If you’ve been pregnant in the last decade or so, you’ve probably heard the term ‘birth plan.’ This is a fancy new word for an age-old tradition, putting your wishes to paper so you can have a guide to get you through labor. In this blog, I’m going to give you my best tips for writing a birth plan of your own.
First, let me say this – the magic of a birth plan is not that everything will go according to plan, but rather that in writing one, you’ll have a chance to research your options and make informed decisions about what your birth will look like.
In this blog, I won’t write your plan for you – no one can or should do that. But I will give you things to think about and tips to consider as you embark on the journey of writing a birth plan for your upcoming labor.
- Do I need a birth plan? I get asked this all the time. While you don’t technically need a birth plan, I do encourage my clients to write out their birth preferences. This gives birthing people a chance to think through their wishes and research different interventions, options, and preferences. I encourage my clients to write a birth plan not because it means the birth will go exactly like we set out, but it will make your preferences known.
- Get Educated. The main purpose of writing a birth plan is to get you thinking about the kind of birth you want. THIS is the time to research your options and make decisions for yourself as to what you hope happens. Spend time understanding the different medical and pain interventions you have specific to your birth location. In Northern Colorado, many options people want are offered as a standard so you don’t even have to specify them in your birth plan. Determine what kind of relaxation tools will be best for you. Be especially educated about your choices, when it comes to pain management and cesareans (or VBACs if that applies to you).
- Keep it simple. As you write your birth plan, keep it simple. It’s not a manifest for how the experience will go, but rather a guide. You don’t need to make a plan for every detail, but it is helpful to cover the big things. Your birth plan should include things like – contact information for the parents, providers, and invited guests (like your doula!). Pertinent medical information for the birthing person and baby (if known). Plans and contingency plans for labor if there are complications. Preferences for your newborn. Requests if a cesarean is necessary. Postpartum care requests.
- Keep it short. Ideally, your birth plan should fit on a post-it note. If the plan is too long and too detailed you will likely be disappointed. Remember that even though these little people call most of the shots you can still have a positive experience if everything isn’t exactly how you imagined it.
- Include contingency plans. As mentioned above, the birth plan is a good guide for what you wish to happen – but know this: births almost always go differently than you imagine. Make sure you think through what you want birth to look like if something doesn’t go how you wish. Remember that even with a birth plan you can always change your mind about your preferences too. Go in open and remember that having plan A, plan B, and C are good too. A contingency plan might include things like what you want your birth to look like if your baby is born via cesarean or has to go to the NICU. Maybe you planned a low intervention birth but now are getting induced, how will that change your birth preferences? Thinking through alternate scenarios can help you visualize your birth, no matter how it goes.
- Communicate your wishes. After you finish writing a birth plan, definitely make sure you bring your document with you to your final appointments and talk them over with your provider. Also make sure you communicate your wishes to your support people, including your doula. Bring the document with you to the hospital and make sure your nurses and other medical providers are aware as well.
- Be Open. And be flexible. Labor and birth is a fluid process. Sometimes things come up, sometimes the baby does not like labor. Sometimes medical intervention is necessary. So, know that the birth plan is not set in stone, but it’s what we’re working towards. Flexibility is key, asking questions to make informed consent is key, and having your wishes known will allow you to be an important part of your own care team. When you are flexible it allows you to make changes that are best for you at that moment. When we dig our heels in too much to a decision sometimes you get what you want but it’s to your own detriment.
Writing a birth plan is an important step in preparing for labor. It gives you some control and allows you to make decisions that are best for your family. I highly encourage you to spend the time to research your options and make informed decisions about your birth. The more you know about the whole process, the better you will be able to advocate for yourself and your baby.
And more importantly, many agree that having a birth plan is a good way for moms to mentally prepare for labor and center themselves for what’s to come.
If you need help or have questions about writing a birth plan, please don’t hesitate to reach out. It’s my job, as a doula, to help make your birth go as smoothly as possible, and that includes preparing for labor.