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After your childbirth education and finding the right people to help you birth, actually writing out a birth plan is one of the best tools you can have in your hands.

Unfortunately, many soon-to-be mamas and papas don’t even realize this.  If they do, in most cases it gets left for the last minute.  But having a birth plan mapped out is as much for the parents as it is those assisting you in your baby’s birth – maybe even more so.

What is a Birth Plan?

There are many online tools to help you write a birth plan, so that is a great place to start, but for the most part it accomplishes two key things:

  1. It tells those attending your birth what your expectations are.
  2. It also allows you, your partner and doula (or other helper) a clear picture BEFORE going into the birthing room.

Especially if you are birthing in a hospital you want to make it an easy read for all those that will be coming in and out of your room.  It should be:

  1. Short - no longer than one page.  If it is they may not read it.  They have done this a million times, and to them you are no different
  2. To the point - bullet points under each heading are perfect.
  3. Do not include any superfluous information.  If something you don’t or do want done is a standard procedure than don’t clutter up your page with that info.

How to create a birth plan:

The purpose of a birth plan is to spell out for the hospital staff or midwives your expectations for the birth.  It also gives them a picture of what you are all about.  If you are preparing for a natural birth you are going to have a lot of don’ts – as in don’t offer me pain medication, don’t give my newborn this or that.

Birth Plan for Baby (Your Last Name)
Parents: (You and Your Husband) , Doula: (If you have one)
EDD, Hospital and Doctor/Midwife’s Name
I would like to have  . . . (a natural birth, avoiding any unnecessary interventions).

Then breakdown it down into chronological categories.  Labor/Pain Management, Pushing/Birth and Postpartum/Newborn.  Below write what you do and don’t want to happen during each of these stages, especially if it is different than the facility’s normal way of doing it.  You can also request to sign any waivers you might need in order to avoid unwanted procedures.

Here is the birth plan for our first, in 2006 and then for a client in 2010 – they are a little different because things are slowly heading more towards some of the natural aspects of birth, at least here in So Cal.  And I think the second one still has more than is needed.  Here is what my current ideal would be.

WHY?

Well, I think this is the question many doctors and nurses ask when they see a birth plan.  After all they know what they are doing, why do they need uneducated input on their job?  Then there is the occasional professional excited to assist with a natural birth.  At a natural birth I attended, one nurse said, “I forget how it is supposed to look.”

Before getting to the hospital, creating a birth allows you and your husband to get on the same page — literally.  My husband was supportive of whatever I wanted for birth, “It is your body, if you are okay with it so am I.”  While this is great support, I wanted his agreement.  I wanted to know he thought it was the best idea also, I need that  reassurance.  Creating a plan with him helped us both know what to expect.

Once you have created a birth plan talk with your doula about it.  (If you are planning a natural birth – or really any kind of birth, I cannot stress how much you should have a doula.)  She will be able to give you some real expectations – help you plan for the best as well as for things if they don’t go as planned.

Once you have things finalized have your doctor/midwife look over it at your very next appointment.  This is very telling of what kind of care you will have.  I encourage you to do a birth plan early on, at least by the end of your second trimester, that way if you need to change your health professional you can.  If you have someone right on with what you are wanting, wonderful!  Spend your remaining months eating well, exercising and being secure in your future care.

Expectations

A Birth Plan is just that, a  plan – not the written account of what will happen.  Knowing and planning for the unexpected can give you great security.  If you go in with a plan of what you will do in the less than best case scenario you can be assured of feeling like you have done your best to achieve your goals.

If a soon-to-be mom goes in expecting a problem-free natural birth and comes out with some sort of intervention taking place the guilt of failure can color the whole event.  And in some cases can add to postpartum depression.

Case in point.  One birth I attended ended in a c-section.  Despite planning for a natural birth, she was not harangued by feelings of inadequacy.  We talked about this quite a bit because I was worried about her in this regard.

But because we did our best she was at peace.  We went through the stages of trying to naturally help regular contractions to occur, then on to Pitocin.  But her body was just not forcing baby out.  I did find out later that neither her mom nor sister were able to give birth vaginally, for the same reasons.

Some might see all the work she did without an epidural or pain medication as fruitless.  But she was pleased that she tried the best her body could to get through it without drugs.  She even said had she gone straight to the c-section she would have felt like she had given up.

These were all things we talked about before hand, using a birth pan.  What would happen if . . . How we would go about doing the things least wanted if it came down to it.  And how to not feel guilty if the birth plan did not play out.

Have you had a birth plan for your baby?  How did it help? Or if it didn’t, why?

 

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This is the writings of:

Faith is first a daughter of the King, second a wife to Kerry and third a mommy to Julian and Margo. She is blessed to be able to be a stay-at-home mom, which was always her answer to the “what do you want to be when you grow up” question as a little girl. She delights in serving her family real food and blogs about favorite recipes, family life and other random topics at Storms Stories. She is also the editor of Modern Alternative Pregnancy.

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7 Comments

  1. Great ideas! With my second, I had a birth plan and my amazing nurse knew it well. But the “baby nurse” who came in when I was ready to deliver had not read it. As I was starting to push, my nurse noticed her taking out the syringe for the Hep B vaccine and he yelled across the room, “you better put that away or mom will be coming over there after you.” I had a nice little chuckle over it (as much as you can laugh at that point during labor), but was extremely grateful for such an attentive nurse. The doctors in that situation were far less than ideal, but my nurse was fabulous and was with me the entire time.
    I am pregnant with number 4, and am planning on doing everything in my power to have a home birth this time around (including an international move so that I can return to where it is a possibility).

    Reply

  2. We are planning our first birth in a few months at a stand alone midwife birthing center. One of the first things they told us when I began receiving care there was that we would write out a birth plan together before they would allow me to deliver there. Since they do not even have most of the equipment necessary for an unnatural birth at the center (no epidurals, no pitocin, no vaccuum, etc), I’m thrilled to not even have those options in a moment of weakness. My only fear would be if something goes wrong with me or baby beforehand that results in me having to transfer out to a hospital. Hopefully, even in that situation, the birth plan will come in handy!

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  3. I wrote a birth plan for all three of my births. I felt that my desires were certainly considered and I was able to accomplish three “semi-natural” hospital births. I say “semi-natural” because I was induced for my first two but all three were pain-med free during labor. Having a birthplan is something I highly recommend but its only useful if they agree to follow it and read it in the first place! I usually went over my desires with my Dr. or midwife ahead of time but you don’t have that opportunity (in a hospital anyway) with the nurses. That was where any confusion that happened came from.

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  4. The link to the Thriving Family birth plan does not work. Thank you for this post!

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  5. [...] the post about birth plans I shared about a mommy who despite the planning and work ended up needing a c-section. Here’s [...]

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  6. [...] me at the newly launched Modern Alternative Pregnancy for an examination of birth plans – do you have [...]

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