If this is your first baby or your fifth, it's always good to have a game plan when you get to the hospital. As a mother, you have full control over decisions regarding your baby. Writing a birth plan in advance will help your hospital staff make your delivery and recovery experience the smoothest and most comfortable for you and your baby.
What Is A Birth Plan?
A birth plan is simply a draft of your personalized wishes during labor and postpartum stay in the hospital. Every woman labors differently. Every woman deserves the right to listen to her body and do her “thing” during birth. Some women need to labor in a tub of hot water, others need to sit on a birthing stool. Expressing what you want will help you pick a hospital, have a smoother delivery, and staff won't have to ask you as many questions during a contraction because they have your wishes in front of them.
You can give your birth plan to the staff when you do a hospital tour or during your checkup visits. If your hospital is inflexible with any of your requests, you might want to check out other hospitals or birthing centers around you.
Remember though, sometimes labor doesn’t go according to plan. You might need an emergency c-section, for example. Or for safety reasons you might only be able to labor in one position. A birth plan is what you ideally need and want during delivery, but remember that it’s important to be flexible and expect things to be different because safety is the most important thing.
What Should My Birth Plan Include?
Your birth plan can be totally customizable to your needs. Start by thinking about what makes you the most comfortable during pain, and go from there.
At the top, add your name, your primary care doctor’s information. Add who you want in the room with you as a support person (a partner, parent, sibling, etc…). If there is someone who is absolutely not allowed (like an ex or someone who makes you feel uncomfortable), add that information as well. The hospital will honor your wishes and only allow who you wish in the room.
Do you want someone there taking pictures? If so, add their name and phone number.
Do you want the lights dimmed or very bright?
Do you want soft music? (ask if you can bring your own speaker)
Do you want essential oils in the room? (ask if you can bring your own diffuser and oil.)
Do you want medication? If so, what kind do you want and when?
Do you want an epidural?
Do you want access to a birthing ball, chair, stool, shower, or a birthing tub?
Do you want skin-to-skin contact the moment after birth?
Do you want a mirror to see your baby’s birth?
Do you want alternative pain management offered?
Do you want your partner to cut the umbilical cord?
Some hospitals might be strict about certain requests, so if something is important to you let the staff know beforehand.
There are also hundreds of wonderful templates to download on Pinterest and the internet to help you get started.
On Pain Management
Pain management is a very important consideration when making a birth plan.
Many women want to give birth naturally, but find that they need an epidural later. Some women might want an epidural then realize they don’t need it, or labor goes too fast to inject one in time. Your doctor might recommend pain medication through your IV if your labor is moving too quickly or too slowly.
If you absolutely want to avoid pain medications, ask if the nurses can try massages or breathing techniques.
Try to be open-minded when it comes to pain management and medication since labor can go a totally different way than expected.
After Birth Needs
Once your baby is born, you get to make a lot more decisions! Try to think about your personal lifestyle and the needs of your baby as you note them on your birth plan. Remember, only you can make these choices.
Are you bottle feeding, breastfeeding, or combination feeding?
Are you open to formula if your milk does not come in right away?
Do you want to see a lactation specialist?
Do you not want to see a lactation specialist?
Can the hospital help you with pumping?
Do you want your baby in the room with you at all times, or do you want to utilize the hospital nursery sometimes?
Is it okay if the doctor puts Vitamin K on the baby’s eyes at birth?
Can the medical staff offer your baby a pacifier?
Do you want vaccinations at the hospital or would you rather do them at baby’s first checkup?
If you have a boy, do you want a circumcision done for him at the hospital?
If the baby has to leave the room for an emergency, can your support partner accompany the baby at all times?
Reviewing The Birth Plan
Your support partner should read and understands the birth plan entirely. Also, make sure this person is responsible enough to remind staff in case they forget to honor something on your list.
When your plan is completed, give a copy to your hospital so they can attach it to your medical records and then give one to the doctor who is delivering your baby. Also, print an extra one and tuck it into your hospital bag in case something happens and a different doctor winds up delivering your baby.
It is not mandatory to have a birth plan, and it’s okay if you want to follow your instincts as your labor progresses. It’s totally up to you! However, it’s always good to think about your needs so the process goes smoothly and the staff knows what to do more efficiently. This way ensures that you don’t have to think through decisions when you are enjoying baby snuggles!