I imagine you’re either anxious or excited about the idea of finally starting up a family or getting ready to start conceiving your next child but, have you thought about your birth plan.
A birth plan, while not especially necessary, can be a great help and a useful tool for better communication between you and your obstetrician/practitioner about your wishes and birth preferences.
Think of it as pregnancy paperwork, or rather, a wishlist of your labor, delivery, and post-delivery preferences.
Things that your obstetrician, doula, and any other relevant health care providers will try and respect, as far as possible, to the best of their ability.
There are situations where you’re likely to be advised against some preferences, while others might be outright denied due to potential, unforeseen developments during pregnancy.
With that said, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. As long as what you’ve written down is within reason, you’ll not be looked down upon.
Plus, it’s not set in stone – you don’t have to abide by it.
You are always free to change things on your birth plan based on the development of your pregnancy.
Your overall stance on certain procedures may very well change and something you may have wanted to do, might no longer be part of your plan, or vice versa (think vaginal birth versus a C-section).
So, what does an average birth plan look like? Well, why don’t we take a look below and see?
What Is A Birth Plan?
As always, before we get into the nitty and gritty, it’s important to know the basics.
A birth plan, as mentioned previously, is nothing overly special nor is it necessary for every birth.
However, it’s a really helpful way of communicating what you would and wouldn’t like during your pregnancy and when giving birth.
It includes anything from you and your partner’s wishes regarding who else will be allowed in the delivery room when the due date arrives to the types of medical procedures you’re okay with.
Anything goes – at least on paper. But, remember that the doctors and other health care providers are still the professionals and their judgement should be trusted.
They have every right to change methods if it becomes too dangerous for either you or your little one.
Mind you, circumstances such as these are quite rare.
When they do happen, they’re usually caused by complications in pregnancy such as being affected by gestational diabetes, having a breech position baby right before delivery, or anything that might put the baby in distress.
Bear in mind, it’s still only a piece of paper.
Just because you’ve written down that you’d only like your partner to attend the delivery process at the birthing center, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to allow more people in later – just make sure it’s not too big of a crowd otherwise you might have a problem on your hands.
Another good example is potentially wanting to take pictures of the birth. At some point during your pregnancy you might change your mind and decide that it’s not such a great idea afterall and that’s okay!
To put it simply, a birth plan should be something fun for you and your partner to fill out and not something to stress over.
It doesn’t have to be done right away and can be added to or removed from at your leisure.
There are printable versions of them scattered all over the internet if you’d like a ready-made one or at least to see a few examples.
Alternatively, you can make one of your own and just add things onto it as you go.
Why Use A Birth Plan To Begin With?
Well, even though you’re not obligated to do one, it does help your doctors and health care professionals to gauge what you expect from the pregnancy and birthing process.
While maybe not as helpful for veteran moms who are going into their 2nd, 3rd, etc. pregnancy, it can be an invaluable tool in tempering a new mom’s expectations.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be excited about having a child – it’s a blessing like no other in this world, but our expectations can get a bit too high at times.
This is why I encouraged you to write down anything that comes to mind, even if it seems outlandish.
This way, your obstetrician or doctor can use that knowledge to potentially educate you on an aspect of pregnancy and motherhood you might’ve been unaware of.
By finding out your ideas, they’re able to form an opinion of their own to present to you which may give you a new perspective on things that might potentially change some of your written preferences.
All you have to do is fill it out and be prepared for some helpful words of advice.
Don’t worry, they won’t mock the idea or anything like that.
If anything, they’ll probably try to accommodate your wishes as best they can to make it as comfortable an experience for you as humanly possible.
After all, that’s their job, and helping them understand your thought processes, and your overall idea of pregnancy, labor and delivery helps make that job easier.
Take note that, depending on where you live, some of these accommodations might not be available. Regardless, it’s always worth giving it a shot because you never know what the hospital staff might be ready to do for their patients.
What A Birth Plan Looks Like
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what a birth plan is, it’s time to talk about how it should look.
The most common birth plan template is laid out like a checklist with a list of options that you may or may not want.
That’s the style you’re most likely to find if you Google birth plan templates and it’s also the simplest one to complete if you’re not planning to make one yourself.
Simply tick to the options that you agree with and present it to your practitioner – that’s all there is to it!
Although uniformity isn’t necessary for a birth plan, it definitely makes the list look a lot more presentable and easier to follow.
So, if you’re looking to make one yourself, it’d be best to lay it out in the following way:
• Requests and preferences before labor
• Requests for the active labor and delivery period
• Whether you’d prefer a vaginal delivery or a cesarean section
• Postpartum requests for handling your newborn child/children
Requests and preferences before labor
This is mostly related to specific preferences of who and what you want present during labor and birth.
It also includes important information that the healthcare provider needs to know.
Things such as:
• If you’re suffering from any problems that might be a potential complication to the birthing process itself like gestational diabetes, group b strep or having an Rh incompatibility with the baby in your womb
• If you’d like to have an extra support person or more present in the delivery room during birth like a family member or a close friend (good if your partner isn’t present for whatever reason)
• If you’d like to stay in bed during contractions or to be allowed to walk around freely to help ease your nerves
• If you’d like to have some equipment available for relaxation, for practicing birth exercises or simple commodities such as sentimental household items or a luxury like a shower right in the room you’re staying in
• If you’d like to be in your own clothes or a hospital gown depending on what you find more comfortable
• Whether or not you have a specific ambience in mind for the delivery. One that will help you relax and utilize those relaxing, deep breathing techniques you picked up in your birthing classes.
This usually covers things you wouldn’t expect to be available in a delivery room, but can actually be procured such as: your favorite music, maybe some dim lighting, a good-luck charm/memento from your parents, a TV, and the like
• Where you’d like the birth to take place, the hospital itself, in a birth center, or at home – any other options are likely to get rejected due to lack of a fallback plan to get to the nearest hospital should complications arise
• Whether you’d like to use a specific piece of furniture or utility to deliver the baby in (think things like a birthing bed, a birthing stool, or a bathtub in case you want a water birth) and describe the position you’d like to be in while in them
• Whether or not you plan to take pictures or film videos of the delivery process itself
This is a good example of how my birth plan looked during my first time dealing with pregnancy: lots of relevant medical stuff for the doctors, and some stuff that was personally important for me.
I suggest you focus on doing the same. It’ll help put your mind at ease and you won’t have this nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten something! too unimportant initially.
Requests for the active labor and delivery period
As the headingsays, these requests should mostly focus on the process of active labor and the actual delivery of the baby.
Think requests and preferences such as:
• Whether you’d like to be plugged into an IV or to be freely eating and drinking when you’re in active labor
• Whether or not you’re planning on a purely vaginal delivery or if you’re more open to a cesarean section (this is a rather relevant detail if you’ve given birth via C-section before and are now looking to try a vaginal birth (VBAC))
• Whether you’d like pain medication or an epidural to provide pain relief during the delivery process and to stifle labor pains or if you’d prefer going in without any meds for your big day
• Whether or not you’d like any other potential alternatives for pain management other than pain medication
• If you’d like for the doctor responsible for assisting with your baby’s birth to rupture the membrane himself or if you want to wait for your water to break
• Your stance on inducing labor
• If you’d like the use of electronic fetal monitoring whether it be internal or external
• If you’d want a catheter during the birthing process to help keep bodily functions going without interrupting the actual process
• Your stance on utilizing emergency methods of delivery to help in case something unexpected happens (think things like forceps assisted birth, an episiotomy, or a vacuum extraction should you struggle with pushing the baby out or the baby gets stuck)
Your preference between a vaginal delivery or a cesarean section
Although this is not typically a section on its own, I decided to add an extra bit on it because I think it needs more emphasis.
While I know that many of you believe vaginal delivery to be the more natural way of delivering a baby into this world, I want you to know that having a C-section delivery is no less natural.
Think of it as an emergency plan should things go wrong.
While the process of giving birth normally goes smoothly, sometimes an unforeseen complication or something genetically predisposed in your body simply makes having a Cesarean section the safer of the two options for delivery.
I realize that this fact might really not be ideal for some of you, but trust me when I say that your birth experience won’t be tarnished should this become less of a preference and more of a necessity.
Postpartum requests for handling your newborn child/children
This is the part of the birth plan for after the delivery process, for when you have your healthy little one taking his or her first breath.
It should cover the way you’d like your child to be treated while still in the hospital and who is allowed to be around him for the initial postpartum period.
This part should look something like this:
• Your preference on who should be doing the suctioning of the baby (e.g. doctor or father)
• Whether or not you’d like to give your little one a circumcision if it ends up being a boy, for religious or medical reasons
• Whether or not you’d like your marriage partner to be the one who catches the baby first and even to be the one who cuts the umbilical cord (some women find it more intimate)
• In the same vein, when would you like the umbilical cord to be cut and would you like to bank or donate your cord blood? This can help donate the stem cells found within the umbilical cord and the placenta to save the lives of others
• Whether or not you’d like to hold the baby right after delivery or let both of you rest first and have the necessary procedures done first like weighing him or giving him eye drops
• If you’d like your baby’s first bath to happen at the hospital or when you get back home. Keep in mind, nurses will still clean the baby of blood and other liquids
• Whether or not you’d like your doula or any other relevant expert around to help you acclimatize to motherhood a lot easier
• Whether or not you plan on breastfeeding your child immediately while at the hospital or waiting to feed him breast milk until you get back home
While these are some of the most common things found on any birth plan examples, there are still many different personal factors to consider that vary from mom to mom.
If you feel like you might have forgotten something, I’d suggest talking to your friends and your partner to see if you’ve covered all your bases – at least as far as the more intimate preferences are concerned.
For the more medically-oriented preferences, feel free to ask your doctor if you think you’ve missed something that may help them with making the birthing process more comfortable for you.
A birth plan is no official document, nor is it a complicated or required one, but it can help make the end of your third trimester of pregnancy, as well as the actual labor and birthing process, a whole lot easier to go through.
It helps establish a line of communication between you and your health care provider.
It also allows them to establish a baseline of what you’d like your birth experience to be like.
Remember that you shouldn’t feel pressured by this and that there aren’t any set rules about what you put down on a birth plan. Feel free to jot down anything that comes to mind and relax.
It’s meant to be a relaxing experience rather than a stressful one.
That said, you should still keep an open mind and listen to your doctor’s opinion on your preferences.
Heed his advice and make compromises where you can, but don’t take his opinion too personally – he’s only looking out for you and your baby’s best interests.
One last thing, don’t forget to bring a hospital bag filled with some basic necessities and carry-on baby gear.
Things such as: baby-safe wet wipes, some warm socks for your feet to keep yourself comfortable, and some scrunchies so your hair doesn’t get in the way of you laying your eyes on your child for the first time.
And that should just about do it. I wish you luck with your pregnancy and hope that your birth plan ends up unfolding exactly the way you imagined it!
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