How to Make a Birth Plan
A birth plan is a written statement that outlines your preferences for your childbirth experience. Here are some tips for creating yours.
You are pregnant and your due date is approaching. Do you have a vision of what your “labor day” will look like? Who do you want with you during labor and delivery? Would you rather wear your own clothes? How do you want your pain managed?
The answers to these and many other questions vary from couple to couple, depending on their needs, values and beliefs. Fortunately, most parents-to-be can have a say in how the childbirth experience will unfold. They can outline specific requests in their birth plan.
What is a birth plan?
A written birth plan is a document that can let others know what you’d prefer during labor, delivery and the period immediately after the baby is born. A birth plan identifies your questions and preferences. It can help you feel more in control of your childbirth experience. It can also help your health care provider and nurses know what you want for labor and delivery.
It is not a binding contract. It is also not required.
Completing a birth plan allows you to explore and understand your options for labor and delivery before your baby is born. You may also use it as a tool for you and your partner to consider the birth options. Review your plan with your doctor or nurse midwife well before you’re due so everyone is aware of what you want, and adjustments can be made if needed. Bring it with you to the hospital or birth center when you are in labor. Your doctors, nurses and other members of your health care team will do their best to honor your wishes.
Things to keep in mind
- Talk to your doctor or nurse midwife before you start drafting your plan. They can tell you about specific hospital policies, what to expect, and guide you on what to include in the plan.
- Be specific. What's considered “normal” to you may not be to another person. Make sure you are as clear as possible with your requests.
- Be brief.
- Plan for the unexpected. You may not want to deliver by cesarean section, but it may become necessary. Be sure to include “just in case” plans in your birth plan. Here is an example: “If a C-section becomes medically needed then I would like my partner in the operating room with me for delivery.”
What to include in your birth plan
If you have already given birth, you probably know what parts of the experience you would like to repeat and which ones you'd prefer to avoid. If this is your first time giving birth, you may not know what should be included in your birth plan.
Here are some ideas to help get you started.
- Your choice of facility. Will you have your baby in your community hospital close to home, in a specialty hospital prepared for unexpected complications, or a birthing center? Your health and the facility your doctor or nurse midwife use will partially determine where your baby is born. If complications of the birthing process or state of health of the newborn are anticipated, then the hospital may be the best site for your delivery.
- Your wishes during normal labor and delivery. These can include how you want your pain handled, whether you want to move around during labor, and if you wish someone to take photos or videotape the event.
- Your preferences for your baby. Do you want your partner to cut the umbilical cord? Do you want your baby to sleep in the nursery or in your room? Will you breast-feed or bottle-feed?
- Your labor and delivery team. Will you have a birth coach or a doula (a birth assistant) with you during labor? If your family medicine doctor or a nurse midwife is delivering your baby, are specialists available and informed if they are needed?
The birth of your baby is an exciting time. You will be better prepared both for the expected and the unexpected, when you have a birth plan to help guide you.
By Mary Small, Contributing Writer
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month. 6th ed. Washington, DC. 2015.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office on Women's Health. Pregnancy. Last minute to-dos. Accessed: June 24, 2016.
March of Dimes. Your birth plan. Accessed: June 24, 2016.
Lothian, J.A. UpToDate. Preparation for labor and childbirth. Accessed: June 24, 2016.
Last Updated: June 24, 2016