What is a birth plan, and do you need one? A birth plan is simply a statement of what you plan to do during labor and delivery. The word here is "plan" - and everyone knows that labor doesn't always go exactly as planned!
Nonetheless, writing out a birth plan is a great way to decide what you do and don't feel comfortable with now, in the relatively calm days of pregnancy, instead of trying to make high-pressure decisions during the rush of labor. Sharing your written document with your partner, your doctor or midwife, and any support persons that might be present during labor (like doulas) is a great way to communicate your wishes and start a dialogue about what you want and need. Clear, open communication between you, your partner, and your caregivers will limit chaos and confusion on labor day. Just remember - a birth plan is just that, and your real birth may vary from what you anticipate. Think of this plan as a guideline, but be prepared to be flexible.
Just because birth plans don't always go perfectly, doesn't mean you shouldn't have one! Considering your birth preferences carefully in advance of labor will boost your confidence and enable you to make informed decisions in the moment.
So, what exactly should you include in your birth plan? Some considerations:
1. What will you do when you feel labor is starting (for example, call your midwife)? When do you plan to go to the hospital or birthing center?
2. Would you prefer to eat and drink during labor (if allowed by your hospital)?
3. What is your plan for pain management? Do you want an epidural?
4. What tools and techniques would you like to have available to you during labor to manage pain and ease delivery? (For example, a yoga ball, squat bar, or birthing stool.)
5. Do you want an IV? Do you want external and/or internal fetal monitoring?
6. What items do you want to bring to help create a comfortable birthing environment? (For example, music, inspirational images, or your own pillow and gown from home.)
7. Do you want to photograph or record the birth, and if so, who will do that?
8. Do you want to use pitocin to speed labor? What about artificially rupturing your membranes?
9. Do you want an episiotomy if your caregiver feels one may be needed?
10. Who should be present at delivery? Is there anyone you would prefer to not be present?
11. Who will cut the cord, and when? Are you planning to bank cord blood?
12. Would you like your baby to have the opportunity to start breastfeeding right away?
13. Would you like your baby to room with you, or in the nursery?
14. If you have a boy, do you want him circumcised?
15. Is there any after-care you would prefer your baby does not have? (For example, a vitamin K injection, eyedrops, etc.)