and your immediate postpartum experience. 

What is generally covered in a birth plan?

While it's totally up to you to decide how detailed your birth plan is, here are some basics that are typically covered: 
  • Labor options
  • Birth preferences
  • Early postpartum desires
  • Planning for unexpected circumstances
  • Provider and support person preferences

Even though you're working with providers who are skilled and highly experienced, there are many reasons why it's beneficial to create a birth plan.

  • Communication

Creating a birth plan help you to clearly outline your wishes to your healthcare team. It's much easier to think about your wishes now before you're in the throes of labor and have a hard time stringing together a sentence. This will also serve as a tool for your partner, doula or other support person to reference on your behalf if necessary.
  • Preparation

Thinking about your wishes for labor, delivery and early postpartum BEFORE they happen will help you and your partner weigh your options and make informed decisions. Creating a birth plan gives you a reason to research your choices, ask questions and really feel in control of your birthing experience.
  • Empowerment

Taking the time to create a birth plan will allow you to thoroughly think through and decide on what's best for you and your new baby. Your birth plan is a sacred document that holds your deepest desires for how you want to feel emotionally, physically and even spiritually during labor and birth. Taking charge of this can be incredibly empowering and can set the tone for your journey into motherhood.

It's important that your OB or midwife honor your birth plan to the best of their abilities

Creating a birth plan and discussing it with your provider should be something that is encouraged. While every hospital and birthing center has its own regulations, it's important to bring up your desires. Not only does honoring your birth plan show respect for your autonomy and preferences, it also builds trust and cooperation between you and your provider. If your OB or midwife honors your birth plan, it will likely lead to a more positive and satisfying birthing experience.

There is no one-size-fits-all template to creating a birth plan, but here are some steps to help you get started:

  1. Research your options- understand the different aspects of labor, delivery and postpartum care. Learn the hospital or birthing center policies, speak with other moms who have used your provider, and ask as many questions as you can to help you make informed choices about your care.
  2. Choose your birth setting and team- it's important that you choose providers that you feel great about in a location that feels safe and comfortable to you! Depending on where you're located, what insurance covers, etc, you'll need to decide if you want to give birth at home, at a birthing center or in a hospital. This decision should be made after you do your own research. At no point should you feel pressured to give birth somewhere you don't want to. When it comes to your team, there are a few different parts to think about:
    • Which medical provider (if any) do you want at your birth? OB, midwife or something else
    • Which support people do you want at your birth? Think about whether or not you want a doula, your partner, a sister, your MIL or anyone else present. This is also a great place to include people you absolutely do not want present at your birth (including specific members of an OB or midwifery practice)
    • Who is allowed to visit after birth? Again, include people you definitely don't want visiting.
  3. Outline your preferences for labor- it's important that you do your research and have conversations with your provider to understand your options wherever you're giving birth. Think about how you want your labor to look and feel and whether or not you want any sort of interventions to help move labor along:
    • Going past your EDD (estimated due date): indicate how comfortable you are with going past your EDD and whether or not you may want an induction at any point past 40 weeks.
    • Mobility:will you be able to get up and move around? Take a shower during labor? Sit, squat, lunge or move around? Or will you be given only one option to lay on your back? Will you be hooked up to IV fluids? Include the options you want available to you during your labor.
    • Monitoring: will you be attached to a fetal monitoring device? Will your team continuously check yours and baby's heart rates? Will there be a contraction measuring device placed on your belly? Outline the amount of monitoring you feel most comfortable with.
    • Pain relief: discuss whether you want natural pain relief options or if you're okay with an epidural. Include your wishes on how soon you'd like to incorporate any type of pain relief during your labor.
    • Inductions via medications, Foley bulb or other methods
    • Breaking your water: artificial rupture of the amniotic sac to help move things along
    • Pitocin administration: a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin used to induce or speed up labor
  4. Delivery preferences- include the positions you feel comfortable giving birth in and positions you'd like to avoid. This is also a great place to outline if you want to catch the baby yourself or if your partner wants to be involved in any way. Your delivery preferences are equally important if you're planning a c-section. Discuss options with your provider about gentle c-sections and other ways to feel empowered during your birth.
  5. Immediate post-birth wishes- even though you'll be relieved that your baby is born, it's important to consider and plan for the immediate post-birth, so you and your baby are taken care of in the way you desire. Some things to think about here are:
    • Cord clamping: if you prefer a delayed umbilical cord clamping, this should be outlined in your birth plan. Here you can also include whether or not you or your partner wants to be involved in cutting the umbilical cord.
    • Skin-to-skin and bathing: your birth plan should include whether or not you want to spend time soaking up your naked newborn before either of you is cleaned off. Talk about the amount of time you'd like before a baby gets a bath, and whether of not you want them to have a bath at all.
    • Newborn procedures: this can include vaccinations, eye ointments, circumcisions, hearing tests, metabolic screening and more. Based on your own research include your preferences about each of these in your birth plan
    • Breastfeeding: if you want to breastfeed your baby, this should also be noted in your birth plan
  6. Planning for unexpected circumstances- while you can't plan for everything, it's important to consider your wishes if you end up requiring an induction, cesarean or run into other complications. 
As you create your birth plan, it's important that you discuss it with your provider well in advance to make sure you have all of the information needed to make an informed decision as well as ensuring your provider is aware of your desires.

After you've written out your birth plan, here's how you can ensure your birth plan is honored:

  • Get your partner involved

A partner who is as invested in the birth plan as you are will be a solid support and advocate for you and your baby during labor and delivery. Having a birth plan will also help your partner recall your birth wishes when things get intense.
  • Have frequent discussions with your OB or midwife

Your birth plan should not be a surprise to your provider when you are starting labor. Communicating openly about your desires throughout your pregnancy will help your OB or midwife understand and support your preferences, ensuring a collaborative and positive birthing experience. This ongoing dialogue allows for adjustments to be made to your birth plan as necessary, taking into account any medical considerations that arise, and helps build trust between you and your healthcare team.
  • Hire a doula

Besides being a great support person and coach during birth, doulas act as fierce advocates for moms and their birth plans. Your doula will have your best interest in mind, will be familiar with your birth plan and will push for your desires to be honored. Learn more about what a birth doula does here.

Creating your birth plan is an empowering step towards a more personalized, meaningful and empowering birth experience

It's not just about thinking about what you want in your birth, you're documenting something that will serve as a dialogue and communication tool between you and your healthcare provider. Clearly communicating your desires, expectations and concerns will help you remain in control of your birth and help you and your partner get ready for it along the way. In preparing thoughtfully and closely with your healthcare team, you're setting the stage for a positive and rewarding birth experience. 

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Category: Getting Ready For Your Baby
Tags: obgyn , doula , birth , birth support , home birth , birth plan , ready for birth , hospital birth


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