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What Does It Mean to Have a Birth Plan?

As adults, we’ve had years of experience planning for dentist appointments, work trips and family obligations. We plan our days, weeks, months and years. Why not plan your birth? Especially if it’s your first pregnancy, creating this plan can feel like a daunting task without a clear starting point. Here’s everything to include in your birth plan and how to customize it for each pregnancy:

Let’s start with defining a birth plan. This plan is heavily focused on the labor and delivery part of your pregnancy. It can help communicate your wishes, goals and preferences to your care team. As What to Expect explains, a birth plan also factors in what’s practical, what’s feasible and what is available from your practitioner and hospital or birthing center.

Major areas covered in a birth plan

Kids Health outlines three key questions to be answered in a birth plan: 

  • What are your wishes during a normal labor and delivery? Especially if it’s your first pregnancy, it can be hard to define specific wishes. A good place to start is thinking about the environment in which you want to have your baby, who you want to have there and what birthing positions you plan to use. 
  • How are you hoping for your baby to be treated immediately after and for the first few days after birth? Do you want your baby’s cord to be cut by your partner? If possible, do you want your baby placed on your stomach immediately after birth? Would you like the baby to sleep next to you or in the nursery? 

What do you want to happen in case of unexpected events? While it’s important to make a plan for a normal labor and delivery, unexpected complications can occur. No one wants something to go wrong, but it’s better to have a plan for it in advance. One unexpected event is the need for a cesarean section (C-section). Your birth plan should cover your wishes in the event that you need that procedure.

Things to consider

Beyond those three guiding questions, a birth plan can contain more detail about your preferences. The American Pregnancy Association gives expectant mothers some ideas of considerations while making a birth plan: 

  • Do you want mobility, or do you wish to stay in bed? 
  • What will you do for pain relief? (massage, hot and cold packs, positions, labor imagery, relaxation, breathing exercises, tub or Jacuzzi, medication) 
  • How do you feel about fetal monitoring? 
  • How do you plan to stay hydrated? (sips of drinks, ice chips, IV)
  • Would you be willing to have an episiotomy? Or are there certain measures you want to use to avoid one?  
  • Do you want to listen to music and have focal points? 
  • What activities or positions do you plan to use? (walking, standing, squatting, hands and knees)

A birth plan can be a way to feel more comfortable with your pregnancy as you prepare for labor and delivery. If you need guidance in creating a birth plan or want to discuss available resources, your healthcare provider is here to help! Schedule an appointment and get the answers and support you’re looking for.