Actually, a birth plan is an excellent tool during both your pregnancy and birth – as long as you create the right kind. I’ll walk you through writing a birth plan your doctor (and your nurse) will actually read. Planning to birth with a midwife? You should keep reading, too 🙂
You could go look up “birth plan template” online and get tons of generic birth plans you can print off, ready-made. You’ll even find “birth plan generators” that spit out pages of “customized” birth requests. Those aren’t going to get you very far (they’re the ones that end up in the trash).
Before you can build a better birth plan, you need to understand birth. When you know how birth works, you get a much better idea of why it’s important to have a birth plan in the first place.
A physiological birth (that means a birth where the birth process is undisturbed) is safest for almost all mamas and babies – but that safety is quickly undermined when women are pushed into intervention after intervention.
When you get a better understanding of what physiological birth “looks like,” you also get a feel for what it takes to make that birth happen.
Understand What You Want
You probably already know that you want a natural birth. You have an idea that that’s safest for you and for your baby.
Also, you know it’s likely to lead to a good bonding experience for both of you, and a strong start to breastfeeding.
Again, as you get a clear picture of what we talked about above – undisturbed, physiological birth – you know what it takes to make that natural birth happen.
This is the time to review those things and decide what will make the most difference for your birthing time:
- Want to avoid induction?
- Be able to wear your own clothes?
- Want people to leave you and your baby alone after he or she is born?
What matters most is going to vary between moms and between families, but if you want a smooth and safe natural birth experience, consider what you want – and what’s going to give you the best chance of having that birth. Think about where you’re birthing, what the policies are, and what you’ve discovered about having a safe, natural birth.
That brings us to the next step…
Write Down What’s Most Important
Only write down those “big wins” that are going to help you get the birth you want.
Remember, a long laundry list of demands doesn’t go over very well, and will most likely be ignored. So pick out what matters most.
My recommendation is to write out what you’d like during your baby’s birth on about 3/4 of a printed page. The font should be a reasonable size – don’t make it itty-bitty!
This gives you a clear, easy-to-read birth plan that your care providers are more likely to take a few minutes to focus on.
What do you do with the last quarter of the page? That’s where you type out what you’ve done to prepare for birth! That might be a new thought to you – why write down what you’ve done?
Writing down what you’ve done to get ready for natural childbirth helps your care provider see that you’re serious about this and that you don’t expect to just sit back and have them deliver a great birth experience (after all, it’s pizza, not babies, that get delivered!).
It shows that you’re willing to be an active participant in your baby’s birth and in making your birth plan happen. That might not seem like a lot, but it can make a big difference. It removes the “demand” from the birth plan and makes it clear you want to work as a team.
Talk About What Matters!
You do not spring your birth plan on your doctor or midwife when you’re in labor!
A birth plan is a powerful tool when you use it to open dialogue with your doctor or midwife. That means you bring it to your appointments and go over it with your care provider.
Each point on the birth plan becomes a discussion point.
Some of the things may be quick and easy to discuss because everyone is in complete agreement. But sometimes there are policies and protocols that could interrupt what you want to have happen during your labor and while you’re birthing your baby. Having those points on your birth plan gives you an opening to talk about them.
Don’t think this just applies if you’re planning a hospital birth – there may be policies that birth centers or home birth midwives have that you might not agree with, or simply want done differently. For instance, I did not want a hat on my newborn, so I made sure we discussed it when my midwife reviewed that point on my birth plan.
It can be helpful to bring reference material if you know your care provider may take a little “convincing.” An example: I’ve had childbirth class students who took a sheet of journal article references about delayed cord clamping or induction to their care providers.
Remember you’re in a professional, peer-level relationship with your care provider. Both of you should be respectful and open to listening to information brought up as you talk. Your birth plan provides a great framework for having these respectful discussions, and a well thought out birth plan is easy to review with your provider.
Get Brownie Points for Birth
There’s another birth player at many births – the nurse assigned to you. You’re probably not going to sit down and talk with her before labor, but you still want her to read your birth plan.
A shorter birth plan is very helpful, as is the section of the birth plan where you share what you’ve done to prepare for birth.
Have several copies of your birth plan, signed by your doctor and/or midwife, so your nurses know it’s been reviewed. They can keep one copy with your chart and you can have several copies on hand in the room.
I also encourage you to review ideas for working with your nurse – when you know how to win your nurse’s respect, she’s more likely to read and follow your birth plan. A nurse can be a great champion during your labor and birth!
Ideally, you’ll get to the hospital well into your birthing time, so conversation isn’t going to be big on your mind. But, if you get there early enough, you can ask your nurse to go through the points on your plan with you.
Do Your Homework
Knowing what makes a big difference during labor and birth is important to writing a birth plan that will work for you. Stick to those key points to make it most likely that your birth plan will be read – and respected!
If you’d like step-by-step help with writing your birth plan, check out my birth plan writing kit, complete with sample birth plans: How to Write a Birth Plan That Works
Did you use a birth plan?
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