how to create a birth plan

My little guy is nearly three months old, and let me tell you, it’s been a wonderful three months! I credit a lot of his chillness to the way he came into this world, so I wanted to talk to you about how to create a successful birth plan. There are a lot of templates out there where all you have to do is check off boxes or answer a few questions, but for me those templates were not as thorough as I would’ve liked. Instead of having to answer questions or make decisions on the spot, I decided it would be best to try and make as many decisions (and backup decisions) as possible beforehand so when labor hits I can focus solely on bringing my little one into the world.

1.  Have a plan for labor, active labor, delivery, after delivery and postpartum. 

I chose a theme word for each stage. For example labor, I pared with relaxed and for after delivery, family time is the most important thing to me. Within each of these categories, it's a good idea to try and visualize exactly what you want.

Do you want an iv? Or would you like to try and eat and drink on your own? Dim lighting or do you want to see what’s going on? What kind of music do you want playing if any? Would you like to lay in bed or would you like to be able to move freely? Decide exactly who you want in the room with you, and be firm in your decision.  Often times parents, in-laws, siblings, and friends are all vying for one of the few spots in the room, but it’s completely up to you who you want in the room with you. It’s important that you’re comfortable with whoever you choose and that they know they’re there to help you with whatever you need. Having people who make you uncomfortable nearby can cause labor to stall and can actually make you less dilated. If you’ve hired a doula, make sure you include them in your head count. Other things to consider are if you’d like to be induced and if so how? Do you want to have your waters broken for you or let them break on their own?

Decide if you want to start pushing as soon as you’re fully dilated or if you’d like to wait until you feel the urge. Do you want to push laying down? Do you want a water birth? Or do you want to use a birthing stool? Who would you like to receive your baby, the doctor or the baby's father? 

After delivery
Would you like your babe to be checked as soon as possible or do you prefer to have some family bonding time and skin-to-skin first?  Would you like a chance to breastfeed immediately? Do you want delayed cord cutting and who would you like to cut the cord? Often times it’s nice to give this honor to the baby’s father.

It’s not necessary to bring this portion of your birth plan to the hospital with you but it’s a good idea to know how you want to recover from pregnancy and birth. Plan on taking it easy for several weeks as your body heals.  What would you like to eat? Are you planning on doing sitz baths? Do you plan on using herbal pads and have they been prepared ahead of time?

2.  Decide on pain management. 

Do you want an epidural as soon as you’re able to get one? Would you like to be offered natural remedies first? Or would you prefer not to be offered anything for pain management at all? Did you take a hypnobirthing class for pain management?  If labor gets too intense, even if you planned on having a natural birth, it’s best to decide beforehand what kind of pain management and interventions you’re okay with. 

3. Know what you want for your new infant. 

A Vitamin K and a hepatitis b shot are common practices for most hospitals and birthing centers as well as eye ointment.  Do your research beforehand to see if you’re comfortable with these procedures. Remember it’s your baby, not the doctors or grandparents or doulas, trust your instincts and do what you feel is best for your little one.  Other things to consider are when you want your babe to have their first bath, if you’d like them to room in with you or be offered a bottle or pacifier.

4.  Research your doctors/hospitals stats and rules. 

How many interventions do they do? What is their unplanned c-section rate? What are their standard operating procedures? Are you allowed to wear your own clothes, and if so is that what you prefer to do?  What are visiting hours? Knowing what the hospital usually does will allow you to know if you can even complete your birth plans as written or if you’ll get any push back. Knowing their procedures beforehand will give you big clues on when you’ll need to advocate for yourself.

5.  Create backup plans just in case. Be flexible. Don’t get too attached to your plan.

The birthing process can be very unpredictable.  Don’t get too upset if you have to deviate from your plan, the most important thing is that you and your baby are healthy and strong. 

I typed up my plan and emailed a copy to my midwives.  I also printed out two copies, one for my home birth kit and one for my hospital bag.  It’s important that it’s easily accessible and that your birthing partner is aware of all of your wishes and will advocate for you.  For some women their birth plan is as simple as “have a baby,” but personally I like to plan and have as much control over unknown situations as possible.  Just like every pregnancy is different, every birth is unique as well. 

Did you have a birth plan? How detailed was it? Did I leave anything important out to consider? If you have any questions about how to create a birth plan, please Ask a Bestie, and we’ll get back to you right away.