How to write a birth plan
There are so many things to organize when you’re having a baby: a shower, a nursery, a name. But don’t overlook one of the most important things – a birth plan.
A birth plan summarizes your ideal birthing experience. It outlines your preferences for care, and provides your medical team with a clear understanding of your wishes. This can be invaluable when important decisions need to be made quickly and under pressure.
“It doesn’t need to be complicated, it just needs to communicate what you would like to happen,” says Andrea Quanchi, a midwife of 35 years.
Where to start
Visualize your ideal birthing experience from beginning to end and make a list of everything that is important to you.
“If it’s a seven-page document the chances of anyone reading it are slim so dot points are best,” Quanchi says. “Put points that are most important to you at the top.”
Avoid blanket statements such as ‘I do not ever want an epidural’ Quanchi says, as they can be taken as intent which may make it tricky if you wish to reverse the decision mid-labor.
“Try ‘I would prefer not to have an epidural’ instead.”
If your contractions start at home, think about coping strategies. Warm baths and breathing techniques can help with relaxation.
Know the quickest route to the hospital. Time it in peak traffic, and choose a back-up route. It may sound simple, but make sure you and your birth partner familiarize yourselves with the night-time entry to the maternity unit.
Consider how you’d like to give birth. Do you want to utilize a birthing pool? Would you like to stay mobile or try different birthing positions?
Think about who would you would like in the room – just your partner, or additional support people? Have you thought about using a doula, or including family or friends? Would you prefer to be clothed or are you comfortable naked?
Visualize the ambience of the birthing suite. Do you want low lighting and quiet? If you’d like to listen to music, make sure your music source can plug into the birthing room electrical outlet.
Find out about and detail your pain relief choices so it is clear what you are OK with and what you would like to avoid. You might opt for soft-touch massage, warm water, deep breathing or vocalizations prior to medication, or you may choose to use medication from the outset. Specify the order in which you would like to use pain relief – for example, gas before an epidural.
If intervention is required, think about what that looks like for you. Would you choose to be induced or wait for labor to start naturally? If you are in labor and your water has not broken, would you opt to break it or wait? Would you choose an episiotomy or natural tearing? Find out about the options and the pros and cons and make the best choice for you.
Imagine those first few precious minutes. Would you like immediate skin-to-skin contact and to delay cord clamping? Who will cut the cord? Do you wish to utilize the placenta and cord blood?
“Don’t forget about the baby. Be specific with things like, ‘I do not give permission for any procedure without myself or the father present’ or ‘Baby should not be removed from mother except in extreme circumstances’, if that’s what you would like,” Quanchi says.
Be clear if you would like to breast or bottle feed. If you or your tot needs extra attention, would you like your partner to stay with the baby or with you?
Make your plan known
“You should share your plan with anyone who will be present at the birth. Your care team should have it on file, but bring a copy on the day. Share it with your birth partner as they are likely to be the advocate for you at the time,” Quanchi says.
Labor doesn’t always go according to plan and understanding this will make it easier to go with the flow if your baby has plans of its own. Arm yourself with information on the birthing options available to you whether it be natural all the way or a C-section birth. Be positive and prepared but open to the process. Focus on the end goal – a happy and healthy baby and a happy and healthy mom.