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Creating a birth plan

What Is a Birth Plan?

Birth plans are a good tool to help you think and learn about what might happen during the birthing process. They are also a good tool to communicate your preferences to your health care team.

Keep in mind that some of the things you want may not be possible. You may want to think about them as your birth preferences, rather than a plan.

Your birth plan should be flexible.

  • You may change your mind about certain things when you are actually in labor.
  • Your health care provider may feel that other steps are needed even though they are not what you wanted.

Who Needs to Be Involved in Making the Birth Plan?

Talk to your partner as you make your birth plan. Your partner may need to speak up for you at the hospital, or carry out your wishes.

Also talk with your doctor or midwife about your birth plan. He or she can guide you in medical decisions about the birth. You may be limited in your choices because:

  • Your health insurance coverage may not cover every wish in your birth plan.
  • The hospital may not be able to provide you with some of the options you may want.

Your doctor or midwife can also talk to you about risks and benefits of some of the options you want for your birth. You may have to fill out forms or releases ahead of time for certain options.

How Do I Write My Birth Plan?

Your doctor, midwife, or the hospital where you will deliver may have a form that you can fill out to create birth plan.

You can also find sample birth plans and templates in books and websites for pregnant moms.

Even if you use a form or checklist to write your birth plan, you can add other preferences that the form does not address. You can make it as simple or detailed as you like.

What Else?

Your birth plan will be a work in progress. Talk to your doctor and your partner. Also, talk to other women who have given birth. Their labor and delivery stories may help you think about other things that would matter to you.

Take time to think about your choices. Write them down. You don’t need to have strong feelings about anything. It is okay to change your mind. Stay flexible as you may need to change parts of your birth plan.

Topics to Cover in Your Birth Plan

A birth plan should contain information about your labor and delivery:

  • Medical problems during pregnancy, such as diabetes
  • What type of birth you are planning
  • Who you would like to be in the room during labor and delivery
  • The atmosphere you want to have in the room during labor and delivery
  • Whether you want to stand up, lie down, use a shower, or walk around during labor
  • Whether you want fetal monitoring
  • Your feelings about treatments to move labor along faster
  • What type of pain relief you do, or do not, want
  • The position you would like to be in during delivery
  • Your feelings about forceps or vacuum
  • Your feelings about episiotomy
  • What you would like regarding cutting the umbilical cord and whether you want to save or donate the cord blood
  • What will happen if you need a C-section
  • When you would like to first hold your baby after delivery
  • If you want to breastfeed and when you would like to start

You may also want to describe what you would prefer for the care of your newborn child:

  • Medical exams or tests
  • Vaccines
  • Use of vitamins or pacifier
  • Your baby's first bath
  • Feeding schedule for your child and whether to use formula
  • Circumcision for boys

Review Date: 6/21/2012
Reviewed By: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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