Whether you are expecting your first baby or are an experienced mom, writing a birth plan helps you have the experience you want during delivery. Even though unexpected things may come up during labor, having a plan can help you feel in control when you walk through the hospital doors. Working together with your wishes, those of your partner and your doctor will help things go as desired.
What is a birth plan? It's simply a written plan that gives details on how you would like your labor to happen. It will include all the details, so that when you are in labor – and possibly not communicating so well, your nurses and doctor will have a clear outline of your expectations.
The first element of your birth plan will include what type of delivery you want to have. Some women want to schedule it in advance, know they want the epidural, and don't mind helping nature take its course. Other women want to go completely natural, with no pain medication. Others are willing to try natural with an epidural as an option. Reading up and talking with your provider and other moms on the risks and recovery will help you make the decision that is right for you.
If you have decided to go with a natural birth, make sure that your provider will be supportive. From early on you will want to develop a relationship with your pre-natal provider. Some doctors are opposed to letting things go all natural, while others are much more accommodating. There is also the option of delivering at a birthing center, particularly if you want to attempt a water birth or less "traditional" birthing experience.
High risk pregnancies make these options less possible. Often a C-section and scheduled delivery is necessary due to your individual case for the baby's safety and your own. Discuss what is going to happen well ahead of time with your physician so that you are prepared for the day and have help for the recovery.
There are other things you will want to have ready ahead of time in your birthing plan. Once your labor starts, often the most important things get forgotten. Writing a birthing plan and keeping it with your bags as well as in your hospital file will make the big day much easier.
Things you might want to consider adding in your birthing plan:
Who will need to be at the hospital or birthing center. Make a list with your essential attendees, including any friends or relatives, a doula if you are using one, and whether you want your other child(ren) there. Make sure to have phone numbers where they can be contacted in case labor progresses too quickly for you to call.
What the environment should be like. Do you prefer the lights dim, do you want certain music available. How do you want the camera set up for pictures / video – how much exposure is ok?
What you need during labor. Do you want your partner to stay the whole time? Will it be ok if students are in your room during delivery? How will you stay hydrated? Do you want an IV or just a port? Will you want the option to be able to walk around? Do you want the monitors on the entire time, or just periodically to check on the baby?
During labor, at what point to you want pain intervention? What kind of intervention is ok? Do you want to wait until you are dilated to a certain point, or do you want to be comfortable during your delivery? Do you want alternative pain relief, such as massage, acupressure or breathing techniques?
Once in labor, it is very difficult to verbalize what you want. After you have hit "transition" labor, you may know that you start to get nearly panicky for those few moments before delivery. If there are things that are going to be important to you once the doctor gets in the room, make sure your nurses know in case things go too fast for you to tell them.
This may include things such as whether you want an episiotomy (a small incision that will prevent tearing) or if you would rather take the chance of not tearing. Do you want to help catch the baby, and who will cut the umbilical cord?
Once your little person is welcomed into the world, make sure the staff knows if you want the baby to stay with you, or to be brought in for feeding. Some moms will need the rest, while others won't want baby out of their sight – either choice is ok, it just depends on you and how delivery went.
Make sure that you have also informed the hospital if you are going to breastfeed. This way the lactation consultant can be on hand to make sure you get off to a good start. If you want your baby bottle fed, indicate what is ok for them to offer and if you want your baby fed on demand or on a schedule.
Find a birthing plan online where you can simply check off your preferences, or write your own. Just make sure that it is easy to overview, without a lot of extra explanations. Short and concise is the easiest things for your nurse and partner to deal with during labor and delivery.
Don't stress out about having your birthing plan perfect. Labor and delivery is an adventure, and each story is different. Be flexible, and don't feel bad if you have to modify plans on a moment's notice. It isn't the delivery that is important – even though you want it to be the best experience you can. The most important thing is bringing home a happy and healthy baby and mom. Then the rest of the story begins…
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