As you count down the weeks until the baby arrives, there will be exciting things to do, such as preparing the nursery and acquiring other baby essentials. While giving birth is often focused on the baby, don’t forget that it’s about you too! Constructing a birth plan is one way to help yourself figure out how you want to journey through labor, delivery, and post-birth care. In this article, we’ll discuss what a birth plan is and how you can use it to advocate for yourself in a hospital setting - and even start you off with a free birth plan template (that's editable and printable!), designed by one of our experienced moms in partnership with Dr. Sonya Ye (our Chief Health Officer and resident OB/GYN).
A birth plan summarizes your preferences involving labor, delivery, and after-birth care. Your birth plan is unique to you since everyone has different needs and priorities, such as lighting, music, and epidural or other intervention preferences. This plan lets you decide what would make your labor and delivery process comfortable - it’s also a reminder for all involved about what is important to you.
You can start constructing your birth plan around your second trimester, but don’t hesitate to alter the plan as you progress in your pregnancy and your preferences and needs evolve. After completing your birth plan, share it with your partner, care team, and anyone else who’d be in the labor and delivery room with you; make sure that you share well in advance so that they are all aware of your preferences, can ask questions if necessary, and be your advocate.
A birth plan is a road map of how you want your labor, delivery, and post-birth to occur. Constructing a birth plan requires you to think deeply about how you envision your birth to be and inform your care team of your choices.
Intentionally thinking about your wants and needs for this meaningful experience and putting pen to paper offers you the time to think about how you want your birthing experience to be. Generally, you’ll fill out simple facts about you followed by three sections to consider:
General information: Your birth plan begins with general information about you, such as your name, emergency contact, due date, pre-existing medical conditions, and any medication and supplements you may be taking. These details help provide baseline information to your care team about your unique circumstances so they can be prepared to care for you.
Comfort preferences: How do you want to experience your labor? Who is in the room with you? What do you want to do while you are progressing through your delivery? Do you want to see your baby being born for cesarean sections, or would you like the screen lowered? Dig deep into what measures will offer you the most comfort in this setting. Feeling at ease and safe in the space you are in is a positive way to start your birth experience.
Intervention preferences: If deemed appropriate, what interventions will you be open to having? Will you opt for an epidural for the pain, Pitocin to speed up the process, or a vacuum to help deliver the baby? Are you keeping these options open during labor or only as a last resort? Questions like this may be circumstantial and require further research on what the options are and what you prefer. There are various options for hospital interventions, and one may be necessary or beneficial for the safety of you and your baby. Have a few options chosen and ready as backups just in case they are needed to help your labor progress. Being prepared with information can help you make a decision more quickly should you want or need any interventions.
Post-birth preferences: Finally, what do you want to happen post-birth? Before your child is taken for evaluation and care, do you want skin-to-skin contact? How do you want to handle the placenta and umbilical cord? These first few moments are magical and can happen fast, and thinking through them can help you make the best decisions for yourself and your baby.
Creating your birth plan acts as a tool to help you become informed on all options and allows for conversations to be started with your care team. Once you’ve done the research on all the options and crafted a birth plan with your preferences, the plan can also act as an agreement between you and your care team. There may be circumstances that may be different from what you envisioned; however, with your choices and backups in place, your birth plan will be a helpful reminder and guide for your doctor, nurses, and other care professionals in providing the necessary care.
It’s important to note that you have the right to information, informed consent and refusal, respect for choices, confidentiality, timely health care, autonomy, and respectful treatment during this time. Know your rights and choices during labor, delivery, and post-birth to advocate for yourself and your baby.
The fundamental goal for you and your care team is to have a labor and birth that puts the health of the mother and child first. As much as we want things to go according to plan, unexpected things can happen, so it is crucial to keep flexibility in your birth plan and in your mind. As you build your plan, reflect on the possibilities and uncertainties that come with labor, delivery and post-birth care. For example, if you’re planning on having a vaginal birth, think to yourself: “If I end up needing an emergency C-section, how will that make me feel?” In another way, if you wanted skin-to-skin contact, but your baby needs a few immediate medical interventions first, how does this alter your plan? Having a general birth plan in mind is beneficial, but carefully and thoughtfully building this plan can help prepare both your body and mind for any unforeseen events.
There are many benefits to building a birth plan, but they aren’t essential to delivery, labor, and post-birth. Your birth plan is a road map, or a travel itinerary, to get you where you want to go (that is, the birth of your baby). However, the birth plan doesn’t account for bad weather, flat tires, and bathroom breaks, or any other unexpected factors that may thwart your plans. Having your birth experience not go precisely to plan may feel disappointing, and thinking of intricate details, emergencies, or any other labor or delivery surprises may cause stress and anxiety about giving birth.
Despite these possibilities, creating a birth plan with meaning and intention can help you prepare for the unexpected, allow you to practice self-advocacy, and be the key to gaining confidence in labor, delivery, and the subsequent journey of motherhood.
A birth plan can act as a tool for you, your support team, and your care team. Setting intentions on how you could spend labor most comfortably, what interventions you are open to, how you want to experience post-birth care, and backup plans will guide you in your birthing journey. Having your support team be aware of your plan can help them become informed on how best to support you mentally and physically and also be able to act as an advocate for you if necessary.
If you’re ready to build this, we have a free birth plan template and an audio walkthrough of a birth plan example that will help you think about each crucial part of the plan. When you’re ready, sign up here to have them delivered right to your inbox. You’ve got this, and we’ve got you!