A birth plan is a basic statement of what you want and do not want in your birth experience. Writing a plan helps you consider what you want for labor, delivery and after the baby is born. It can help you communicate with your doctor and hospital staff. Here are the basics of writing a birth plan.
by Patricia Hughes
How to Write a Birth Plan
A birth plan is a basic statement of what you want and do not want in your birth experience. Writing a plan helps you consider what you want for labor, delivery and after the baby is born. It can help you communicate with your doctor and hospital staff. Give a copy to your doctor, have one in your file at the hospital and pack a copy in your bag for the hospital.
Who will be present at the birth?
Will it be just your husband? What about family members and siblings. If siblings will be present, who will be there to watch them? You need someone other than you and your husband to watch your other children. If they get bored or scared, someone should be there to support them or take them out of the room. Include information here about how you feel about students and interns being present for your birth.
The Labor Environment
Do you want the lights dimmed? Will you have music playing? Do you want a minimum of interruptions? Consider the environment you want in the room and describe it in this section of your birth plan.
Mobility and Monitoring
How much freedom of movement do you want during labor? Do you want to move in the bed, get up to go to the bathroom or have unlimited movement? Some things will affect your ability to move, such as receiving pain medications. The type of fetal monitoring used and IVs can affect your freedom of movement.
The baby will need to be monitored during labor. This can be done with continuous monitoring or intermittent monitoring. Continuous monitoring can be done with an external fetal monitor. An internal monitor may be needed if a problem arises. Intermittent monitoring can be done with a Doppler or by removing the external monitor periodically. The condition of the baby may require continuous monitoring if a problem arises.
Drinking and Eating
Most hospitals restrict eating during labor. You will need to eat prior to going to the hospital. This is done as a precaution in the event you would need an emergency c section. Different hospitals handle drinking in different ways. Some allow water or other clear fluids, while others only allow ice chips. State your preferences and talk to your doctor about the options you have regarding eating and drinking.
Some doctors prefer an IV for fluids, especially if you are not well hydrated when you arrive. State your preference regarding IVs in your birth plan. If you refuse an IV, they may want to do a heparin lock. This allows fast access in the event medication would need to be given.
What methods of pain relief do you plan to use? Do you want to use natural methods or medication? If you want medication, what kind do you want? If you want to avoid medication, what methods of natural pain relief do you plan to try? State your preferences clearly in your plan. Include information in there about whether you want medication offered or if you prefer to ask for it yourself.
Inducing or Augmenting Labor
In the event labor needs to be induced or augmented, what methods do you prefer? Do you want to try natural methods such as nipple stimulation or walking first? How do you feel about Pitocin, prostaglandin gel or breaking your water?
Do you mind an episiotomy or would you rather tear naturally? Do you want to try massaging techniques to reduce the risk of tearing?
Which birth positions do you want to try? You may be limited here by your practitioner. Doctors tend to want you lying in bed with your legs up. Midwives are often more flexible and will allow you to try alternate positions, such as squatting or using the birth bar. Do you want to use stirrups or people to support your legs during pushing? Discuss this with your practitioner in advance.
Consider your preferences in the event you need a c section. You may not have many options in an emergency situation. Do you want your partner there? Do you want immediate contact with the baby and to breastfeed in the recovery room? Do you want the partner to cut the cord?
Will you breastfeed or bottle feed? Do you want the opportunity to breastfeed immediately after the birth with a minimum of separation? If you are breastfeeding, include information regarding bottles and pacifiers here. Breastfed babies shouldn’t be given any bottles or pacifiers until breastfeeding is well established.
Medical testing and treatments vary from state to state. Ask your doctor what is commonly done in your area. A vitamin K shot and eye drops are commonly done in most states. In many cases, these can be delayed to give you time to bond with the baby. If you want these delayed, include the information in your plan.
If the baby is a boy, will he be circumcised? If not, state this very clearly to avoid confusion. Accidental circumcisions have occurred. If he will be circumcised, do you want to be present? Do you want pain medication used to numb the baby during the procedure?
Patricia Hughes is a freelance writer and mother of four. Patricia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University. She has written extensively on pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and breastfeeding. In addition, she has written about home décor and travel.