“Birth plan” is one of the mysterious phrases you hear a lot during your first pregnancy. My birthing class gave me a form to fill out, but my birth plan for my first birth stayed in my suitcase because I didn’t feel strongly about anything on it.
The key to a good birth plan is: Decide what about the birth is most important to you and communicate your wishes about those items clearly and succinctly. To do this, you can’t copy something you see online, in a book, or that a friend used. Instead, you’ll need serious reflection, research, and discussion with your partner.
If you are writing a plan for your first birth, I recommend writing two lists. One list contains items about the labor in which you feel very strongly. The second list should be all your worries, fears, or concerns about the labor. Over the last few weeks or months of the pregnancy, work the two lists into a plan.
Topics to consider for your birth plan:
- Anything about pain management.
- Any preferences about interventions.
- Anything special you want to happen during the birth.
- Any item you’d like available to help with your labor, such as a birthing bar or yoga ball.
- Any fears or concerns you have about the labor at all. (I saw a great example of a birth plan that had a fear about her husband’s diabetes during the labor and informing the nurses to keep an eye on him in case he forgot to take care of himself in all the excitement).
- Special instructions for just after the birth.
- Special instructions for baby’s care while you are at the hospital.
Writing a plan is much easier the second time around since you know what you did and did not like about your first labor. For my second birth, my biggest fear was being alone because my husband might get stuck home caring for our daughter. I was scared to go through it alone and also worried about how much it would depress me to not share the experience with my husband. So, it was important to me to cover that in my plan. Other than that, I used what I learned from my first labor. I made a list of what I liked and what I didn’t like, and then I turned that list into my plan.
A few small tips:
- Be firm in your phrasing, but remember that labor is unpredictable and you might need to be flexible in the moment.
- Keep your plan to one page in a reasonable sized font.
- Print several copies so that there is always one available for any staffing changes.
- Print copies early and put them in your suitcase in case you head to the hospital expectantly.
Keep in mind, birth plans are not for everyone or every birth. I feel more comfortable when I can write a plan or list prior to a stressful new experience. The concept of a birth plan is perfect for my personality. That might not be the case for you. As long as your concerns and preferences are clearly communicated to those facilitating the birth, a written plan isn’t necessary, so don’t feel pressured to write one down if its not your style.