Whether you plan to induce or wait for Baby to arrive on her own, labor is the last place you want to make decisions. While it is important for your partner to know what you want, chances are both of you will be distracted. Talking through your plans with your partner and doctor can help you feel a little more prepared for the big event. There are also a lot of things you might not think about and unforeseen circumstances you may wind up in. Here’s a look at things you might want to include when you create your birth plan.
Understanding Birth Plans
A birth plan is exactly what it sounds like: a plan for how you would like things to be handled while you are busy giving birth. While your baby’s birth probably isn’t going to go exactly how you might like or expect, it at least provides a clear, general guideline. A birth plan is not a medical document--just because you check the box doesn’t mean your doctor is definitely going to abide by it.
If you talk about your birth plan with your midwife or obstetrician beforehand, it does mean your doctor understands what you would prefer. It also means you don’t have to think about some of the big decisions while you’re writhing in contraction discomfort, and that your partner is clear on your wishes as well.
The beginning of your birth plan is a great place to include general information, along with any complications or health problems you have. Gestational diabetes, blood disorders, or anything like that can be included. It’s also a good idea to make a note if you and Baby are Rh incompatible or if you have group B strep.
You might also include who you would like allowed in the room leading up to the birth, who is allowed during the birth, and if there’s anyone you specifically do not want to come in at all (nurses can be great bouncers!). For the most part, labor and birth have a few standard processes. Procedures like inserting an IV catheters or fetal monitoring may not be up to you, particularly in higher risk pregnancies. Many birth plans also include information like if you do or do not want your pubic area shaved, an enema, an episiotomy, or an epidural.
Every woman experiences the strain of labor differently. Your birth plan can help you, your partner, and your doctor decide on what might work best for you. Some women want to be able to walk around (or even dance) to help encourage Baby to come on out. Perhaps you’d like soft music playing to keep you relaxed. Or maybe you’ve had a baby before, and you know you want your epidural and to sit quietly in bed until the time comes to push.
Photography and recording have become a potential part of labor and birth as well. If you plan on having the experience documented, whether via your partner’s phone or by a professional photographer, making a note on your birth plan can let your doctor know to expect extra personnel.
If you know you want an epidural, some of your choices are fairly limited. Because you essentially lose all feeling to your lower body, your movements and medical care are likely to be standardized. If you plan to use alternative pain management, you may want to give birth in an alternative position and use any additional equipment to do so.
After Baby Arrives
You may want your baby to enter the world with a few specific desires. Maybe you want to touch Baby’s head when he crowns. Delayed cord cutting has some major benefits, but not all moms choose to do so. You may wish to start skin-to-skin contact with both parents as soon as possible, or breastfeed immediately after labor. Other ideas to consider including are: donating or banking cord blood, circumcision decisions, post-labor pain management, and post-labor visitors.
Again, labor and birth may not go exactly as you have planned, so you can include what you want to happen if something goes awry, such as a visit to the NICU or a second opinion if your doctor recommends a c-section. Remember: your doctor may not be able to follow your birth plan 100%, particularly if it conflicts with hospital policy or what is medically advisable to keep both of you safe. Birth plans are simply an outline of what you would most like to happen and a way to think through the different scenarios before you’re in the middle of them.