You can’t wait to welcome your new baby to the world. You’ve already chosen a name, painted the walls in the nursery, and started researching some pre-schools. There’s a lot to do, and a lot to think about, and that’s why a complete birth plan can be so incredibly helpful.
A birth plan is exactly what it sounds like–a written plan detailing your preferences and goals for your labor and birth. Most complete birth plans will cover the period of time from start of labor through early postpartum.
What is a Birth Plan? And Why Do You Need One?
A birth plan is typically a written or visual document that communicates the birthing person’s preferences for care and goals for birth and immediate postpartum to their care team (nurses, doulas, doctors, midwives, and even neonatology staff). For a variety of reasons, these plans are best kept fluid as birth, preferences, and care are a dynamic process that can shift unexpectedly, but creating a birth plan can help give everyone on your team a framework for achieving a set of common goals.
During a typical pregnancy, there is a vast amount of information that needs to be exchanged and tracked between the mother-to-be and the OBGYN or midwife. A birth plan gives everyone a working document, so you can all stay on the same page. It also gives you an opportunity to discuss ideas and have questions answered in advance, and feel comfortable with your care team.
Common Considerations in Birth Plans
There are many ways to approach building a birth plan, and the final version can vary from being a pictogram to an outline format, and from a few lines to a few pages depending on how detailed. In general, it is good to think in terms of ideal births, as well as contingency plans.. Most birth plans will be divided into several categories and subcategories.
- What you want the birthing atmosphere to entail (this could cover items brought from home, music, or lighting).
- Who you would like to be with you while you are in labor or giving birth.
- Where you’d like to be during birth (for example, home or hospital; also including which hospital you’d prefer to be admitted to).
- Whether you want photos or videos during birth.
- Is there a specific position you want to labor or push in?
- Are there specific labor tools, such as birth balls, birth stools, or a tub, that you are hoping to have available?
- What kind of pain management you want during delivery. For example, are you hypnobirthing? Or are you planning an epidural?
This list is not exhaustive, as each birth plan will be unique for every individual.
These would include your preferences for the second stage of labor (from pushing to the time when baby is born). Some common examples include:
- Freedom to choose positions while pushing
- Avoiding episiotomy
- Self-directed pushing versus verbal guidance and cues from your birth attendants
For new parents, delivery is just the beginning. In the euphoria and excitement that immediately follows delivery, a birth plan can help you ensure that you don’t miss any important moments. Post-delivery checklists can include:
- When you might want to cut the umbilical cord (and whether you want to bank the umbilical cord as well)
- Placing baby skin to skin on mom after delivery
- Are you planning to breastfeed?
- Do you plan to have your baby receive the routine newborn medications?
- Are you planning a circumcision?
It should be noted that a birth plan is just that–a plan. And there are many instances in which the best laid plans need to be flexible for a wide variety of reasons. Because of that, it’s a good idea to think of your birth plan as a roadmap for your trip, but know there can be detours. It also is good to go over the birth plan with your team prenatally, as these discussions often help you to find the right support people, and arrive at a great plan! The best way to create a birth plan is in conjunction with your OBGYN or nurse midwife. At NSAGO, we work hard to honor your plans as part of our obstetrics services. Contact our Wilmette or Glenview offices to get started.