Pregnant? It’s normal to consider how you want labor and delivery to go. While some women keep their plan short, like “epidural and get the baby out,” big planners like to go more in-depth and consider music and positions while laboring, allowing certain medications but not others, and so on.
For the record, pregnant women aren’t required to have birth plans written out with their healthcare provider. In fact, most women don’t write birth plans.
If you do want to take that route, birth plans are a great way to organize your thoughts and describe your vision of how you see, in a perfect setting, your labor and delivery going. Birth plans are based on wants, not needs.
Wondering if writing a birth plan makes sense for you? Consider these 8 things.
1. Birth plans need to be flexible
You likely have a vision of how you would like your birth to go. But it's important to keep in mind that your OB-GYN or certified nurse midwife will be constantly monitoring your progress and making recommendations to keep you and your baby as safe and comfortable as possible. Remaining flexible helps your care providers make adjustments during delivery to ensure the safest and best outcome.
2. Pain management is important to consider
It’s important to have a dialogue with yourself about how you hope to manage labor pain, because this is a very individual choice. Some women find it liberating to labor and deliver without an epidural, and some women find it traumatic.
Within a birth plan, moms are welcome to include instructions like: “Please don’t offer me pain medication – I’ll request medication if I need it.” The same goes for an epidural or spinal block.
It's always OK to change your mind about pain relief in the moment.
3. Determine who you want to support you during labor and delivery
Who your support people will be during labor is an important choice.
As of April 2022, Novant Health is allowing two support people in the labor and delivery room alongside a woman’s care team, plus a doula if the patient has chosen one.
4. Know your preferences for postpartum care
A few questions to have in mind whether you write your birth plan out or not are: Do you want your support person to cut the umbilical cord? Do you want your baby to receive a pacifier? Do you want help with breastfeeding?
Find an OB/GYN to assist you with your family journey.
Your baby will stay in the room with you unless NICU care is needed, and your healthcare provide will help you with skin-to-skin contact. This is because it’s important for the baby and the mom to bond and begin breastfeeding. This approach also helps soothe both the mother and the baby.
5. Determine who will make up your postpartum support village
This is something you wouldn’t see in a standard birth plan, but it’s an important consideration for your overall postpartum planning. Make sure to consider, who is your village of people supporting you? Not just in the hospital, but for at least six to eight weeks after your baby comes home?
Maybe that means having a relative stay with you for a few weeks to help out, or to have a team of friends ready to take on helpful tasks.
6. Birth plans should be discussed with your OB-GYN
Ideally, try to get your thoughts organized by 32 weeks so that your OB-GYN can review and discuss it with you. Your doctor can copy your birth plan and keep it with your health chart.
7. Don’t let a birth plan overshadow all of your preparation before labor
Birth plans can help expectant moms feel in control and ease their nerves, but in reality, childbirth is unpredictable and you can't control all aspects of it. As part of your birth plan, try to accept that unexpected things will happen and that's OK. Focus on eating and exercising well, meditating and spending time envisioning your labor and delivery going well.
Need a head start? Here's a link.
If you're not sure where to start, check out this online birth plan template.
At the same time, know this: there's no pressure to use it. If a woman goes into labor without a birth plan, that’s normal. And whether you write out your plan or simply have certain preferences in mind, your healthcare providers will be there to support you and your vision.