While pregnancy is exciting many of us dread the upcoming labor. And usually, that has to do with things like the expected pain and fear of the unknown. However, writing a birth plan helps you prepare as best as you can for the big day.
There is so much that can and sometimes does happen that we can’t plan for though. As I experienced first hand in our second birth, planing out your preferences does not mean things will happen that way.
what is a birth plan?
A birth plan is just that, a tool that communicates your preferences and goals before, during and after labor and delivery. In it parents outline the best case scenario on how they would like to labor and deliver the baby as well as handle the after delivery care if all goes as planned.
why you should create a birth plan
There are many reasons to write a birth plan, I did one up with our first birth and found it extremely helpful.
A good birth plan can help you understand what to expect when you go into labor, and knowing things like what is practical or feasible and what your practitioner and birthing location have available to support you.
A birth plan can head off unrealistic expectations, minimize disappointments and eliminate some conflict or miscommunication between Mamma and her support team. It’s also a great way to get the lines of communication open.
you’ll ask more questions
The joy of writing up any kind of plan is that you start to ask questions. This leads us down the road to answers…
For instance, not all care providers will automatically want you to have an epidural. Asking questions about pain management will help you see what your care provider thinks and if you are on the same page or not.
This also will get you asking about options available at your birthing location, things like birthing tubs are not available everywhere but you may have the option of a shower instead of a tub. Some locations also have a variety of other birthing tools like slings, birthing balls, birthing stools etc. knowing what tools you will have access to can help you plan out what you would like to do.
helps communicate with your care providers
The big thing I see Birth Plans focusing on is facilitating a conversation between YOU and your Care Provider(s). It’s important to make sure you are all on the same page when it comes to preferences during birth.
The big thing here is that you want to have open communication. Think of it as an opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings or unspoken expectations prior to birth.
It also will help you figure out if there are any “routine procedures” at your birthing location of choice that you need to be aware of or challenge.
you’ll feel more in control
The more you know, the more you will understand what is happening during the birth. And let’s face it, often times in order to give birth we have to give up control.
This often sudden vulnerability can make us feel out of control which sometimes leads to panic attacks. However if we understand what is happening in our bodies we can learn to recognize that this change is necessary for birthing our babies. It can even help you learn to overcome your panic attacks as I did.
With the understanding and respect we have for our bodies it’s easier to face this shift and lets us feel more in control of what is going on even when it isn’t ideal.
cautions when writing a birth plan
Ok, the idea of having a plan in place of what we would like to see happen is great. BUT, and this is a big BUT, don’t get set on things having to happen the way they are written in the birth plan ok?
Planning your birth in advance is great for many reasons, but what you plan may not be medically advisable, or something may change in the moment and you will have to adapt at the last minute to ensure your’s and baby’s wellbeing.
You can also change your mind last minute, for instance in our Littlest’s birth I thought I would want to be in the water right away, we tried that and my body decided that it wasn’t the way to go so we had to move to other options.
birth plans give you flexibility
Birth is messy, it’s raw, it’s primal, and it’s absolutely AMAZING! But it doesn’t really follow any particular plan no matter how well thought out or expected.
Getting hung up on how the Brith Plan was set up is a recipe for disappointment. Please use this tool to make sure you are aware of all the things you would like or WISH would happen, but be open to the possibility that something may occur that no one has control over.
And while at the end of the day we all hope for a healthy happy baby and Mamma, we also need to recognize that even a birth that is seen as “ideal” can also be traumatic for Mamma, I should know, I’m dealing with the after-effects of an “ideal” yet traumatic birth.
what to include in your birth plan
Ok, there are a lot of things that can be included in a birth plan, and it is important to note that there are no right or wrong ways to write a birth plan.
Some cover the basics, others are very detailed. And because every Mamma is different in her likes and wishes, as well as her experience in pregnancy and medical history each birth plan should be personalized.
Here are some of the basics for you to get started.
Things like Your name, Age, Partner’s Name, Due Date, Emergency Contact info etc. Nicknames you would like staff to use with you. Due Date/Induction Date
Contact info is essential, staff need to know who they are dealing with and how to address you. If you have a different pronoun you prefer to use also include that here.
Doctor/Midwife Name & Phone Number, Delivery Location Name (Hospital or Birth Centre name), Address & Phone Number
Doula Name and Phone Number
It’s great to have these right at the top where you can see them quickly and easily. That way when you go into labor you have the information right there for quick reference.
mamma’s medical notes (& baby’s too)
Here you want to list things like allergies, any pregnancy challenges that you’ve experienced like Group B Strep, an Rh incompatibility with baby, diabetes.
Any conditions outside of the pregnancy that they should be aware of too.
It’s a good idea to list if you are a Sexual Assault or Abuse Survivor here and how it affects you too. Medical staff are getting better at recognizing that these scenarios affect how we experience our births, and how they can help us through them.
For myself I included how I don’t respond to touch well, my Gluten Intolerance, and that as a result of my Abuse History I require people to approach me from the front NEVER from behind.
Here it’s a good idea to be clear and keep things in a list like format where possible. Medical staff are often in a rush because they have so many things to do every day and we don’t want them missing any vital information about your preferences.
list things you would like to avoid:
Many women want to avoid a C-Section so just state that, or if you don’t want Foceps / Suction used on Baby.
If you have something that you are against due to your faith try adding a symbol of your faith beside the text as it should help them register it’s a faith-related reason.
during labor we will:
Again, keep this to simple point-form lists.
Things, like eating and drinking as needed.
Who you would like to have in the room with you.
If you prefer limited fetal monitoring (intermittent) or constant, are all good things to add here.
The key is to use positive language and keep it non-aggressive so it is easier for your support team to understand.
On mine, I also listed in this section that if labor stalled I would like to try natural options like repositioning or a breast pump before considering an augmentation.
pain management methods
This one may seem to speak for it’s self but there are lots of options. Pain Management in Labor is a good thing to research in full, some things can and will affect Baby as well as Mamma but not all.
Some methods can be used with various types of monitors others not so much.
If you would prefer to NOT be offered any type of pain management by medical staff state that too. Just also then add the common ones like an epidural to your list of “avoid” items above so that staff know you’ve at least thought about it.
in case of an emergency
Ok, I hope you never have to face a birthing emergency. But I would be lax to not bring up at least some of the scenarios to think about.
Shoulder Dystocia – some locations and care providers will work with you for repositioning to release this, others will not make sure you are ok with where your care provider and birthing location stand on this.
C-Section – for those of us with intense fears around this procedure (like me) it can be helpful to state if you want to be put under completely or not.
In my case, I asked to be put under completely if a c-section was needed because I didn’t want my anxiety to morph into a panic attack if this life-saving surgery was needed.
This will include things like what position you would like to be in during delivery. Or you can add the blanket statement of “Mom will choose the position she feels is comfortable & effective for delivery” or alternatively you can list some of the options you would like to try.
This is also the place to state if you would like coaching during pushing or perennial support.
This is the place to list things you want to do like taking advantage of the golden hour (1st hour after birth of skin to skin with Mamma and Baby). That any test necessary in the first hour should be done with Baby skin to skin on Mamma.
If you are already in “protect the baby mode” it’s a great idea to remind care providers that they need your consent to touch baby.
List who you would like to have cut the cord and if you would like delayed umbilical cord cutting. Note: if you want delayed cord cutting but not to cut the cord yourself (or your partner) I still recommend asking to cut the cord as this tends to result in longer delays and more time to let the pulsing stop. You can always say you changed your mind and want them to cut it in the moment.
How do you want the placenta to come out? Are you open to things like limited traction or would you prefer augmenting to get it out? Or maybe you want to wait until it comes on it’s own.
After the placenta is delivered what would you like done with it? If you are looking to have it encapsulated or otherwise preserved here is where you need to make that clear.
You can also state things like if there is an active hemorrhage what you would prefer done to help Mamma, or if you would like Oxcitocin to help prevent hemorrhage.
Fundal Massages – This is where the staff check to see how your uterus is doing with contracting back to the original size. I would highly recommend stating that you need consent to be obtained prior to this being done and requesting that it be started as a light pressure working up to deeper/firmer pressure as needed.
It is a good idea to also state what you would like done with baby or would like to avoid. For instance eye ointment, baby’s first bath, and if you are planning to breastfeed or would like to start with formula.
what to do with your birth plan
Once you’ve gone through all the things in your birth plan with your Care Provider(s) it’s a good idea to have a couple of copies printed up. Give one to each care provider, and stick one in your birthing bag.
It may be that you don’t even bring the plan out of the bag during labor, but having it can be a great help in communicating and digging to find out all the information you want/need before you go into labor.
I believe that the best part of a birth plan is that it makes you look at all the things that could help you have the experience you want in this birth. It helps build trust with your care providers and keeps the lines of communication open between everyone supporting you and yourself.
So take the time to think about what it is that you want for this birth because the end goal is not just a healthy baby and Mamma. But to have an experience that you remember in a positive light.