The term birth plan is a list of preferences and does not include exactly how the birth of your child will occur. Because labor involves so many variables, you can’t predict exactly what will happen. A birth plan does help you decide what’s most important to you in the birth of your baby.
A birth plan isn’t a binding agreement; it is merely just a guideline. Your doctor or healthcare provider may know, from having seen you throughout the pregnancy, what you do and don’t want. Also, if you go into labor with an on-call doctor, a well thought-out birth plan can help you communicate your goals and wishes.
Many women are choosing to have a doula, or birth assistant, present in addition to the medical personnel. A doula is well trained in childbirth and is there to provide support to the mother. If your pregnancy is considered high risk, you may be referred to a perinatologist who specializes in maternal-fetal medicine. These doctors have specialized training to care for pregnant women with medical conditions or complications, as well as their fetuses.
A birth plan typically covers three major areas:
- What are your wishes during a normal labor and delivery?
- Know how you want to handle pain relief. This is important for most women and is certainly something you have a lot of control over. It’s also something you’ll want to discuss carefully with your health care provider. Some women change their minds about pain relief during labor only to discover that they’re too far along in their labor to use certain methods, such as an epidural. You’ll also want to be aware of the alternative forms of pain relief, including massage, relaxation, breathing, and hot tubs. Know your options and make your wishes known to your health provider.
- Think about who you’d like to have with you before, during, and immediately after the birth. In a routine birth, this may be your partner, your other children, a friend, or other family member. You can also make it clear at what points you want no one to be there but your partner.
- Consider your position during delivery. You can try a variety of positions during labor, including the classic semi-recline or other choices including lying on your side, squatting, standing, or simply using whatever stance feels right at the time.
- How are you hoping for your baby to be treated immediately after and for the first few days after birth?
- Do you want the baby’s cord to be cut by your partner?
- Does your partner want to hold the baby when the baby emerges?
- Will you breastfeed?
- Do you want to limit visitors while in the hospital?
- What do you want to happen in the case of unexpected events?
- No one wants to think about something going wrong, but if it does, it’s better to have thought about your options in advance. Since some women need cesarean sections (C-sections), your birth plan should probably cover your wishes in the event that your labor takes an unexpected turn.
- You might also want to think about other possible complications, such as premature birth.
During your pregnancy, review the birth plan with your partner periodically to make sure your plan for delivery is on track. Preparing for Delivery Below is a list of things to consider prior to delivery:
- Child birth classes
- Breast feeding classes
- Compiling a packing list for the hospital
- Prepare a birth plan
- Pain medication plan – choices and alternatives
- Selecting a pediatrician.