What on earth is a birth plan? I mean how can you plan exactly how your child’s birth will happen? The answer is you can’t. Life, nature and the birthing process are not perfectly linear processes, no one can predict what will happen. But a birth plan is not about creating a rigid description of what the birth will be like, rather it is about exploring birthing options and sharing your preferences for different scenarios with your doctor, midwife, your partner and/or support.

Giving birth should be an incredible experience. Thinking and planning for the event can help your experience be that incredible experience. So, what is in a birth plan? On our website we discuss three major areas typically included in a birth plan.

1. What are your wishes during a normal labor and delivery?
  • Know how you want to handle pain relief.  This is important for most women and is certainly something you have a lot of control over. It’s also something you’ll want to discuss carefully with your health care provider. Know your options. There are medications, ex. an epidural and there are alternative forms of pain relief, including massage, relaxation, breathing, and hot tubs. Know your options and make your wishes known to your health provider. Some women change their minds about pain relief during labor only to discover that they’re too far along in their labor to use certain methods, such as an epidural. Discuss with your health care provider different methods and when they’re appropriate
  • Think about who you’d like to have with you before, during, and immediately after the birth. In a routine birth, this may be your partner, your other children, a friend, or other family member. You can also make it clear at what points you want no one to be there but your partner.
  • Consider your position during delivery. You can try a variety of positions during labor, including the classic semi-recline or other choices including lying on your side, squatting, standing, or simply using whatever stance feels right at the time.
2. How are you hoping for your baby to be treated immediately after and for the first few days after birth?
  • Do you want the baby’s cord to be cut by your partner?
  • Does your partner want to hold the baby when the baby emerges?
  • Will you breastfeed?
  • Do you want to limit visitors while in the hospital?
3. What do you want to happen in the case of unexpected events?
  • No one wants to think about something going wrong, but if it does, it’s better to have thought about your options in advance. Some women need cesarean sections (C-sections), your birth plan should probably cover your wishes in the event that your labor takes an unexpected turn.
  • You might also want to think about other possible complications, such as premature birth.
Schedule a time to go over your birth plan with your doctor or nurse-midwife. Find out and discuss where you agree or disagree. Review your birth plan as you near your due date.
We’ll be sharing a couple of actual birth plans in the next few posts. What would you add to this list? Did you have a birth plan?
This post was originally posted on TMC for Children on June 1, 2011.