Pregnancy involves a LOT of planning. From the moment you first received your positive pregnancy test, you’ve likely been consumed with designing the perfect nursery and picking out all of your baby gear. While it might feel like you never have enough time to make all of your decisions before your little miracle arrives, there is one important plan that you want to make sure to complete before the end of your pregnancy to make sure that you and your pregnancy care providers are all on the same page when the big day arrives.
Continue reading to find out what a birth plan is and why it’s important.
A birth plan is a written plan outlining what you and your OB/GYN hope to happen on your delivery day. Giving birth is a very personal experience, and things often happen so fast that you might not have time to share your preferences. Putting it all on paper before your water breaks is the ideal way to avoid potential misunderstandings.
Of course, it is entirely possible that unforeseen and unexpected circumstances will arise that force your birth plan to adapt, but this shouldn’t stop you from creating one in the first place.
Follow these steps for creating the best birth plan for you and your family.
Begin your birth plan with some basic information. First, you’ll want to list your name and due date as birth plans might be shared with nurses and other members of your care team who don’t readily have this information at hand.
Next, list the names of the people and medical professionals who will be involved in the delivery. For example, you might want to list the name of your labor coach, midwife and doctor. If other family members want to be present, then you can also include them in this section.
Labor is often the longest part of the childbirth process, and there are many things to consider about how you want to spend those hours. Do you want the option to walk around? If so, stating this in your birth plan can help your care team make sure that you are safe to move around freely.
You might also want to list if you wish to use a birthing ball or chair, or if you prefer to spend time relaxing in a bath. This allows you and your care team to have what you need ready.
Some women prefer a “natural” birth (meaning with no pain relief), while others are completely fine with having medication early on. When you are thinking of birth plan ideas, try to remember that there are more options for pain relief than just an epidural.
For example, you might prefer to try therapeutic massages or deep breathing first instead of going straight to using pain medication. If so, then this is a good time to let your care team know so that they can help you practice techniques such as deep breathing.
If you are planning for a vaginal birth, then you might want to mention if you prefer to avoid having an episiotomy. For C-sections, you’ll want to say who you would like to be by your side in the delivery room.
You can also list your preferences for whether or not you want to use a mirror to see your baby as they are born. In addition, you can talk to your care team about if you prefer to have your baby placed immediately on your stomach so that you can begin to bond.
If you have a spouse or labor partner in the room, then find out if they want to cut the umbilical cord so you can include this information as well.
With so much focus on labor and delivery, you might forget to add how you want to care for your baby immediately following birth. However, this is an important part of your plan as nursing moms often begin breastfeeding within minutes after birth.
Be sure to write down how you plan to feed your baby. This ensures that you aren’t given any medications that aren’t safe for nursing mothers. You can also write down if you prefer to change your baby’s first diaper and if you want to have your newborn room-in with you as much as possible.
Different cultures have developed their own customs for childbirth. For instance, some cultures have the father stay away during labor while a female member of the family steps in. Some cultures promote having a new mother stay in bed for several days, while others encourage women to get up and start moving around as soon as they can.
If you prefer to have a special blessing or prayer said over your newborn as they are born, then put that in your birth plan. Your labor delivery team should do their best to respect and honor your wishes as you welcome your baby to the world.
Ideally, you should have your birth plan ready by about 6 weeks before your due date. This gives your doctor, midwife and labor coach plenty of time to look it over and ask follow-up questions. While unexpected events might require you to be flexible and adjust the plan, you can rest easy knowing that your labor and delivery team will do their best to make sure that your preferences and expectations are met.