what is a birth planA birth plan is a document expectant mothers create with their birth partner to clarify their wishes regarding their labor and delivery.  Why create a document? Because giving birth is a pretty intensive process!  Just imagine trying to explain your birth philosophy to an OB while experiencing contractions!  This pregnancy document is also a wonderful tool to have if you plan to interview OBs or midwives; it allows you to find a medical professional who understands and agrees with your birth philosophy.

Who Should Create a Plan Like This?
Everyone!  It’s actually a great idea for you and your partner to create them separately, then create a document together that honors what each of you would like at the baby’s birth.  For example, one document might list a doctor cutting the umbilical cord, while the other lists a parent.  This is an important decision to discuss and decide. However, don’t wait until the last minute—try to have the plan finished and printed as soon as possible.

Why Should I Create a Birth Plan?
They are invaluable for two reasons.  First, they encourage you to really think about what you want to happen during your labor and delivery.  Second, they are a simple way for you to communicate your wishes to everyone participating in the birth without having to explain them—repeatedly.  Creating this plan is especially important if you plan to give birth in a hospital; it’s not uncommon for 8-10 different people to be in and out of your room.  This number can fluctuate because the longer you’re in labor, the more shift changes will occur.

What Should I Include in my Plan?
You can discuss anything related to your birth.  It can outline the type of environment you’d like as well as what position you’d like to attempt giving birth.  The most important part of your plan should discuss interventions: what medical interventions are you comfortable with, and whether or not you feel a cesarean section should be a last resort.  Here are the most common issues discussed in a birth plan:

  • The location of the birth
  • The people you’d like to be present
  • The environment (lighting, sounds, smells…)
  • The type of delivery (natural vs. surgical)
  • The type of medical interventions you’re comfortable with and when they should be used
  • The position(s) you’d like to give birth in
  • What should happen in the moments immediately after giving birth
  • Whether you’d like photos or filming to occur during the birth

Anything Else?
It’s important to understand that your plan is not a legal document.  Doctors do not need to follow it; and if they choose not to, you have no recourse.  For example, if you write in the document that you want to hold and nurse your baby immediately to encourage bonding, and the doctor instead cuts the cord and hands the baby to the nurse to be weighed and measured, you cannot legally do anything.  In addition, it’s important to tour hospitals or birthing centers you’re considering to find out if they can accommodate your wishes.  Some hospitals limit what a woman can bring into a delivery room such as candles, and they may not have the ability to provide a water birth or birthing ball.  However, all facilities should be willing to offer you a tour and be willing to briefly discuss your plans and ideas.

Don’t procrastinate!  Nine months will fly by in an instant and you’ll be delivering your baby before you know it.  Take the time to really consider how you’d like to bring your little one into the world.  If you have a clear idea, then everyone around you will be on the same page and will work to make your birthing experience a truly special one.