As an expectant parent, you’ve probably already picked out names, a car seat, a stroller, onesies, and decorating schemes for your baby’s bedroom. But have you thought about your birth plan?
Simply put, a birth plan is a document that outlines your preferences and expectations for your baby’s delivery. Providing this information in writing to all those involved in the delivery ensures everyone is, quite literally, on the same page.
Shirley Hamill, nurse manager of The Birthplace at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, offers suggestions on how to think about your birth plan.
What is in a birth plan?
From who you want in the delivery room to whether or not you want pain medication to who will cut the cord, your birth plan helps make your wishes clear for this all-important experience.
“It is a good idea to share your birth plan with your OB providers before your delivery date. The obstetricians, certified nurse midwives, and OB nurses do our very best to honor all aspects of our patients’ birth plans,” says Hamill.
When should you write a birth plan?
Your birth plan should be written well in advance of your due date. Many providers and birth centers provide plan outlines and even counseling. Developing your plan ahead of your due date and in conjunction with your birth center and/or doctor will allow you to fully explore and discuss the birth options available to you and your preferences.
While planning ahead is always helpful, Hamill reminds all patients to keep an open mind. “Because things can change fast during labor, come with an open mind, in case, for the safety of you and your baby, the plan needs to be adjusted along the way.”
As your pregnancy progresses, you may wish to make changes to your plan based on your doctor’s recommendations or your own desires. Try to think of your birth plan as a fluid document. You are free to change it any time — even in the delivery room — and as often as you like. Regardless of how many changes you do or don’t make, the aim of your plan is to provide safe and satisfying birth experience for you and your little one. H2: What should you include in your birth plan?
There are no hard and fast rules about what to include in a birth plan. It’s all about your preferences and style. If you’re detail-oriented, your plan might run long (I want to wear my pink fuzzy socks and no one is to touch my hair). If you’re more laid-back, you might just hit the highlights related to who will attend, pain medication, and feeding. But again, there’s no right or wrong. The key is to write a plan that works for you.
Here are some things you might include:
- Who do you want present in the delivery room?
- Is there specific music you would like played during delivery?
- Do you want an epidural?
- If not, do you want to be offered pain medication? (i.e. intravenous, oral, or nitrous oxide)
- If so, what type of medication?
- Are there any medications you do not wish to be offered?
- Are there alternative pain-relieving measures for comfort you’d like to use? (massage, hot packs, ice packs, breathing, etc.)
- Do you wish to be able to move around during labor??
- Do you wish to use hydrotherapy, like a tub or a shower?
- Would you like to have a water birth (available at The Birthplace)?
- How would you like to stay hydrated? (water, ice chips, other)
- Do you wish to have your baby monitored on and off or continuously?
- Are there specific birth positions you wish to use?
- If your labor needs to be induced, are you open to the use of a foley bulb, artificial rupture of membranes, or oxytocin?
- If a C-section is deemed medically necessary, do you have any special requests? Would you like to use a clear drape so that you can see your baby being born?
- Are you open to the use of interventions like vacuum extraction or forceps to assist in the birth of your child?
- Who will cut the cord?
- Are you banking cord blood?
- Do you wish immediate skin to skin contact?
- How do you plan to feed your baby? (breastfeed or formula)
- If you plan to breastfeed, do you wish to do so immediately?
- Do you wish to be discharged as soon as possible after the birth of your baby? Or stay as long as possible?
- Do you have any religious or cultural preferences?
Again, not every plan will include all of this information and others will include this or more.
In addition to sharing your plan with your provider in advance of delivery, you also want to be sure to bring multiple copies with you on the big day. This will ensure that everyone who participates in the experience is informed of your wishes.
Both hospitals have provided birth plan worksheets for you to download and fill out: