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Writing a Birth Plan

Have you thought about writing a birth plan? A birth plan is your personal wish list for what you consider to be the ultimate birthing experience. It doesn't have to be complicated process -- all you need is some time to reflect on some important questions pertaining to your birth experience.

There are so many factors in childbirth that sometimes it's difficult to keep track of your preferences without writing them down. Creating a birth plan is an opportunity for you and your partner to decide how you want your birth experience to proceed. It's also a good way to get your partner's input about important decisions regarding birthing methods and medical interventions before you're actually in labor.

Writing a birth plan lets you identify the issues that concern you most, and prepares you for discussing them with your health-care provider or birth attendant. Sharing your birth plan with those involved in your birth experience will greatly improve your dialogue.

Be sure to give a copy of your birth plan to your partner, your labor support people, your health-care provider/birth attendant, your childbirth educator, and your birthing center or hospital nursing and admissions staff.

Your birth plan will be unique and tailored to your own preferences. Below are some questions that can help you craft a plan that covers major areas of concern. Use this list to help you decide on your preferences, then put together the first draft of your birth plan.

People

  • Who will attend to you during labor?
  • Who will be the labor coach?
  • Who is allowed to attend the birth, or visit soon afterward?

Environment

  • Do you want to give birth in a birthing center, in a hospital, or at home?
  • What kind of lighting would you prefer?
  • Will someone be taking photos or videotaping?
  • Would you like to hear music playing? What kind?

Upon Arrival

  • Do you have preferences about having your pubic hair shaved?
  • How do you feel about having an enema?
  • Do you have an opinion about receiving a routine IV?

Interventions

  • Do you want fetal monitoring?
  • How do you feel about maternal monitoring (internal exams, external exams)?
  • How do you feel about induced labor or artificial rupture of your membranes?
  • Do object to or welcome an episiotomy?
  • Do you have an opinion about vacuum extraction/forceps?
  • Do you have special concerns or preferences about cesarean delivery?
  • Under what circumstances or timing would you consider having any of these?

Labor/Delivery

  • Would you prefer medical or natural methods of pain relief?
  • Will you move around during labor? How much?
  • Would you like to shower or bathe during labor?
  • What type and how much food and drink do you want while laboring?
  • Who will cut the umbilical cord? Will you bank the cord blood?
  • How soon will you and your spouse have contact with baby?
  • How soon will baby's first feeding occur, where will it take place, and who will do it?

Postpartum

  • Will you use a doula, a friend, or a family member for support and assistance?
  • Will baby stay with you or in the nursery?
  • Where will your partner and/or baby's siblings stay after baby is born?
  • Will you nurse or bottlefeed? What kind of support do you wish to have?
  • Will you allow baby to have supplemental feedings of formula or breast milk from a bottle?
  • Can baby have a pacifier?
  • Who will bathe baby? Do you wish to have instruction on how to bathe him?
  • Will you circumcise baby? If so, when? Who will perform the circumcision?

Remember that it helps to keep a birth plan short. Hospital staff can be notorious for not reading birth plans, so make sure your partner knows your wishes. You'll have peace of mind if you've agreed on the major issues before your first contraction.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.