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As an expecting mother, you would have heard the words ‘birth plan’ quite a few times. Not too sure what it exactly means and why should you create a birth plan? Here’s everything you need to know about how to write a birth plan.
What is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan can be explained as a cumulated document that helps your medical team of doctors and nurses understand your labor and delivery preferences. In other words, a birth plan comprises your preferential information in terms of delivery-related procedures like pain management, postpartum care, and newborn procedures.
While a birth plan is everything about charting your preferences and choices during pregnancy in advance, it should still be understood that not all your desired birthing options might necessarily be fulfilled. The point of a birth plan is to have you have your birthing options and communications ready to be conveyed to the medical team at the time of delivery.
Why create a birth plan?
Creating a birth plan in advance is not only an activity that will keep the mother engaged, ensuring a positive delivery experience for her, but it will also head off unrealistic expectations, will minimize the odds of disappointment, and will eliminate any possibility of a conflict and miscommunication between a birth mom and health care staff. It works as a concrete communication between the patient and practitioner.
Things to Consider When Writing a Birth Plan
Before you begin writing your birth plan, we advise that you conduct extensive research on labor and delivery options ahead of time. Most likely you would be delivering your baby in the same hospital as that you visit for your prenatal checkups but regardless of the conformity of this fact, make sure to tour your desired hospital or birthing center in advance to find out their procedures and practices.
You would want to know things like does this hospital have the appropriate and preferred labor and birthing equipment, like a tub, birthing balls, and perhaps, birth stools? Does this hospital offer nitrous oxide for labor pain relief? How many people do they allow in the labor/delivery room? Having answers to these questions will make writing your birth plan much easier for you.
7 Tips on how to write a birth plan
Here are some quick tips on writing the most viable and relevant birth plan –
Keep the plan simple
As a pregnant woman, it is natural for you to want everything your way. You would like yourself to have the best facilities, the best hospital, the best methods, etc. However, the point here is to help your health care provider understand your delivery and labor needs and so, instead of focusing on wiring a detailed and exhaustive plan, try and keep your focus fixated on writing a simplified and easily understandable plan. You may even want to use some bullets for simplification.
More often than not women happen to meet doctors and nurses in labor/delivery rooms that they’ve never seen or met before. That is where an introductory paragraph in your birth plan comes in handy. Introduce yourself and your partner in one quick paragraph so your doctors know what they are dealing with.
Here’s what you could include in the introductory paragraph-
-The contact and name of your primary support. This could be your partner, your parents, your siblings, your friends, or your doula.
-Who else, apart from your primary support, do you need in your labor room?
Set your requirements right
All moms have different visualizations of their labor/delivery room and you need to convey yours right in your birth plan. Let your health care provider know if you want dim lights or a bright room. Do you want to labor in a tub or in a shower? Is taking photos or videos OK? Will you be getting your own clothes or would you prefer a hospital gown? Is it OK if medical students assist your delivery/ are witness to your delivery as a part of their curriculum? How do you want to be comforted during labor?
On the same lines as the last point, do not forget to mention anything that makes you feel uncomfortable in your birth plan. For example, you may not be a very touchy and feely person or you may love to be comforted with hugs and hand grabs. Let that be written down in black and white on your birth plan to let your nurses know.
Would you like your delivery to be free of medications or would you instead like to take an epidural for labor pain relief? How would you like to take the epidural? Are you OK with fetal monitoring? You may perhaps want to include the Pain Medications Preference Scale by Penny Simkin in your birth plan to help your doctors understand your preferences better.
Labor and delivery preferences
The final deal- your delivery! Intimate your hospital or birthing center about your delivery preferences in advance if you have any. C section or vaginal birth? (Even if you don’t want a c section, it is better to have the preferences explained for cases when there is no alternative.) Explain what and how do you feel about the usage of forceps, vacuum, or an episiotomy. Do you want to feed your baby with your own milk or milk formula after birth? The use of an IV or catheter? What is your take on the skin to skin contact after birth? Do you want the doctor to cut the umbilical cord in the presence of someone in particular? You may also want to add a point or two about your preferences around birthing positions for pushing if any.
Post-birth newborn procedures
You will most likely be in your senses to take care of the post-birth procedures but just in case, there’s nothing wrong with being prepared than to be taken by surprise. Include information on your desire for the Vitamin K shot and eye drops. How do you want the baby to be bathed? What about the PKU testing? If you have a boy, do you want the boy to be circumcised at the hospital? Do you want the newborn to sleep in the delivery room or in the nursery? Any other special requests?
Now that you know what, how, and why of a birth plan, an important thing to keep in mind here is that a birth plan is just a document of understanding and communication- do not look at it as a legally binding contract. At times, your birth plan may have to be tweaked for your own good. For example, a birth plan you design ahead of time may not end up being medically advisable. Hence, your birth plan is just a document that will help your practitioner understand your needs and will minimize the chances of you going home unhappy on one of the biggest days of your life. If you’re still confused, you can also look up the web for customizable and downloadable birth plan templates. While you’re here, you may also want to check out the hospital bag checklist to avoid any last moment oops on the big day!