In the months leading up to your delivery date, you’ll probably want to avoid scouring YouTube for delivery videos. Instead, think about creating a birth plan.
A birth plan can be an educational tool to boost your confidence going into labor. But in creating it, keep in mind that you may need to throw it to the wind once you go into labor—because when you get into the delivery room, anything can (and will) happen.
Don’t let that scare you. One main purpose of creating a birth plan is to get you thinking and learning about what might happen during labor. Birth plans can also help communicate your preferences to your delivery team.
Remember that when it comes down to it, your obstetrics team will do whatever it takes to keep you and your baby safe, regardless of whether it’s in the plan.
The American Pregnancy Association recommends you start by writing down your thoughts and ideas leading up to your delivery date. This will help you clarify what’s important to you. Just remember to be flexible and mentally prepared for anything.
Plan to Be Flexible
One of the major downsides of writing a birth plan is that many women set themselves up for disappointment. They get attached to having a certain experience. And when the experience doesn’t go as they dreamed, they become discouraged.
If you think you’ll get too attached, here’s the truth: Women who create birth plans do not report having better childbirth experiences than women who do not, according to a December 2010 study in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health.
Not only that, but your healthcare team may view your birth plan as too demanding or risky for yourself or your baby, the American Pregnancy Association says. That’s why it’s important to review your preferences with your obstetrics team to make sure your requests are reasonable, available at the hospital and covered by your insurance.
You’ll also want to make sure your partner has your birth preferences memorized, because he may have to remind your medical team of your preferences during labor and delivery.
What to Include in the Birth Plan
A birth plan should be a 1-page, skimmable document, not a dissertation. That’s because your medical team may be reviewing it during your labor when every minute counts. Just include the preferences that mean the most to you.
Consider the following questions as a starting point—basically the who, what, where, why, when and how.
- Who do you want present during labor and delivery?
Make sure you know the hospital’s limits on the number of people allowed.
- What procedures or techniques do you want to use?
If you want to do water birth or have the baby placed on your chest immediately after delivery, include those details and talk them over with your obstetrician.
- Why might you use medication, labor augmentation or other procedures?
Some women are set on natural childbirth and only want a c-section in case of an emergency.
- How do you feel about the use of IVs, fetal monitoring, forceps or vacuum?
Your hospital may already have a policy on this, and your obstetrician may have her own thoughts on when these techniques are necessary. Make sure they mesh well with your preferences.
- Where should your baby go after delivery?
Let the medical team know if you want the baby to stay in the room with you or be accompanied by a family member when taken out.
- When should your family see the baby?
Find out if your family members can come in after delivery or if you should just plan for them to meet your new little one at home.
Your plan can also include what you’d like to happen after your baby is born. The National Institutes of Health suggests including your preferences on:
- Pacifier use
As you create your plan, keep in mind that it is primarily made up of suggestions that may not necessarily be followed word-for-word when the time comes to deliver your baby. In fact, you may change your mind about certain things once you’re in labor.
So consider it a work in progress, up until the very moment your baby is born. The ultimate plan is to keep you healthy and have a healthy baby, too.