While pregnant, you think about so many things and make so many decisions – what name to pick, what stroller to buy, which pediatrician to choose, etc. All of these things are choices that are in your control, which are in opposition to the decisions you’ll make about your birth. Since you can’t full control how your birth will go, are birth plans necessary? What even is a birth plan? Birth plans are just what they sound like, an intention for how you ideally would like your birth to go. This includes your wishes for before, during, and after birth while in the hospital or wherever you choose to deliver your baby. Essentially, if everything goes according to plan, then your birth plan is exactly what you hope will happen with your labor and delivery.
Are Birth Plans Necessary
The purpose of a birth plan is to help parents lay out their wishes and get their across to the mother and baby’s healthcare team. Birth plans cover everything from pain management to postpartum care to the brightness of the lights in the delivery room to newborn procedures and practices. Birth plans encourage parents to take all birthing options under consideration. And to have open communication between doctors and parents so everyone is on the same page on the way to the shared goal of having a happy, safe, and healthy mother and baby at the end of everything.
There is so much going on when you give birth so birth plans are a wonderful way to keep your preferences clear with everyone and at the forefront of your mind. If you make the big decisions early and got them down on paper, then you can focus on being in the moment and on bringing your baby into the outside world. Perhaps the most important fact to keep in mind when it comes to birth plans is that you can write one but you still have to be flexible, open to live time changes, and adaptable in the minute instead of clinging onto your wishes that might prove to be out of the question.
If you’re thinking about a birth plan, don’t get overwhelmed by all of the decisions to be made. I sat down for a few minutes and got mine down on paper pretty quickly once I gave myself a clear mind to run through everything.
Also, remember two very important things:
1) None of these decisions have to be made ahead of time as all of your preferences can be made while in the hospital. It can just be helpful to think things through with your partner ahead of time to get on the same general page. 2) Birth plans are great but absolutely remember that the most important thing is getting a healthy baby out safely. And not sticking to exactly how you wanted things to go. Definitely advocate for yourself and make your preferences heard. But understand that you need to be flexible and let go at times in order to keep everyone safe.
Benefits Of A Birth Plan
Prepared Before Labor Starts
If you go into labor or learn unexpectedly that you need to go in right away for a C-section, then there will be a million things going through your head as well as real time physical reactions and pain. It can be challenging to think clearly. So, a birth plan is helpful because you go in prepared with your preferences. You made decisions for how you want your labor and delivery to go while you had a clear and collected mind. Anyway you can prepare ahead of time for your newborn can be helpful!
Everyone is on the Same Page
There will be a lot of people coming and going before, during, and after you give birth. Birth plans make it easy to keep you, your partner, your doctors, your labor and delivery nurses, and your baby’s doctors and nurses on the same page with what you want. Also, if you’re exhausted at any point or lost in your hormones or pain, your birth plan can keep you on the same page with yourself, ha!
Tips For Creating A Birth Plan
Research your Hospital or Birthing Center
Before you create your birth plan, it is helpful to research or tour your hospital or birthing center so you have all the information in front of you when you make your decisions. For example, does your hospital have birthing balls? Does your hospital have a cap on the number of people allowed in the room? You wouldn’t want to plan on using a birthing ball or plan on having X, Y, Z people in your delivery room if birthing balls aren’t available or if guests aren’t allowed in. Once you have info on where you will give birth, you’ll be better prepared for what you want for your labor and delivery or C-section.
Keep it Simple and to the Point
There is no need to be exhaustive with your birth plan. Try to keep it to one page and use bullet points to get your thoughts across easily and quickly.
Include the Basics
In your birth plan, include your name, your doctor’s name and contact information, your pediatrician’s name and contact information, your primary support person (husband, doula, etc.), and who else you would like in the delivery room with you.
Describe the Room and Atmosphere
I suggest including this in your birth plan so you can tee yourself up to be as comfortable as possible. Consider things like lights, music, your own clothes versus hospital gowns, if you want to use the tub/shower or not, etc.
Pain management is perhaps the section of birth plans that gets the most attention. I thought it was helpful to outline what I wanted before birth so I would be able to keep my preferences in mind when I was in the thick of it. (It ended up not mattering because I had to have a C-section… more on that below.) I also knew that I was comfortable with listening to my needs, body, and max pain threshold in real time. So I wasn’t going to beat myself up if I made another decision or changed my mind about my pain management during labor.
Things to consider with pain management include: Which pain medications are you comfortable with? Do you want an epidural or not? How soon would you like your epidural if you’re having one? How much do you want to be able to move around during labor? Are there coping mechanisms you want to use for pain relief during labor pains? Are there breathing techniques you’ll use?
Be sure to include your preferences and wishes for your labor experience. Options you have can include: Taking a warm shower or bath. Labor body potions (walking around, squatting, sitting, side lying, hands and knees, sitting, etc.). Use of a birthing ball/stool/chair. Your comfort level with forceps, vacuum, or episiotomy. Would you like a mirror during delivery to see your baby’s birth? Do you want to cut the umbilical chord? Is skin to skin immediately after birth important to you? For a C-section, do you want a clear curtain?
There are a few things to consider for your baby while at the hospital after he or she is born. Do you want to breastfeed right away? If the baby is a boy, do you want him circumcised? When do you want them to bathe your baby? Do you want the vitamin k shot and eye drops? Do you want to offer your baby a pacifier right away?
My Birth Plan
I did create a birth plan even though I knew that Rowan was breech. At the time that I wrote my birth plan, I was still a bit out from my due date and was very much hoping that Rowan would flip. I did everything under the sun to encourage him to flip but it ended up not being in the cards for us. As such, my birth experience was nothing at all like what I imagined our big day to be. I planned on an unmedicated vaginal birth. Edwin and I took a course specifically on how to do this that included pain management techniques to avoid pain meds. I can’t really explain why I wanted an unmedicated birth so badly but I just felt it in my bones that my body was ready and built for it.
Alas! I ended up having to have a scheduled C-section because Rowan was breech.
I am still hopeful that I will be able to have a vaginal delivery with a future baby so I will reference my original birth plan then. In my birth plan, I did outline my C-section preferences because I knew that was a very real possibility for us. Even if you don’t have reason to believe you will need a C-section, it is still a good idea to write your C-section preferences into your birthing plan because you really never know what your experience will hold. The health care industry is massive and I can say that I feel really grateful to have had the best doctors and nurses! I cried when some of my nurses finished their shifts and I knew we wouldn’t see each other again – they were that wonderful!
Any who, I digress… my birth plan consisted of me having a lot of the control as I hoped for things like maintaining mobility, preferring no pain medication, preferring to chose my own position for pushing, preferring a mirror for the baby birth, preferring no pitocin, preferring to have Edwin announce the gender of the baby, and so on. These were just MY preferences. This is in no way to say what is the right way to go about giving birth. There is no right way! The only right way is to keep mother and baby safe. Since Rowan was breech and I had to have a C-section, none of these preferences of mine even mattered.
Letting go of my ideal birth plan was my first real experience with surrendering to motherhood and being at peace with the plan God has for me as a mother.
I couldn’t control my birth plan but the moment Rowan made his first little cries in this world was the most emotional, raw, and rewarding moment of my life. It doesn’t matter how your baby enters the world or how your baby is born. If your baby comes into this world surrounded by love, that’s all that matters. So, are birth plans necessary? No, I don’t think so. Would I write one again knowing what I know now after giving birth? Yes. I honestly just enjoyed the experience of taking a few quiet moments to gather my thoughts and think about the day my little one would enter this world. Every mama is different so do what feels best to you. xx