More and more people are preparing for their births by writing a birth plan. Here are our tips for putting one together.
What is the point of having a birth plan?
1. It’s an exercise that helps you get clear on what matters to you
Buy making time to sit down and think about your birth, you can get clear on what really is important to you. Having this clarity can help make any decisions that need to be made during your birth feel much less overwhelming.
2. To open up useful dialogue with your primary birth attendants prenatally about what is important to you during your birth
Once you have things written out, you can use your plan as a really great way to guide important conversations with any primary attendants you are using for your birth. This helps build trust and confidence between you and your attendants, as well as helps to make sure you have found a good match and that you don’t need to make any changes.
This also helps you get used to your attendants communication style. The first time you have a good chat about choices and options shouldn’t be during your birth. By having good talks prenatally, you get used to the way your attendants respond and communicate so it won’t surprise you during your birth.
Finally, it helps your attendants get to know you! Having these good prenatal discussions set you apart as an individual, and shows your attendant that you are someone who thinks for yourself and who may question or decline routine procedures.
3. What would you want someone who has never met you to know about you?
In case you have an attendant at your birth who you have never met, what would you want them to know about you? Include these details on your plan.
4. In case of hospital transfer, how do you want to be seen by hospital staff?
If you are planning a home birth, it’s helpful to have a plan to take with you in case you end up going to the hospital for something. Having a plan printed out helps in this scenario, again, by setting you apart as an individual who wants to make your own choices.
Things to keep in mind about birth plans:
Attendants working in the medical system sometimes may be obligated to recommend things that are contrary to what you note your wishes are on the birth plan. This doesn’t necessarily mean they haven’t read or don’t respect your plan, it’s just a reality of birthing inside a medical system that requires practitioners to recommend certain things at certain times. Note that this is why you practice communicating with them ahead of time, so the conversations if that happens during the birth are easier to navigate and you feel more confident about making decisions about their recommendations. This is also why it’s important to make sure you choose an attendant and location that is in line with your philosophy and beliefs: you want to have a high level of trust with whoever you invite to your birth in case important discussions need to take place during your birth. If you notice yourself writing a birth plan to protect yourself from your attendants, that’s probably a sign you should be switching attendants!
Your birth plan should be:
- Short and point form: this makes it easier to read and more likely to be read in its entireity
- Realistic and relevant: include only things that you and your attendants can control, such as things that are important to you, your philosophy, and your preferences
- Positive: Try to word your plan in terms of you want instead of what you don’t want!
- Personal: Give reasons, where possible, for why your choices are important to you. This personalizes your plan and helps give it more meaning to your attendants
Writing Your Plan:
- Your Name
- Names and phone numbers of attendants
- Names of other support people who will be attending
What is MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU about your birth EXPERIENCE“Healthy mom and healthy baby” doesn’t count here, that’s cheating! If you could think of the number one most important thing about your birth experience, what would it be?
Other topics to consider including:Some, all, or none of these may be important to you. If the topic isn’t important to you, no need to include it. If the topic jumps out at you as something that feels important, make a note about what you would like your attendnats to know about your thoughts on it.What would you want medical attendants to know about your philosophy on:
- Medications for pain management and fatigue
- Induction / augmentation
- Antibiotic prophylaxis during birth (ie, for GBS+ve diagnoses or prolonged rupture of membranes)
- PushingWould you like attendants to remind you to / offer you the option of:
- using a mirror during pushing if the position you’re in makes this a possibility
- mother touching herself / her baby during pushing
- partner / mother to help catch the baby
What would you like attendants to know about keeping the umbilical cord intact for the benefit of your baby?
- How long would you like to leave the umbilical cord intact for?
- How would you like to sever the cord? (Cutting is the norm, burning is also an option at a home birth!)
- Partner / mother to help cut the cord?What do you want medical attendants to know about your plans for birthing the placenta?
- Planned active or expectant (natural) management of third stage?
- Do you want to keep your placenta afterwards?Important Instructions For Your Baby:
- Timing of the newborn exam (weight and measurement)
- The imporance of skin-to-skin time
- Hat for the baby? (ie: no hat, because it’s important to me to maximize skin to skin contact and being able to smell my baby)
- Eyedrops? Yes | No
- Vitamin K? Yes | No (oral or injection?)ADDITIONAL IN CASE OF HOSPITAL BIRTH:All of the above are important, plus:How do you feel about:
- Hospital Clothes vs wearing your own clothes?
- How do you do with IV’s?
- Medical / Midwifery / Nursing studentsWhat would you like hospital staff to know about your breastfeeding plans?
- Is successful breastfeeding important to you?
- Do you have a plan for additional breastfeeding support in case you encounter challenges?
- (Would you consider using donor breastmilk if supplementation were necessary?)In case of caesarian or OR Birth:
- What would you like staff to know about how important it is to you to have the option of having your doula in the OR?In case of baby needing to be separated from mother at any time:
- Partner to go with baby or stay with mother?
We suggest printing out a few copies of your plan and sharing them with your attendants ahead of time, as well as having a couple on hand and set out somewhere visible during your birth. If you end up transferring to hospital for any reason, take your plan with you.
There are lots of topics in this suggested list! If you are looking for quality education to explore the above topics (and more!) when planning your home birth, sign up for our 6-week home birth prenatal class series. It includes and in-class birth plan making workshop on day 6!