Personal Health

Birth Plan 101: Why and How to Create a Plan for Childbirth

When it comes to childbirth, women now have more options than ever before — but that also means more decisions. Making these in advance helps ease the delivery and reduce stress so you have less to worry about while you're in labor. And having a birth plan puts your wishes in writing so everyone understands them.

A birth plan is a document that you create in collaboration with your partner and midwife or obstetrician. It gives your care provider information about you and your choices and preferences, but it's important not to think of this document as a script or itinerary that must be followed to the letter. Your body or the body of your fetus may not function as expected, and your care provider may have to chose between you or your baby's well-being versus following your plan.

You can discuss possible contingencies with your care providers and come up with plans to address various situations, but be aware that they might still have to deviate from the birth plan if unforeseen circumstances require it.

Putting the Plan Together

Your birth plan is a fluid document, and you can change your mind at any point before the birth. Just make sure everyone involved always has the most current document to work from. Here is information you'll want to include:

  • Your name and address.
  • Any health issues you have, including pregnancy complications and a full list of medications.
  • The care provider who will be delivering your baby and their contact information.
  • The full name and contact information of your partner or birth coach.
  • A backup person to call if your partner or birth coach is not available.
  • A list of people invited into the room during labor, and if you choose, a separate list for those invited into the room for the birth.
  • The name and contact information of your chosen pediatrician.

Issues to Thoroughly Address in Your Birth Plan

Your plan should cover the following points in more depth:

  • Who will deliver your baby? Do you receive your prenatal care from an obstetrician or midwife? As mentioned above, be sure to include their name and a backup choice.
  • Where will you deliver your baby? Are you planning on having your baby in a hospital, a birthing center, or at home? Have you toured the facility where you plan to give birth? Do you have everything in place for a home birth?
  • Who do you want in the room with you while you are delivering the baby? This is a situation where family relationships can get a little awkward. Some relatives may assume they should be present at the birth of your child, but you might not want an audience. Again, list specifically who you would like in the room with you during labor and during delivery.
  • What happens after the birth of your child? Would you like the baby placed on your chest immediately after birth, or do you want him or her cleaned up first? Who will cut the cord? Will you allow the baby to be removed from the room for testing or other purposes without you or your partner? Do you plan to breastfeed?

What to Discuss With Your Care Provider

There are a number of other issues you might include in your plan that are specifically geared toward the care provider. However, these conversations will likely come up well before the birth and therefore will have been addressed, whether they are featured in your plan or not. These topics will include pain management; your stance on having a cesarean section; and the handling of fetal/maternal distress, induction of labor, episiotomy, and the placenta.

This document can be submitted to the hospital or birthing center when you preregister, but it is a good idea to keep a copy (or two) with you at all times to make sure your care team has this vital information when labor begins.

Childbirth is intense but incredible. Hopefully, a birth plan can help eliminate some of your concerns, allowing you to relax and embrace the experience.

Posted in Personal Health

Judy Schwartz Haley is a freelance writer and blogger. She grew up in Alaska and now makes her home in Seattle with her husband and young daughter. Judy battled breast cancer when her daughter was an infant, and now she devotes much of her free time to volunteering as a state leader with the Young Survival Coalition, which supports young women with breast cancer.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.