Your birth plan will be your manual for your labor, detailing for your health care team how you want your labor to progress and how you want your baby cared for after birth.
Labor is an exciting time (your new baby is right around the corner!), but it can also be exhausting, stressful, and a little bit overwhelming. A well thought out birth plan can help things to run smoothly and keep you and your providers on the same page, so you can worry less and focus more.
Here are a few tips when it comes to writing your birth plan:
Short and sweet: Keep it to one page. Two tops. Your birth plan doesn’t need to be a novel, but should simply highlight your wants and needs.
Be assertive (not aggressive): State your preferences assertively and clearly, but be polite. Your healthcare team is likely very interested in your wishes; don’t assume they will be hostile or not care.
Include pertinent medical history: Past delivery history, such as if you’ve had a previous C-section and are planning for a VBAC, would be relevant to include in your birth plan. If your significant other has a tendency to pass out at the sight of blood, that also may be relevant to add…
Create a personal birth plan (research!): Don’t just copy and paste a pre-written birth plan off the internet. Have the creation of your birth plan be your motivation to research, study and educate yourself on the things you want to have happen before and after your baby is born. A birth plan is only as effective as you make it.
Review sample birth plans: Take the time to see what others have added to their birth plan (again, don’t just copy and paste!). Click here to view a detailed checklist of possible things to include in your birth plan. Or, visit these resources for templates and tools to create your birth plan:
- Birthing Naturally: Birth Planning
- Choices in Childbirth: Birth Planner Organizer
- American Pregnancy Association: Creating Your Birth Plan
- Earth Mama Angel Baby: Birth Plan Creator
Consider contingencies: Most of us don’t want to plan on something going wrong during labor, but it can be good to have a plan in place in case something unforeseen arises. Include in your plan what kind of augmentation you might want if your labor were to stall, or what your preferences would be if a C-section became necessary.
Share your plan with your provider (and labor coaches) well before your due date: Be sure to discuss your birth plan and labor day preferences with your provider well before your due date. That would be a good time for him or her to determine how realistic your plan is based on his or her scope of practice. It’s also a good idea to have your provider sign your birth plan, acknowledging that they’ve read your requests. Be sure to share your plan with your labor coach or anyone else who will be in the labor room with you.
Draft your birth plan with your birthing location in mind: Be sure to compare your birth plan with your birthing location’s policies and standards. If it’s important that you be able to eat and drink during labor, or you want to deliver baby while squatting or standing, be sure they will be able to accommodate those requests; many hospitals have strict guidelines about these types of things. Your provider should be able to answer these questions as well.
Ensure your birth plan gets to the hospital: Be sure to give a copy of your birth plan to your provider before you go into labor; he or she should ensure a copy gets put into your chart at the hospital or wherever you will deliver. It’s a good idea to bring an extra copy with you when labor starts. This will ensure your nurses and labor and delivery team (as well as their replacements should you still be laboring during a shift change) are all on the same page.