Writing a ‘birth plan’ can be simpler than you think

Pregnant woman sitting in a chair holding a stuffed animal

You can design the nursery for your baby on the way. You can tour daycares and start narrowing down the list and gather all the gear: bathtub, high chair, car seat, stroller.

But, as anyone who’s had a baby knows, you can’t exactly plan how the birth will go. Your baby decides that. It’s the first opportunity your child will let you know you’re not in control.

In the weeks before my patients give birth, I ask them if they want to create a list of preferences for what they’d like when they’re in labor and give birth. I don’t like to use the word “birth plan” because it’s impossible to predict what will happen.

List your preferences for labor and birth

The document you create could detail your choice for:

  • the type of pain medications, or none at all
  • the ambience in the birthing room – music, lighting or choice of family members/friends to be present
  • continuous or intermittent infant heart monitoring
  • staying hydrated (through an IV versus drinking water)
  • birthing in a birthing tub or not
  • frequency of cervical exams
  • when to be induced, if that’s necessary
  • having skin-to-skin contact with your baby moments after birth
  • keeping or not keeping the placenta
  • how you’d like a C-section to go should you need one

Patients don’t typically prefer to have a C-section, but sometimes it’s necessary if your baby is under stress, your health is at risk or you’re exhausted and can’t endure another moment of labor.

For a C-section, you have the option of not having a drape around your lower half, which would allow you to see your baby being born.

Care for your newborn

On your list of preferences, you can also detail what you’d like for your baby’s care:

  • delaying umbilical cord clamping, and for how long (for a minute, until the cord stops pulsing, etc.)
  • feeding preferences (formula, your breast milk or donor breast milk)
  • standard medications for baby in the delivery room, such as erythromycin eye ointment and Vitamin K
  • vaccinations

Your list of preferences should be no longer than one sheet front and back, with concise points. I suggest that you bring two copies with you to the hospital: one copy for your chart and one for the baby’s chart.

Be flexible with your birth plan

Becoming a parent is one of the biggest changes in your life. It makes sense that you have an idea of how you would like to welcome your baby into the world. A birthing plan is like a road map of how you want the birth to be, knowing that sometimes detours become part of the trip.

Whatever you put on your list, keep it in mind that you’ll need to be flexible. Emergencies don’t always allow us to go with exactly how you had imagined giving birth. Ultimately, our goal is that everyone has a healthy and safe outcome.

I’m there to support you the best I can. Know that if I’m recommending something that’s not on your birth preferences list, it’s because I think it’s necessary.

With any of your preferences, you have a right to change your mind. For example, “no pain medication” may sound great until you go into labor. Changing your mind happens sometimes, and it’s OK.

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