A birth plan is a document outlines your preferences during your labour, birth, and postpartum period during your hospital stay. It is entirely optional to write one and many women give birth without a written birth plan. But if you’re considering creating a birth plan, or are wondering what to include, you’re in the right space.
Before we begin, I’d like to be clear on one thing – In the world of birth, things rarely go exactly as planned. I encourage you to think of birth plans as ‘wish lists’, a list of things you wish to happen while being realistic about the fact that ultimately, your unborn baby is making a lot of the decisions in your birth process. If at some point your baby becomes distressed to the point where a vaginal birth is not safe, or other interventions are required, we need to re-evaluate the plan. Consider your birth plan as a fluid, ever changing thing, like your birth.
Once you’ve written down your birth wish list, review it with your Obstetrician or Midwife to ensure that your requests are safe, and do not go against any hospital or governing body guidelines like the SOCG or ACOG. A birth plan is a great point of conversation and discussion with you providers. We ultimately want to keep you and baby safe and healthy, and this is a priority with any birth plan.
If you choose to make a birth plan, it’s a good idea to write it down on paper. This way it will be attached to your chart when you bring it with you in labour, and everyone who cares for you during your labour process can have access to read it. Some great information to include on your birth wish list is:
- Who would you like to be present at the birth? Who is your support person(s)?
- What kind of atmosphere would you prefer, such as dimming the lights, music, etc?
- Do you want photos taken? Are they allowed at your birth facility?
- Do you wish to stay as mobile as possible during labour, or rest as much as you can?
- What comfort measures would you like to use? Do you know what the options are?
- Would you like to use a mirror during your birth?
- What is your plan for feeding baby?
- Would you like delayed cord clamping?
Some wishes you may need to meet half way, and birth plans create an opportunity for conversation. For example, you wish to labour without an Intravenous (IV), but you require one for antibiotics. A compromise would be to have a Saline Lock (vein access) but no IV fluids unless absolutely needed, and the IV is hooked up only when your antibiotics are given.
Some of your wishes may change depending on how you give birth. For example, you want your partner to cut the umbilical cord but you require a cesarean section. Because of the sterile field in the Operating Room, your partner cannot cut the cord.
Pain control options is another big topic you will want to include in your birth wish list. Your preferences of what you want to use are up to you, whether you plan to labour with our without narcotics or an epidural, but ensure that your are informed of all the options available and their risks and benefits. As your labour progresses and changes, your wishes may change, and making an informed decision is important.
Start off your birth wish list with your top two things you want out of your birth. Is it skin to skin? Zero separation? Breastfeeding? Start there and build from that. Keeping your birth plan simple is always a good idea – the more complex it gets, the better the chance things won’t to as you had hoped.
If you need help building a birth plan, or would like someone to review it, your local Mama Coach provides both private and group prenatal education and would be happy to support you in this!