Once you find out you are pregnant, you are faced with SO many decisions regarding your labor and delivery options. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, you may want to consider compiling a birth plan. A birth plan is simply an outline or summary of your preferences for labor and delivery. While a birth plan is not “etched in stone” (due to possible unforeseen developments), a carefully crafted birth plan can help you decide what is important to you to make the birth of your baby a memorable experience. Equally as important, a written birth plan allows you to share your expectations with your partner, health care providers (doctor, midwife, labor coach, doula), and any others who may be with you during your labor and delivery.
Some organizations offer actual templates or forms to help you complete your plan. But, in general, a birth plan should include the following.
- Names and contact information for you, your partner, healthcare providers, and anyone else who you plan to have present.
- Description of surroundings and ambiance. This can include quiet music, soft lighting, available food or drink, videotaping or photographing.
- Labor instructions. Will you be in bed? Walking around? Will you need/have access to a birthing stool, ball, or chair? What about a shower or bath?
- Pain control. How do you plan to control pain? Would you like to use breathing exercises, relaxation and imagery, massage, positioning, hot and cold packs or a Jacuzzi? What if you want the option of an epidural
- Delivery. If you have a vaginal birth, do you want a mirror positioned so you can see the progress? How do you feel about an episiotomy? Do you want your partner to cut the umbilical cord? Is it important for you to have your baby placed on your abdomen immediately after birth?
- If you have a Cesarean birth, who would you like in the delivery room with you?
- After birth. Do you plan to breastfeed? Immediately after delivery? Or will you bottle feed? Do you plan some combination of both?
- If you deliver in a hospital setting – Do you plan for your baby to be in your room at all times? Or do you prefer the baby spend the night in the nursery and only brought to you at feeding time? Do you want the staff to offer you baby a pacifier?
- If you have a home birth – What is your plan in case of emergency? Do you have defined means of communication and transportation?
It is important to review your plan with your partner. And, it may be convenient to have copies of the plan for all people involved. This way everyone has an idea of what you want your ideal labor and delivery to be like and what specific things you hope to avoid.
Despite your ideal birth plan, things may sometimes go differently as you envision. Emergencies can and do occur.
You may wish to have a two-part birth plan. The first part will address your ideal labor and delivery without any complications. The second part will list what should happen if complications arise.
Complications may include:
- Need for transport to hospital if you are at home or in a stand-alone birthing center
- Need for an episiotomy
- Need for use of forceps or vacuum extraction
- Need for a Cesarean delivery
Although many women give birth without any birth plan, you may feel more relaxed knowing you have thoughtfully chosen available options beforehand. This planning is a concrete step toward ensuring that you and your baby enjoy the best possible birth experience.
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