One of the steps along the way to preparing for your baby’s arrival is a birth plan. There are many different ways and styles to creating a birth plan. You will likely want to put something together that best reflects your desires and that is authentic to your style. Some choose to not have a formal birth plan at all and others prefer to have a very detailed list of instructions for anyone attending them in labor. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.
To not have any formal birth plan, you may be setting yourself up to have a more difficult time communicating effectively with the hospital staff your desires and wishes for labor. You could be in very active labor when you arrive and those supporting you may be just as occupied in their roles. To have something written down to hand them or that is already in your file can streamline communication here. On the other hand, having a “list of demands” can certainly come across as such and may create some dissonance from an otherwise willing nurse. There is certainly a balance to be had and your own situation should be taken into account above all else.
How to Come Up with a Birth Plan
Rather than just start jotting down every wish and thought for your labor, you may find it more helpful to make a list of your priorities for your labor. List the things that are most important to you for resources you would like to have, such as being able to move around freely or being able to eat and drink during labor, as well as interventions that you would rather avoid, such as internal monitoring or a cesarean section.
While some labors will require medical intervention for the safety of you and/or your baby, well over 80% of laboring women are considered low-risk and can usually go throughout labor with little to no interventions whatsoever. By the same token, phrasing such as “I do not want” or “I will not/never” are likely not the direction you want to go. Remember, where you are birthing, and the team that will be helping you are those that you have chosen. This is not a battle or a fight and a birth plan is intended to communicate desires and wishes in the most efficient way possible during your labor.
Styles of Birth Plans
Like I said earlier, there are many different ways and styles to creating a birth plan. You can choose to have a very short, concise list that has between three and five items and desires, or you can get as detailed as you would if you were having a 30 minute conversation with someone. Some couples have even chosen to incorporate their birth plans into a poem or an art piece that is displayed on the door of their labor room. You can get creative with this aspect of your labor and birth if you feel so moved.
But generally, the shorter the better. Definitely not more than one page in length. And depending on your area, some things can go without saying, such as “I want to use water during labor for pain management and would like access to a labor tub” if you’re birthing at a hospital that has a bathtub in every labor room.
You will want to go over your birth plan in a fairly formal way with your Care Provider. Often it is a good idea when scheduling a visit to make sure you have extra time to go over everything in detail. It is common to schedule a couple of appointments back to back if your regular prenatals are shorter in length to ensure you and your care provider are not rushed.
Going over your desires in this fashion is a great idea to do as early in pregnancy as you feel you have a good idea of your wishes. Sometimes these conversations can help you to see that you are on the very same page with your doctor or midwife, or that there may be some differences you weren’t aware of before. Getting a grasp on this as early as possible in pregnancy is most helpful so you can more thoroughly relax, or have time to find a new care provider and form a relationship with them with the most time possible.
To have the most confidence that your plans will be understood, you want your written birth plan to communicate what you want for your labor and birth in the way you would if you could sit down and talk with every person who will be attending your birth, with keeping in mind the nature of the event and not being too long-winded.
Even with all this keep in mind that labor and birth have a way of their own. Visualizing every possible avenue and turn, while keeping fear in check, will help prepare you thoroughly for the twists and turns of labor. Just because it doesn’t turn out like what someone else may think a picturesque birth looks like, doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for you. I do believe every baby is born just the way they are supposed to. So plan on what you hope for, work for it so you can keep your options open, and embrace with joy whatever comes.