By Jackie, Contributing Writer
When you first find out you are pregnant, it seems like you have a lot of time before the baby comes. Many of us fill this time with midwife appointments, exercise, dates with the husband, decorating the nursery, being showered with love and gifts from family and friends, nesting, all while preparing for our baby to arrive.
One important step that we cannot forget, or even get to too soon, is creating a birth plan. No matter where you plan on birthing, you need to work with your spouse to present a plan to your care provider. It is important that your midwife or doctor is aware of all the specifics of your birth and is willing to work with you to achieve your goals. The sooner you know what you want the better as some care providers will not feel comfortable with what you would like to do. So you either need to advocate for yourself or you need to look for a new care provider.
I delayed writing a birth plan, as I was sure it would be simple and I would know exactly what I wanted in all situations. When I sat down to do it, I realized it took time and I needed to research different choices to ensure I had included every scenario.
Even if you choose to homebirth, the reality is that you could be transferred to the hospital. That is what happened with my first child and I was so glad that I had two birth plans ready to go. I had a long two page plan with much detail in regards to my homebirth and I had a bullet point, quick and easy to read, birth plan for the hospital. My midwife was at the hospital with me to ensure that I got the care that I had requested, but I know having the birth plan for the nurses to read was important.
There is no wrong way to write a birth plan, expect to not write one at all. If you do not take the time to put down what you would like in writing, what you would like to happen may not be done. In the midst of laboring, you may not be able to clearly and effectively advocate for yourself. Also, as things progress, there may be unforeseen circumstances that need to be handled. If you have, in advance, put everything you want and need together in a birth plan, it will make it much easier for those giving you care and your birth partner can focus on you.
How to Write a Birth Plan
- Start by stating who you are, where you plan on birthing, and who will be with you during your labor. Make sure to include doula and any other family or friends.
- Write how your preferred birth would go and what choices you have made that are most important. For example, Do you want dim lights and music? Would you prefer it to be just you and your birth partner in the room? Do you want the freedom to eat and drink? Would you like to be able to move around or have a water birth? Would you prefer to use pain medication such as an epidural or not? Do you want cervical checks?
- For the next section, include how to handle alternative circumstances. I requested that my midwife talk to my husband and have my husband talk to me if the need arose to do something that was unplanned. Include what you would want for a breech birth, if you are not progressing, if they need to do an emergency caesarean, etc. Think of as many different scenarios as possible and decide how you would proceed in them. During labor, you may not be able to adequately make these decisions.
- Discuss what you would prefer for newborn care. Do you want delayed cord clamping? What about immediate skin to skin with baby? Do you want to breastfeed on demand? Would you like baby to have a pacifier? To be bathed? Are you declining vitamin K and eye prophylaxis?
- Include anything else you think you may need those taking care of you to know. These are your wishes, this is the time to make them known.
It is very beneficial to create a short bullet point birth plan for easy reference. This came in handy when my home birth transferred to a hospital birth. The situation was already very challenging and stressful for me as it was not at all what I had planned, but having a birth plan in place helped to alleviate extra, unnecessary questions and concerns and allowed me to focus on having my baby.
What Things Do You Have On Your Birth Plan?