When I was pregnant with my first baby, the OB office gave me this awesome little booklet filled with information on what to expect and on the hospital I was going to deliver at. One of the most helpful things it had in it was a little birth plan for me to fill out and take to the hospital when it was time for our baby to be born. Not only was it great for me to be able to write down my preferences for our son’s birth, but it helped bring me peace of mind that what I wanted for our delivery would be respected as long as it was safe for me and the baby. Even though I talked about some of these things with the doctor beforehand, it was nice to have it all written down to help them remember (because doctors have a lot of patients!).
Now that I am on my third baby and I am delivering at a new hospital, I have been trying to put together my own birth plan and think about the things that I want the nurses and doctor to know when I go in. The hospital I am delivering at doesn’t have a cool packet with a birth plan in it like the hospital my first two babies were born in, so I’ve done a lot of research on what to include on your birth plan and have come up with my own! Make sure you stick it in your hospital bag as soon as you finish it! Also, you might want to bring more than one copy, just in case 🙂 There’s a lot of paperwork that gets filled out at the hospital and you don’t want to lose your birth plan!
First of all, keep in mind that sometimes things don’t always go as planned. Your birth plan should discuss your ideal birth situation, but you also need to remember to be flexible when the time comes and not freak out if you can’t do everything the way you wanted. Sometimes you have to have a C-section instead of a vaginal birth, sometimes your baby has to be taken care of by the NICU team before you can hold him, and sometimes labor goes much quicker than you might have planned and you won’t be able to get an epidural. Your birth plan is like plan A, and sometimes changes must be made for your health or the health of your baby. I think they most important part of a birth plan is that you cover all possible situations so you can prepare ahead of time and you won’t have to make decisions when you are in the moment and your nurse is asking you what you want to do.
Okay, let’s move on and talk about what to include on your birth plan!
Names. Your name, your labor partner’s name (usually your husband), your doctor’s name, your doula’s name (if you have one), and your baby’s name (if you’ve decided already).
Due date. It’s nice to just have it down in writing. I’m sure it’ll be on your chart, but it’s helpful to have here, too.
Things you would like during labor. This could include who you want with you (for me, just my husband and nobody else), if you have a playlist you want to listen to, if you want a mirror for your baby’s birth (this sounds awful to me but some women like it), if you’d like to have ice chips, jello, or popsicles for “nourishment” (since that’s all you can have, it’s nice to make it known if you’d want those things), if you want to have any pictures or videos taken, do you want constant fetal monitoring or intermittent, if you have your own delivery gown you’d like to wear, if you want to be coached during pushing or to push when you feel ready, and if you’d prefer for your water to break on its own.
Things you would like to help relieve the pain during labor. Number one, if you want an epidural or not (in my case, YES in big bold letters), and if you wanted it offered as soon as possible or when you ask for it. Or if you don’t want an epidural you can talk about what kinds of pain medications (if any) you do want offered. This part can also include if you want to use a birthing ball, to walk around, to use aromatherapy, massage, a tub (if available), if you want to stay in your bed or move around, if you prefer a certain position during birth, if you plan to use meditation or hypnobirthing methods, and if you’d like to use hot and cold packs.
Things you would like immediately after delivery. Things like if you want your partner to cut the umbilical cord or if you want to delay cord clamping, if you plan on doing anything with your baby’s cord blood, if you want to hold the baby immediately after they are born or after they are cleaned up, if you want their little footprints in a special book, if you want skin-to-skin with you or your partner, if you want to try and breastfeed immediately after delivery or have a lactation consultant come (helpful especially for first-time moms), if you’d like your baby to stay in your room as long as possible or get taken to the nursery (if your hospital has one) to be evaluated, and if you want your partner to go with your baby if they need any special care outside of the delivery room.
Special requests if a C-section is needed. This could include seeing or holding the baby immediately after and if you want to have the drape lowered so you can watch your baby be born.
Concerns and fears. This is something my first birth plan had on it and I really liked it. Especially helpful if you are a first-time mom.
Other things. Would you be willing to have an episiotomy, if you plan to exclusively breastfeed or not, if you plan on using a pacifier or not, if you want your baby circumcised (if he’s a boy, obviously), if you tested positive for strep B (if you did, this is important to include), if you are planning on having a VBAC, and if you want to do anything with the placenta.
Every hospital is different and some won’t be able to accommodate all of your requests, so be prepared for that. These are some helpful pointers on what to include on your birth plan, because having a birth plan is a great way to prepare for the birth of your child emotionally as well as physically (since you can think ahead of time about different scenarios and your preferences for your child’s birth). Like I said before, sometimes things don’t always go as planned and even if you had planned on doing something one way you might not be able to (like getting an epidural, breastfeeding immediately after baby is born, or even having a vaginal birth). But writing and bringing along a birth plan will definitely help everyone be on the same page when the time comes to meet your little one!