How to Write a Birth Plan for Any Labor and Birth Experience

Getting Educated About Labor & Childbirth

Pregnant women at ante natal class
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When you are thinking about what you want to put in your birth plan, you need to really have the basics of labor and childbirth down. Many women do this by taking childbirth classes and reading books on pregnancy. You can also learn about birth by having done it before.

I really do not recommend getting too involved in watching television shows about birth. Some of these shows are not very realistic, though there are some newer options that are more realistic about birth and include more factual scenes. The same is true for birth stories - read or told aloud. Beware of the childbirth horror story!

Finding Your Own Birth Philosophy

Dad looking at mom's pregnant belly
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There is not one right way to give birth. Everyone needs to find their own way. By learning everything you can about birth and being open to different ideas, you can best figure out what the right way is for you to give birth. This is the essence of what you need to convey in a birth plan.

Your birth plan should be a simple look at your ideas. It should be no longer than one, single sided sheet of paper. I prefer to have bulleted points separated by when they are needed, so baby care is all in one area, pain management in another, etc. I also recommend that they are in the order in which they occur. So you'd have labor, birth, immediate postpartum and then baby care. The end is usually where I'd place contingency plans, like what if you needed a cesarean section in labor.

Your philosophy is about how you live your life in general. Do you tend to have faith in your body? Do you tend to want those taking care of you, like your doctor or midwife, to make all of the decisions without consulting you? Or do you prefer to be in on discussions of your care? Do you find that moving around helps you deal with pain? These types of questions need to be conveyed succinctly in a birth plan.

Labor Plans

Laboring Mom with Support
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In the section for labor you should include a few statements about the most common issues you will face in labor:

A section on pain relief should talk about how you wish to deal with your labor. You might have something about the use of epidural as soon as it is posisble or it might say that you prefer to use other techniques like massage, movement and positions, relaxation and a water tub.

Fetal monitoring may be up to the place of birth you have chosen. A hospital tour can let you know what options are available at your hospital or birth center. This may also address mobility - like you'd prefer intermittent, external fetal monitoring, to allow you the freedom to move.

The support you need may talk about what you've learned in class and how you intend to use it. You may talk about people you have chosen to support you, including the use of a doula.

Birth Plans

Mom Pushing Her Baby Out
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These plans will be for the actual birth. It may include any of the following:

Positioning for labor can help speed up the second stage (pushing) or even slow it down if the baby is coming too quickly. Positioning can also help ease the pain and prevents tearing.

Most women will opt to not have an episiotomy. This means that your care providers will use other techniques like positioning, massage, and warm compresses to help you give birth.

Do you want the cord cut immediately? Would you prefer to wait to allow the baby to get all of the blood it needs from the placenta? Who would you like to have cut the cord?

Should the baby go immediately to mom and then covered with warm blankets? This allows the staff to do assessments of the baby while on the mom's chest and allows the baby immediate nursing.

Do you want pictures of the placenta? Will you be keeping it to take home for planting? (Read: 6 Things to Do with the Placenta)

Immediate Postpartum Plans

Postpartum mom and baby
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This really covers what you intend to do while not at home:

For a vaginal birth you will most likely go home from 6 to 48 hours after birth, depending on the policy of where you gave birth. If you have special requests they should be addressed before labor. Mothers who have had a cesarean birth will usually stay up to 96 hours after giving birth.

This may also include special things for your family like a special foot printing, a bath with everyone in the room or other rituals for your family.

Baby Care Plans

Newborn Baby's First Bath
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Baby care is all about the care your baby will receive. It may include:

  • How will you feed your baby?
  • Will your baby stay with you in your room? (Rooming In)
  • Where will physical exams for the baby take place?

This is where you get to say that you want to breastfeed but don't want supplemental pacifiers or bottles unless requested by you - or whatever plan you have for feeding your baby.

You may need to specifically request rooming in and find out what the definition of this is in your facility. It may be defined by your hospital, though many hospital have no nursery, unless your baby is ill.

Many pediatricians will visit your baby in the hospital. Do you want them to do exams in the room with you present or in the nursery?

This would be where you would discuss other care plans as needed, including testing, circumcision and other procedures.

Read More: Newborn Tests

Contingency Plans

Mom Meeting Baby After Cesarean Birth
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If you are planning a cesarean or have an unexpected c-section in labor, this is where you will discuss plans:

It is important to discuss these ideas beforehand, even if you don't think you will need to have a cesarean. This will help everything go more smoothly should your plans abruptly change in labor.

Read more: Cesarean Birth Plans

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