Birth Plan Strategies

Clarify What's Important

Of course, making a birth plan doesn't guarantee a seamless experience, as new mom Julie Bartha-Vasquez, of Burlington, New Jersey, discovered. "My goals were to be able to walk around and to avoid pain medication and an episiotomy," Bartha-Vasquez says. But at eight months, an ultrasound revealed that her amniotic fluid was dangerously low. Four days later, her doctor induced labor.

"I had my birth plan with me at the hospital, and the nurses read it," recalls Bartha-Vásquez. "But as soon as my contractions began, nothing went the way I intended." The IV required for induction kept her confined to bed. She also ended up having both an epidural and an episiotomy. Even so, Bartha-Vásquez is glad she wrote the plan. "It helped me take a positive, proactive approach to delivery."

"About 80 percent of my patients write one," notes Patricia Rodrigues, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at Northwest Hospital, in Seattle. "The process gives them a chance to clarify which aspects of childbirth are important to them, and it helps me better understand my patients."

A birth plan can be typed up as a list or neatly handwritten as a letter. Most experts recommend organizing the document into concise, numbered points and limiting it to one or two pages.

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