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Q&A: Should I Have a Birth Plan?

Q. Should I have a delivery and birth plan?

A. Many women have strong feelings about how they would like to deliver their baby. In order to ensure that their wishes are respected during labor, some choose to draw up a birth plan. A birth plan can include details about your preferences regarding some of the following:

  • Labor environment (for example, soft music or dim lights)
  • Who will be present during your labor and delivery (doula, midwife, partner, relatives)
  • Medical or nursing students observing or participating in your delivery
  • Mobility during labor
  • Routine IVs
  • Fetal monitoring
  • Pain medication
  • Episiotomy
  • Cutting the umbilical cord
  • Breastfeeding immediately after birth
  • Keeping the baby in your room with you

Share your birth plan with your doctor, midwife, and/or doula. More important than the written plan, however, are the conversations you have with your nurse and delivery provider. Many women fear that they won't be able to articulate their needs in labor. If you speak up, you can get your point across, even between frequent contractions. Your partner or other trusted person who will be with you in labor can help you communicate.

Be prepared for the possibility that your preferences may change during labor, particularly if this is your first baby. Women who swear that they would never, ever consider using pain medication sometimes find themselves begging for it, and those who think they need medication may find they can get along fine without it.

Whether you have a birth plan or a mental image of ideal childbirth, a ready-for-everything attitude comes in handy during labor and delivery. It's reasonable to plan what you want ahead of time, but it's also important to be flexible.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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