Babies like to enter the world on their own terms, it’s true.
Nevertheless when we know a mother’s preferences we can do a great deal to help guide her birth and baby’s first experiences with those desires in mind. We highly recommend that each of our mamas-to-be attends a class that will help them understand the process of birth and the many options that will arise.
Once you know what choices you’ll be able to make, it’s best to put them into writing for your midwife or care provider — a birth plan.
The elements of a good birth plan
Every birth is different and sometimes we can’t “plan” every detail, so the word “plan” may be a bit of an overreach. Maybe it would help if we started thinking of the birth plan as a set of birth wishes.
As you learn more about the possible interventions, laboring styles, delivery positions, and common procedures both mama and baby may have done in the birth process, you’ll get a feel for what resonates with you.
Some choices you’ll want to make for your birth plan require you to examine benefits vs. risks, such as:
And some choices you’ll want to address are simply a matter of preference, like:
- Whether you’ll work with a doula
- What kind of lighting you find relaxing
- Scents and sounds you like
- What your partner’s role will be in labor and delivery
- Whether you want your midwife to coach pushing or just go by feel
- The handling of baby’s cord and placenta after birth
As you develop your preferences on these different elements, they become your birth plan. All that’s left is to put them into writing and share them with your birth team.
How to write a birth plan
You can get as fancy as you want with your birth plan, or you can keep it simple with a pencil and paper. If you’re not using one of the templates below, it’s helpful to use a three-column or three-section format with the following headlines:
- Wishes for labor
- Wishes for delivery
- Care for mama and baby after birth
If you feel stuck filling out each section, start thinking about what you prefer and what you don’t prefer. So under Wishes for labor, you might have, “Prefer to eat as I feel hungry,” and “Prefer no routine cervical checks.”
Here are some helpful birth plan templates you can try as well.
However you present your birth plan, try to keep it visually simple by using sections, larger font, and a single page, so a midwife or nurse can review it easily during your birth.
Birth plans are great for home, birth center, and hospital births
Each birth environment and each care provider has a different default protocol, and even the best midwife, doula, or O.B. won’t be trained in mind reading!
No matter where you choose to welcome baby, a birth plan will act as your voice when you don’t feel like chatting! If you’re planning a hospital birth, this article has some great insight into the power of courteous birth plan language.
At The Retreat Birth Center we love birth plans, and each of our midwives believes in a mother’s ability and right to make choices for her birth. We’re happy to provide research and information to help our clients make informed decisions and create great birth plans.