Why You Need a Birth Plan

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Some of us are planners. We plan our meals, our days and our wardrobes.

Others of us, not so much.  But regardless, most of us will plan for big events like birthdays, graduations and weddings. So it stands to reason that we should plan for the birth of our babies. 

Although you don't want to over plan (after all it is a birth and anything can happen), you should make your wishes known. Remember this is your birth, so being clear about your needs and your philosophy is important. You most likely have some idea of how you would like your ideal birth to be, and if you don't, you should take some time to think about it.

 How do you plan for a birth?

Most women are pretty clear about where they want to have their baby (homebirth versus hospital birth), but are not sure how much control they can have over how they go through  the process. For some, just deciding on the “where” is all the planning they want to do, while others will plan the “how”  down to the smallest detail. Neither of these is ideal.

 Creating a Birth Plan

It is a good idea to have a written plan that you can review with your doctor or midwife and your birthing team. This document of your wishes lets your team know what your goals are for your birth.

Try to find a balance between what you want and what you will accept. Things can change during the birthing process, so you need to be flexible.

Hospital Policies

If you are giving birth in a hospital, take the time to get to know the policies of the various hospitals where you are considering delivering.  Hospital policy will dictate whether some of your wishes will be met, so it's a good thing to know this before hand and not when you are in labor.

Here are some questions you may want to ask when you tour the hospital:

  • Are they baby friendly, meaning do they promote breast feeding and skin to skin?

  • What is their C-section rate?

  • Will they allow you to move about, eat and drink?

  • What birthing positions do they endorse?[/su_list]

Knowing the answer to these questions should inform your choice of hospital, and can make the difference between a great experience and an OK experience.

The Birth Experience

When considering your birth experience here are some thing you may want to think about:

  • Who do you want present during labor and delivery: partner, parents, children, doula?

  • Do you want to have music, the lights dimmed, as few interruptions as possible?

  • Do you want the hospital staff limited to your doctor and nurses (no students, residents or interns)?

  • Do you want your partner to be able to take pictures?

  • Do you want to be able to wear your own clothes?[/su_list]

A Sample Birth Plan

Generally a birth plan is organized by stages, so here’s a sample plan to get you started.  Add to it or change it according to what is important to you, and remember to always use positive language and be specific.

First Stage of Labor:

  • I would like to labor at home for as long as possible and have the option to return home if I arrive and am less than 5 cm dilated.

  • I would like to walk around and move during labor.

  • I would like to have no internal fetal monitoring unless an emergency arises.

  • I would like vaginal exams only with consent and as few as possible.

  • I would like no pitocin or breaking of water unless medically necessary.

Second Stage of Labor:

  • I want to choose my position for pushing.

  • No episiotomy, please.

  • Place my baby on my belly after birth.

  • Please cut the cord only after it stops pulsating.

  • I want to breastfeed immediately.

  • If stitching is necessary, please use local anesthetic.

Third Stage of Labor:

  • I want my baby to stay with me at all times, no nursery.

  • Please perform all physical exams on my baby in my room.

  • If warming is needed, please place my baby on my chest with blankets.

  • Dad can stay with me and my baby at all times.

After you have written your plan, it would be a good idea to show it to someone on the hospital staff such as the head labor and delivery nurse or the patient coordinator to make sure nothing goes against hospital policy. That way you won't be disappointed if something doesn't work out according to your plan.

The birth of your baby is such a special time. I urge you to really be involved and take charge of your birth.

Now I'd like to hear from you. What ideas do you have for a Birth Plan? Share or comment below.