If you are expecting a baby, the chances are high that the labor and delivery experience is consistently on your mind. No doubt you generally know what type of birthing experience you want to have and you’ve voiced it to your doctors. Yet, instead of just voicing your wishes to your health care providers, you should take it a step further and write up a birth plan.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is a tangible list of the decisions you have made regarding the birth of your baby. Making out a birth plan will ensure that your wishes are very clear and that everyone that is assisting you with your pregnancy, labor and delivery is on the same page. Giving your doctor(s) a birth plan enables him/her to take the time to look it over and discuss with you any concerns or suggestions that he/she may have concerning your plans.
Birth plans should be approached with a flexible mind-set. Your doctor may have pertinent medical reasons to question or advise you against some of your choices. With discussion you should be able to come up with a final birth plan that meets your needs – while also keeping your health and the health of your baby in the foreground.
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Once a final birth plan is decided, it will be placed in your medical records and be referenced when you go into labor. It’s a good idea to take a copy of your birth plan with you when you arrive at the hospital or birthing center in case there is a delay in your records reaching the facility.
How to write a birth plan
When you start making out your birth plan it’s easy for your mind to come up empty. This list should get you started thinking about what you want to list on your plan.
1. Are you going to use a medical facility, birthing center or have a midwife come to you so you can deliver your baby at home? If you are unsure which of these ideas appeal to you, research the different options in your area to make a decision that meets your needs.
2. How long do you want to stay at home in labor before you go the birthing center, hospital or before you call your midwife? Many women want to have a professional around as soon as they feel their first pains, others want to labor at home in privacy for as long as possible.
3. Do you wish your genitals to be shaved? Some women don’t want to have their genitals shaved, yet some physicians prefer it for their delivery patients. Talk to your doctor to see if he has a preference and discuss an agreeable solution.
4. Do you want to have an enema? Enemas were once a general requirement for labouring mothers. That’s not always the case today. In most areas women will have the option as to whether they choose to have an enema or not. Decide which option is best for you and discuss it with your doctor.
5. Do you want to be able to walk around while you are in labor? Some women find that walking around while they are in labor helps to speed things along. If you’d like the option of walking during labor, talk with your doctor to see if that is an available option at a hospital.
6. What type of pain medication do you want, if any? If you do want pain medication, to what degree do you want it to be used and how do you want it to be administered?
7. What position would you like to be in when you deliver your baby? Do you want to be upright? On your back? In a birthing pool?
8. Who can be in your labor and delivery room with you?
9. Do you want to watch your baby being born in a mirror?
10. Do you want your baby’s cord blood banked?
Other things that can be listed on your birth plan is whether you want to feed your baby yourself in the hours after delivery or if you want the nurses to feed your baby while you rest, if you want your male baby circumcised and whether you want your baby to room-in with you until you go home.
Keep in mind that since labor and delivery can be an unpredictable event, there is no guarantee that everything on your birth plan will come to fruition. However, if a birth plan is on file, professionals will go the extra-mile to work as close to your birth plan as possible.
Recommended reading on birth plans
For more information and advice on creating a birth plan, take a look at the following books: