Birth plan: two little words that can mean so much when you’re expecting. And why shouldn’t they? When we’ve spent so much time and energy growing and nurturing this tiny new human (with our very own bodies!), it’s only normal that we will have hopes and ideas for how their entry into the world will go down, not only for them, but for us and our birthing experience as well.
What is a birth plan?
As simple as the concept of having a baby is, the actual act of doing so presents an overwhelming variety of options for your and the baby’s care, before, during, and after delivery. A birth plan can act as a framework for what you hope your experience to be.
Why create one?
Creating a birth plan is a good way to familiarize yourself with the process of giving birth, and give yourself time to consider what may or may not be right for you. When you’re rushing to the hospital or gritting your teeth through contractions is not the time to be contemplating whether you want the nurses to apply ointment to your newborn’s eyes or not. Coming up with a birth plan also gives you a chance to discuss your wishes with your doctor or midwife; it can give you a voice when you might not be able to exercise your own.
What to consider
During labor: It’s difficult to anticipate what you may or may not want once those first pangs of labor kick in, but here are a few things to think about ahead of time.
- Who do you want to be in the room? Will you have a doula?
- Do you want the ability to move around?
- Will you have music or prefer quiet?
- Do you want to limit fetal monitoring and cervical checks?
- What kinds of pain management methods will you try?
- Do you want your water to break naturally?
- Do you want to be offered pain medication, and if so, what kind and at what point?
- If you’re having a home birth, or delivering at a birth center, how do you want to handle hospital transport if necessary?
During delivery: After what can seem like an eternity of labor, once the actual pushing starts, things can move really quickly. Knowing what kind of delivery specifics you’re hoping for will make them more likely to happen, and save you from having to make logistical decisions when you’ll want to be focusing on your birth.
- Are you ok with having residents or students in the room?
- Do you want to avoid an episiotomy?
- Do you want delayed cord clamping? Do you want your partner to cut the cord?
- Do you want to deliver your placenta naturally? Do you want to save your placenta? Do you want immediate skin-to-skin contact?
- Would you like to breastfeed right away?
- If a C-section is required, do you want a gentle C-section? Do you want to make sure your newborn and partner are together at all times until you are out of surgery?
Postpartum and newborn care: Now that baby’s here, your mama bear instinct will likely kick into overdrive. Plus your hormones will be raging, your body will be recovering, and your emotions will likely be off the charts, in every direction. Considering your options now, will help you advocate for the post-birth experience that’s right for you and your family.
- Do you want to delay testing so that you and your baby can bond?
- Do you want the nurses to hold off washing your newborn after delivery?
- Do you want your baby to get the standard Hepatitis B vaccine?
- What about antibiotic eye ointment?
- And the Vitamin K shot?
- If you have a son, do you want him circumcised?
- Would you like to exclusively breastfeed or are you ok with formula?
- Who do you want to visit while you recover?
Let it all go
We’ve saved the most important tip for last. Now that you’ve got your birth plan in hand, or at least in mind, let it all go. Yes, that sounds crazy, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans. No matter how certain you are about what you want, or how much positive visualization you’ve done to make it happen, there is truly no telling what may happen in the moment, what might be necessary to change for medical reasons, and how your gut might react to things in real time in ways you couldn’t have anticipated. Going home with a healthy baby as a healthy mama is truly the only plan that needs to go accordingly. Anything else that proceeds as you’d hoped is just icing on the cake.