A Guide to Understanding, And Choosing, Your Birth Plan Options
Mama, there is only ONE guarantee I can give you in regards to the birth of your baby. Your birth plan is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. That’s it. That’s the only one.
So then, why spend the time creating a plan at all? For several reasons, all of which we will cover in this post. But the biggest being that your birth plan is the common goal, your vision, that everyone works towards. It can be a crucial piece to your preparation.
Also…please recognize that birth plans are not just for a Mama striving for an unmedicated, vaginal birth. If you know you’d like medicinal pain management, you can include your preferred medications and the preferred timing of their administration. Birth plans are for everyone!
(Hey Mama, just a head up that this post contains affiliate links. I may receive credit if you purchase items from links on my blog but there will be no extra cost to you. Check out my disclosure policy for more information. Thanks for supporting Happy Mama Wellness and our programs!)
Ok, let’s go back to that ONE guarantee…
I didn’t mean to scare you off here. I just want you to have realistic expectations; the understanding that creating your birth plan is not actually creating a plan that everyone will follow…it’s more like creating a vision of what you would, ideally, like to have happen.
You may have a labor and birth experience that matches up 99% with your plan, or 10%…but never 100%.
What I want you to remember as you go through this post, and the exercise of creating your birth plan, is this: this plan is your foundation. From here, as long as you remain the decision-maker, you will feel empowered to guide the journey. You will still have a labor and birth experience that feels positive and fulfilling.If you want some extra tips on how to birth without fear…aka have a “Fearless Birth” experience…check out this FREE PDF guide I created just for you!
Why Should I Create a Birth Plan?
First, sitting down to discuss all of your options with your Coach to make sure you’re on the same page can be a HUGE weight off of both your shoulders. Mom feels so much more relaxed and confident knowing that her Coach is truly advocating for her wishes and Coach doesn’t have to try and “guess” what Mom would want…it is written down.
Second, a written Birth Plan is a tangible document that you can take with you to your prenatal appointments and discuss with your practitioner. You can leave a copy in your file, bring a copy with you to your birthplace or even place a copy in your baby book if you really wanted…whatever floats your boat.
And last, your Birth Plan shows your vision and can easily have your entire Team working together towards a common goal without having to talk about it to five hundred different people. All nurses, doctors, midwives that may work with you can read your plan and know your vision. It is a GREAT communication tool.
Now that you have some really great reasons to take a few minutes (or maybe 20-30) and create a great plan, let’s talk about what should be included.
There are several options for formatting your birth plan..these are the two most common. Whichever you choose, it should be ONE PAGE and should be very succinct.
The Visual Plan vs. The Typed Plan
What to Include in Your Birth Plan
If you looked closely at the typed birth plan above, you may have noticed it’s MY name at the top. That’s right, this is THE birth plan we created for the birth of our daughter. We got pretty close.
Although the layout is just right for me and how my brain works, the content would be adjusted a bit if we were having another child.
Here’s a list of things to think about as well as some BASIC information on your options.
#1 Only include things that will not automatically happen.
Many hospitals in the US are getting a “Baby-Friendly” certification. What does that mean? Here’s a description right from the website:
Hospitals and birthing centers with the Baby-Friendly designation have been verified by a third-party (Baby-Friendly USA) that holds them accountable to the highest standards for mother/baby care practices related to infant feeding. Staff are trained regarding the care of breastfeeding mothers and babies. Babies stay close to their mothers right after birth so that they can breastfeed as soon as they are ready. Policies allow healthy babies and their mothers to stay together day and night (rooming in) so they have the best chance to get to know each other.
Being together gives parents more opportunities to learn about normal baby behavior knowing that knowledgeable staff can answer their questions about their baby and breastfeeding. From those jerky baby movements, to uneven breathing patterns when trying to breastfeed – staff is readily available to talk about what you should expect from your new baby.
Baby-Friendly birthing sites do not distribute samples from formula manufacturers because this practice is proven to discourage families from providing only mother’s milk to their new babies. Baby-Friendly staff will carefully assess your baby’s feeding so that any early problems can be taken care of quickly. Staff will assist you in breastfeeding so that you feel more confident. Furthermore, if breastfeeding worries arise after you and your baby go home, the Baby-Friendly hospital has staff who can help you solve feeding problems.
What does that mean for your birth plan?
IF your birthplace is designated Baby-Friendly, the following things will happen AUTOMATICALLY, so you DO NOT have to request them.
- Breastfeeding support
- Immediate & continued skin-to-skin
- Rooming In
- No formula
- No pacifiers
If your birthplace is NOT designated baby friendly AND you want any of the above, it needs to be included in your plan.
#2 Include Your Preferences for Labor & Birth
The environment should make you feel calm, safe and supported. Think about things like lighting, temperature, air movement and aromatherapy. Ask your birthplace what is allowed and what can be adjusted. You can go over your preferences with your Coach and write them at the top of your plan to help them remember. How many support people can you have in the room with you?
Most birthplaces want you and baby to be monitored. There are different types of monitoring, however, that you may be able to choose from. Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFM) can be continuous or intermittent. The continuous monitoring usually involves stand alone monitoring discs that send info via WiFi or monitoring discs that are connected to a battery pack that you carry with you. The intermittent monitoring involves you being in the bed, or a chair close by, for about 15-20 minutes at intervals (every 1-2 hours or as often as the practitioner orders) where the monitoring discs are connected directly to the readout. Some birthplaces will also allow monitoring via Doppler.
Most birthplaces want access to a vein in case of emergency. A heparin lock gives access to a vein without fluids actively running. Because keeping you hydrated is so important, IV fluid therapy may be the default in your birthplace. It is definitely worth asking about.
Do you want access to a tub or shower? Are there birthing balls, birthing stools, squatty potties or squatting bars available at your birthplace? If not, can you bring your own? Does your birth place have CUB (comfortable upright birthing) chairs? Remember that comfort measure focus on physical comfort…not necessarily relaxation.
Doulas will have all kinds of tricks to help you relax physically, mentally and emotionally…yet will NOT step on your Coach’s toes. Would you prefer to try breathing & relaxation techniques before opting for medicinal pain management?
If you are considering medicinal pain management, what options are available at your birthplace? Most hospitals will offer IV analgesics and epidurals. Some will offer Nitrous Oxide. Others may have even more options available.
Consider the pros and cons…and know your options BEFORE you are in a place where you feel like you can’t do things on your own. Make decisions about this step from an educated and objective place…not an emotional one.
Do you want your practitioner to do perineal massage or apply perineal pressure during pushing? Would you like to rely more on passive descent or active pushing? Does your birthplace have mirrors available…and if so, would you like one so you can visually see your progress and your baby being born? If you do not have an epidural, are there positions you’d prefer to try pushing in first?
Is Coach cutting the cord? Do you want the clamping and cutting of the cord delayed? Do you need to include immediate skin-to-skin and breastfeeding in your plan?
Are you collecting blood for cord blood banking? Would you prefer a natural third stage or are you Ok with a managed one? Are you planning on doing placenta encapsulation or having a print made of your Tree of Life?
#3 Include Your Preferences for Newborn Care
Do you need to request delayed treatments or will they automatically happen? What is the timing of the Vitamin K shot, erythromycin eye ointment, Hepatitis B vaccines and the first bath at your birthplace? Would you like to decline or delay any of those treatments?
Are you circumcising your baby boy? If so, when and by whom is that procedure done at your birthplace?
Write a few points about your infant feeding plan. Are you formula feeding or breastfeeding? Are you Ok with pacifiers? Do you have concerns with formula supplementation? Do you want lactation support?
#4 Other Questions to Ask
- In the case of an unplanned or emergency cesarean, where does Coach go…with you or baby?
- Does your birthplace allow early discharge for vaginal births?
- Is photography/videography allowed at your birthplace and are there any restrictions?
- Are you allowed to eat and drink during labor?
- What are the visitation policies at your birthplace?
- Can you bring your baby book for footprints?
What other questions do you have in regards to creating your birth plan? Leave a comment or send me an email and we’ll work on it together!
A FREE Resource For You
I know this post may have brought up more questions than it has given answers. I wish I could sit down with each and every one of you and cover all of these options, their pros and cons and help support you in finding the RIGHT choices for your family…but that would be almost impossible.
If sitting down with me to chat about these options sounds really good to you right now, register for my signature course Childbirth Made Easy(er) and we’ll use your pre-baby private call for just that!
Otherwise, check out the free resource below. I created it to help get you thinking a bit more clearly. It includes information on creating a great birth team, being ready in mind, body and spirit for your labor and birth experience and how to create a great birth plan…with a free planning template at the end.You can download your FREE guide here!