Find out how to write a birth plan and the most important things to consider.
A birth plan is a document that lets your medical team know your labor and delivery preferences in regards to things like pain management, postpartum care, and newborn procedures.
Think of your birth plan as a guideline or even a map. You have your preferred path for getting to your destination (a healthy baby and mom), but there can be detours along the route. A birth plan encourages you to consider all your birthing options and communicate your preferences to your healthcare team. But keep in mind—sometimes things don’t go as planned.
Things to Consider When Writing a Birth Plan
Before you write your birth plan, research your labor and delivery options ahead of time. Tour your hospital or birthing center and find out their procedures and practices. Do they have labor and birthing equipment, like a tub or shower, birthing balls, or birth stools? Do they offer nitrous oxide for pain relief during labor? Are there limits on how many people can be in the delivery room at one time? This will help you determine what you want for your labor and delivery, and what to include in your birth plan.
You’ve researched the details, now it’s time to get writing!
Keep it simple
Your birth plan doesn’t need to be exhaustive, so make it short (try to have it be one page) and use bullet points when you can.
It might happen that you arrive at labor and delivery, and there is a doctor on call whom you’ve never met. This is also true for your labor and delivery nurses. Say a little bit about yourself and your partner (if applicable). A general “nice to meet you” paragraph is a wonderful opening.
Who is your primary support person?
Your partner? A birth doula? Your mom or sister? Introduce them and explain their role.
Who else do you want in the room?
Who do you want on this journey with you? Do you plan to have many people in the delivery room with you? Or would you prefer to just have your support person?
Describe the room.
Would you like dim lights? Music playing? Would you like to labor in the tub or shower? Do you want to wear your own clothing or the hospital gown? Are you open to medical students assisting in your care? Make sure to add anything that makes you feel uncomfortable too. Not a touchy-feely person? Writing that down will help your nurses make you feel as relaxed and supported as possible.
The labor question that gets all the attention: are you planning a medicated or unmedicated delivery? This Pain Medications Preference Scale by Penny Simkin is really helpful if you need assistance articulating how you feel about pain management in labor. Would you like to be able to move around in labor? Are you planning to use a certain method to cope with labor pains? How soon would you like your epidural (if you’d like one)? Are you OK with continuous fetal monitoring?
What about the birth?
Add some preferences about positions for pushing, if you have them. How do you feel about forceps, vacuum, or an episiotomy? For delivery, do you want a mirror to see the action? Who would you like to cut the cord? What about skin to skin after birth? Do you plan to breastfeed or use formula?
Newborn procedures are also important to include. Desires for the Vitamin K shot and eye drops, bathing the baby and PKU testing are some things to consider. If you have a boy, will you want him to be circumcised at the hospital? Do you want your baby to sleep in your room or in the nursery? Any other special requests for the immediate postpartum period?
Make sure to add a couple of bullet points regarding your preferences in the case of a cesarean section or if the baby needs to go to the neonatal intensive care unit. It’s better to have a plan written out for a surgical birth and not need it.
Final touches – How to write a birth plan.
Once your birth plan is finished and printed, highlight keywords and preferences on it for fast reference. That way if a care provider only has time to glance at it, they will easily be able to spot the meat-and-potatoes of your birth plan.
Bring your birth plan to one of your doctor appointments and discuss it with them so they understand what you’re hoping for during your birth. Then include a few printouts in your hospital bag so you’ll have it with you on the big day.
With these important tips figuring out how to write a birth plan should be a breeze.