A birth plan can be an important part of your birth experience. It can help you feel more prepared and in control of a situation that is really driven by what the baby decides to do.
So long as you go into it knowing that it’s a plan, but will likely need to change a bit during the actual birth I believe having one is a great idea!
Download my printable birth plan checklist to ensure you cover all the topics!
None of the information in this post should be used in place of medical advice. These are simply my opinions based on experience and research. Always consult your healthcare professionals if you have concerns.
Do I need a birth plan?
There seems to be a lot of debate over having a birth plan. Some say not to bother, that nothing goes according to plan and you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Others claim hospital staff hates them.
The other camp supports the idea of having a birth plan. I am definitely in this camp. Did I have a birth plan? Yes. Did my birth experience go according to the plan? Not at all. Would I make one again and will I have one for my second baby? Yes.
If any hospital tries to tell you that you can’t have a birth plan I suggest you go somewhere else or tell them to suck it. Remember, it’s your body, your baby, and your birth experience, and you don’t have to do what they say just because they’re a doctor.
I look at a birth plan more as my own personal cheat sheet. There are a lot of decisions that may need to be made during and right after birthing a baby. My water broke at 1am so I went most of 2 days with no sleep. My brain was mush and so was my husbands. Luckily, we had a birth plan.
We had discussed all these questions that could come up and knew what our first choice answer was. I did not need to be making decisions on the spot or trying to remember which procedures I wanted them to do on my newborn daughter after spending 3 hours pushing her out! I didn’t have to think about it, the answers were already there for me on my birth plan.
I’m sure hospitals do hate when someone comes in with a detailed 10 page birth plan they expect to happen. Your birth is not a one act play you’re writing. If you think of your birth plan more as a cheat sheet or general guidelines and keep it to one page the staff shouldn’t mind. You do need to go into it with an open mind. While it’s great to have this outline, playbook for those of you who are into sports. You do need to be prepared for things not to go as planned and to have to alter your outline as needed.
You can read my full birth story if you like to read those. In short, about the only thing that went according to plan for me was having a vaginal delivery and the newborn procedures I wanted to be done on my baby.
My water broke with meconium, which led to pitocin, which led to an epidural, and ended in an episiotomy after 3 hours of pushing. I then had an infection and was running too hot to do skin to skin, luckily my husband was prepared to take over. While my birth didn’t go according to plan, my husband and I had talked through all these possibilities in making the birth plan and were prepared when decisions needed to be made.
When should you make a birth plan?
It’s never too early or too late to put your birth plan together, but it will take some time and thoughtfulness. In my week-by-week guide to pregnancy, I recommend doing it around week 29. That gives you plenty of time to explore your options and you will have hopefully taken, or be in the process of taking your childbirth classes where they will give you a lot of information.
So what should go into a birth plan?
You really only need two sections, during delivery, & after birth. If you like you can split after birth into two sections for mom and baby. You can create an easy bullet point style format or you can create a visual birth plan which is what I did. I loved how easy to read it was! Some hospitals may even give you a simple one that you can use if you don’t want to create your own!
Questions that should be answered:
I know this list may seem a bit overwhelming. But, think about how much more overwhelming it would be if they asked you all these questions during your labor and birth and you hadn’t thought about them at all before that moment or didn’t know what they were. The hospital staff will go over them with you if need be but things can move fast and you will likely be exhausted already. It’s much easier to research them in advance.
- Do you want pain medication offered? If so which ones are you ok with.
- Do you hope to have intermittent monitoring instead of constant monitoring
- Are there certain birthing tools/positions you would like to use
- Are there certain individuals you DO NOT want in the delivery room?
- Are you ok with photos/video being taken?
- Are you ok with pitocin?
- Would you prefer a Hep-Lock instead of a full IV if possible?
- Are you ok with an episiotomy
- How do you feel about C-sections?
- Are you ok with student interns (if you are delivering at a teaching hospital)
- Do you want to save your placenta?
- Do you want delayed cord clamping?
- Does your spouse/partner want to cut the cord
- Are you planning to bank your baby’s cord blood?
- Do you want breastfeeding encouraged right away
- Do you want the following procedures done on your baby after birth
- Hepatitis B shot
- Antibiotic eye ointment
- Vitamin K shot
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Not all of these need to be on every birth plan, but you should work through all these questions. If you are ok with the standard procedure then you don’t need to put it on your birth play. For instance, the newborn procedures listed here are standard for most hospitals, so you don’t need to include them on your birth plan unless you don’t want one of them done.
I’ll say it again, it’s your birth! Advocate for what you want or have someone in the room who can. Doctors may be trained but most are still male, and no man I know of has ever birthed a baby before! Don’t let them pressure you into things unless it’s truly medically necessary!
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