Whether it’s your first baby or your fourth, giving birth should be a joyful experience. It can also be overwhelming, scary, exciting and just about every other emotion you can imagine–sometimes at all once.
A good way to channel those emotions into something productive is to write a birth plan that outlines your preferences for the birth of your child. Include your partner in the process to ensure that you are both on the same page and that he/she feels comfortable advocating for you if needed.
Birth plan framework
Your birth plan should be as short and concise as possible, while still conveying all necessary information. Bullet point format works well. To guide you, here are the sections you should include:
- Section 1: Key Contacts
This section should include the names and phone numbers for all the key people that will be involved in your delivery including your name, your partner’s name (if applicable), the baby’s name if you have already chosen one, your obstetrician or midwife and your pediatrician. Also, include the names of those you expect to be present at your delivery and those you do not want at your delivery. Be sure to ask your doctor how many people are allowed in the delivery room.
- Section 2: Labor and Pain Relief
This section is for more than whether or not you would like an epidural, but also for your preferences regarding the use of Pitocin and if you would like to use specific birthing positions or props. If you previously had a negative experience with a method of pain control during delivery, divulge what happened and how you would like to avoid that this time.
- Section 3: Delivery and Back-up plan
While a C-section is rarely ever a woman’s first choice for delivery method, you should be prepared in the event it is deemed medically necessary. Factors to consider include your preference regarding the use of any medications that may alter your level of consciousness. In this section, you should also address your wishes regarding an episiotomy, delayed cord clamping, cord blood donation or private cord banking.
- Section 4: Newborn Care
Do you want to hold your baby skin-to-skin immediately after delivery, even if you have a C-section? If so, you need to state this in your birth plan. In this section, you should also include any preferences you have about breastfeeding, antibiotic eye ointment, baby’s first bath, the location of newborn screenings, vaccines and the use of a pacifier. For example, you can state: “Pacifiers are fine unless the baby is having trouble with latch, in which case I will request no pacifier.”
- Section 5: Postpartum Care
Specify what pain medications do or don’t work for you and if there are certain laxatives or stool softeners you prefer.
Questions to consider
Using the above framework as a guide to layout your birth plan, the American Pregnancy Association recommends asking yourself the following questions and skipping any that do not pertain to you:
- Who do you want to be present?
- Do you want a doula?
- Are you wishing to delay the cord clamping for baby?
- Do you want immediate skin to skin contact?
- Do you wish to breastfeed immediately after birth?
- Do you want mobility, or do you wish to stay in bed?
- What activities or positions do you plan to use? (walking, standing, squatting, hands and knees)
- Do you prefer a certain position to give birth?
- 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 plan to stay hydrated? (sips of drinks, ice chips, IV)
- Do you want to take pain medications, or not? Do you have a preference for certain pain medications?
- What are your preferences for your baby’s care? (when to feed, where to sleep)
- Do you want to listen to music and have focal points?
- Do you want to use the tub or shower?
- If you need a cesarean, do you have any special requests?
It’s important to remember that nothing about giving birth is predictable. Your birth plan will serve as a guide for everyone directly involved in the birth, but things don’t necessarily always go according to plan no matter how well thought out and organized that plan is. Be flexible and trust that your care team’s top priority is your health and safety as well as the health and safety of your baby.
Consult your physician
At Triangle Physicians for Women, we strive to do our absolute best to achieve your birth plan goals. We look forward to discussing your birth plan with you and for welcoming your new baby into our practice.
As a collaborative practice combining the expertise of board-certified OB/GYNs and Certified Nurse Midwives, the team at Triangle Physicians for Women believes all expectant parents should feel empowered to make the best decisions about their care based on their individual needs. To schedule an appointment at either our Cary or Holly Springs, North Carolina locations, call (919) 678-6900.