Most mothers anticipate birth with a mix of fear and excitement. You’re thrilled about meeting your little one, but worried about the details of how your child will actually be born. Whether you are hoping for a natural birth or need a planned c-section, having a plan in place can help you feel prepared.
As blogger Pia Artesona expressed, “Writing a birth plan allowed me to be in conversation with everyone involved. I was able to question my obstetrician and hear his thoughts, opinions, and suggestions on the process.”
In a way, having a birth plan can empower you. At the very least, you’ll learn more about what to expect in the delivery room.
But, what should your plan include? What information do you need to consider? How can you go about making your birthing plan?
We’re here to help! Find the steps to making a birthing plan below:
Make a List of Preferences
Although you might not be able to control all eventualities, it’s good to know ahead of time how you’d like to handle certain aspects of the birthing process. Here are the main considerations:
- Place of Birth - You can give birth at home, in a hospital or in a birthing center. Each of these places offers different advantages and disadvantages. In a home or birthing center, you might not have access to quick medical interventions. However, these places are usually calmer and more mother-centered than hospitals. Another consideration is if you’d like to give birth in a tub. Some hospitals and birthing centers can make this possible.
- Tearing vs. Episiotomy - You might tear while giving birth vaginally. However, some doctors make a small incision called an episiotomy in order to control the tear. Generally, the use of episiotomy is not recommended. It’s important to decide how you feel about this issue and discuss whether you’d prefer to tear or for the doctor to intervene.
- Pain Medication - You might want to decide in the moment whether you’d like an epidural or other pain management medicines. However, if you know that you’ll want pain medications, it’s a good idea to discuss this ahead of time with your doctor. That way they’ll be ready.
- Interventions - During the birthing process, sometimes doctors perform interventions to help move things along. For example, the doctor might offer Pitocin to induce birth or advance the dilation process. If you prefer not to have any interventions or as few as possible, you can make this clear ahead of time.
- Skin to Skin - After birth, most doctors will place the baby on your chest if possible. This offers many benefits for mom and baby. Be sure to let your doctor know if this is important to you.
- Cord Clamping - Sometimes, doctors cut the umbilical cord immediately after birth. Delayed cord clamping means that the umbilical cord is left attached to the baby for a few minutes after birth. This means that the baby receives more blood.
- Vaccinations and Vitamins - After birth, your baby will receive vaccinations and vitamins automatically. Ask your hospital or care center which will be given to your baby so that you can make a decision on whether or not to receive them.
- Breastfeeding Vs. Formula - While breastfeeding offers many benefits, it’s not for everyone. Recent research shows that formula can be an important help for mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding or whose milk hasn’t come in yet.
- NICU - Should your baby need to go to the NICU, who will go with your baby? Although no one wants to imagine this worst-case scenario, it’s best to have a plan ahead of time. Whether a good friend or family member is available to be with your infant, you’ll be glad to know someone you trust is with the baby.
- Who’s Allowed to Be With You - Worried about a relative barging into the delivery room? Let the staff know ahead of time who is allowed to be with you and list anyone who you want to keep out.
Another consideration about who’s allowed to be with you is in the hospital. Consider whether or not you would allow a student or resident to be on your delivery team.
Talk With Your Doctor
Before making a final decision on the above considerations, you’ll want to talk with your doctor. Your doctor can share their views on each of the issues. In addition, they’ll have a better idea of how they might affect you.
If your doctor doesn’t bring up your birth plan in an appointment, you can bring it up yourself. It’s good to start discussing these things with your doctor around week 32. You can also discuss your preferences if you visit a hospital or birthing center to see how accommodating they can be.
Have an Open Mind
Ultimately birth plans are only plans. Despite you and your medical team’s best efforts, sometimes you’ll have to depart from your plan. With your plan, you’ll have comfort knowing that the best efforts were made for the birth to go as you’d like. However, it’s important to be open to the fact that for you and your baby’s health, interventions may be necessary. For example, if the baby is in distress, you might need a c-section. Or, if your water breaks and contractions don’t start, you may need Pitocin. It can be disappointing if things don’t go according to plan, but with support and a team working to make things as comfortable for you as possible, you’ll make it through.
Be Ready for Baby
Part of your birth plan should include being ready for baby! You’ll need to have some basics ready before you give birth. For example, you’ll need a car seat installed, ready to bring baby home. Make sure your crib is ready as well, with your baby bedding washed and ready to go. This will ensure that your baby has a safe place to sleep when you bring them home.
Before you know it, you’ll be ready to meet your sweet little baby! Be ready for that moment by speaking with your birthing team ahead of time. That way you’ll head into your delivery experience with confidence and peace of mind.