Many expectant parents ask us about a birth plan – what should go on it, what shouldn’t? For most people, a birth plan is a good idea, when used as a communication tool. By this we mean, it communicates your preferences to your care providers in a clear, succinct fashion.
Birth is unpredictable and there is no way to truly plan what will happen on the day. But the power of the birth plan is in the following two things. Firstly, learning about all of your options and figuring out what is most important to you. Secondly, communicating those preferences to your birth team.
7 Things to Know about Birth Plans
1. Take the time to research or attend a childbirth class to learn about your options.
Sitting down to write a birth plan is a great exercise that may show you which topics you are uninformed and uncertain of. For example, should I get an epidural? Do I care about delayed cord clamping? Take the time you need to find the answers to all of your questions through research. Better yet, sign up for a childbirth class. In a class you will be presented with evidence based information on an array of relevant subjects to help you determine what your personal preferences are.
For instance, if the most critical thing is that you have at least one hour of immediate, uninterrupted skin-to-skin time with your baby after birth, make sure your birth plan clearly expresses that. Pick the top 3-4 factors that are the most important to you and stay focused on those points.
3. Share your birth plan with your doula.
Your doula can inform you of routine and standard care procedures at your birth location – an important step. Many people download birth plans templates off the internet that include dozens if not hundreds of preferences that may not apply to their birth location and could potentially come across as rude to your care providers. Your doula can help you prevent this type of reaction to your birth birth, by letting you know of things that are already taken care of. For example, maybe your hospital and care provider routinely allows intermittent monitoring for low risk women. If that is the case you don’t need to request this as it is already routine.
Your doula will also make recommendations or offer additional research suggestions. Since she’ll be at your side at your baby’s birth, it’s also important for her to know your wishes!
4. Discuss details with your partner.
In the moment of your baby’s birth is not a great time to find out that you and your partner disagree about a choice. Review the plan together and make sure that you are in synch about all facets. This will also prepare your partner to advocate for you and pay attention to the issues that are most important to you during labor and birth.
5. Review the birth plan with your care provider at a meeting before you go into labor.
Bring your birth plan with you to one of your prenatal meetings with your doctor or midwife. Make sure they are supportive of your choices and listen to their suggestions. You might get new information to help you moving forward.
6. Be brief, especially if you’re planning to give birth at a hospital.
Your nurse might be caring for up to six birthing women while you’re in labor, and you might labor through one or more shift changes. A short and sweet birth plan is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page, literally.
7. Don’t forget to bring a copy of your birth plan on the day of labor.
Now that you have put it together and reviewed it with all of the very important people on your team – make sure to bring it to your birth location on the day of labor. Give a copy to your L&D nurse when you arrive, or she may ask you for it. Many nurses are happy to see you have a birth plan and will tape it to the door of your delivery room or put it up on the white board in your room. Today is the day you’ve been preparing for!
Finally, know that babies can be – and are – born without birth plans. While they are commonplace today, not everyone needs or wants one. It’s okay if you don’t want to have a birth plan, but we do strongly urge you to discuss your choices and preferences with your partner, doula and care provider.