How to Write Your Birth Plan for a Smoother Labor
Hang on – how can anyone “plan” birth? Well, even though you obviously cannot plan every single detail of what will happen when you give birth, you have many aspects that can be. For any big event, you need to do some planning if you want childbirth to go smoothly.
In addition to helping you cope during labor and pregnancy, a good birth plan also allows you to think clearly and logically about the kind of birth you want, and what that requires.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is just that – a document you create that communicates your wishes and requests for before, during, and after labor. In it, you can draw up your best-case childbirth scenario – how you’d ideally like labor and delivery to transpire if all go to ‘plan.’
A birth plan is written months before labor begins when you have sufficient time to research and think through your options. For obvious reasons, you wouldn’t want to start thinking about little details like who’s going to cut the baby’s umbilical cord when you’re amid your contractions!
Why create a birth plan?
A well-researched birth plan serves as a springboard for dialog between you and your medical practitioner – having your birth preferences reviewed early on in your pregnancy can head off any potential unrealistic expectations you have.
Ultimately, this will minimize disappointment and eliminate major conflicts between you and the birth team on the day of delivery. Also, planning allows you to consult with other medical practitioners, and eventually employ their help if your current doctor isn’t on board with your plans.
Your birth plan checklist
Given that every expectant woman’s ideal image of birth is different, there’s no right or wrong way to write a birth plan. Some mums-to-be are comfortable with just the basics, while others feel more at ease if they nail down every single detail.
If you’ve spent countless days staring at a blinking text cursor on a blank Word page, don’t fret – you can use the following three areas to outline your personalized plan.
Requests before birth
What would you like the atmosphere where you give birth to be? When listing your desires, remember that not all choices may be permitted. Here are several issues for you to think about if you’re still struggling for words:
- Who will support and advocate for you during labor and delivery?
Your significant other is not the only option for labor support. You may consider hiring a doula’s help or choosing a friend or family member to play this essential support role.
- What equipment would you like to be made available to you?
Birthing props and comfort tools can be incredibly helpful. You may decide to use a birthing pool, a squat bar, a birth ball, or massage tools.
Do check in with your birthing facility in advance to see what they can offer you and if they have any restrictions about the equipment you can bring on the day of your delivery.
Requests during delivery and childbirth
This section is where you specify how you want to labor, the methods you’ll employ to manage labor pain, and the labor procedures which you’re comfortable undergoing. If you had to choose one issue to deal with in this session, it would be the following:
- What type of childbirth do you want?
There are two ways in which your baby can enter this world: vaginal delivery, or a surgical delivery by Caesarean section. Here’s what you need to know about them.
- Vaginal birth
If you decide to deliver vaginally, labor may take anywhere from 12 to 18 hours – and perhaps longer – for many first-time moms.
The question in your mind right now is probably, “how painful is childbirth?”. Well, the level of pain varies. And, there are plenty of natural pain-relief techniques you can employ to reduce labor discomfort.
You can also choose between various types of pain medication – including analgesic pain medications, epidural, or nitrous oxide to take the pain down a few knobs.
Within the broad umbrella term of vaginal birth, some pregnant women may also opt for a water birth – the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water. If you’re considering this childbirth method, do keep in mind that there has been very little research done on its risks.
- Cesarean section (C-section)
A C-section is the surgical delivery of a baby through incisions in the abdomen and uterus. Typically, unless a C-section is medically required (like in some high-risk pregnancies), you should always plan for a vaginal delivery.
Nonetheless, you may need to mentally prepare yourself for an emergency C-section on your delivery day. Possible reasons for an emergency cesarean procedure include fetal or maternal distress, prolapsed umbilical cord, and uterine rupture.
The C-section is incredibly quick: it only takes 10 minutes for the procedure itself, and another 30 minutes is needed to stitch you back up. If you’re considering an elective C-section, do take note that recovery after a C-section takes significantly more time as compared to vaginal delivery.
Requests for newborn care
How would you want the moments after your baby’s birth to unfold? Use this section to share your expectations of care for both you and your baby post-delivery. You need to consider the following issues:
- Who should cut the umbilical cord, and when?
The cutting off of your baby’s umbilical cord is a significant and momentous moment – who would you like to perform the deed?
Also, you might be surprised to know this, but you can choose to delay both the clamping and the cutting of your baby’s cord for a few minutes. Research has shown that delayed cord-cutting can provide several health benefits to your newborn. So – be sure to be explicit in your birth plan if you want to delay cord-cutting!
- How do you plan to feed your baby?
Will you breastfeed, bottle-feed, or do a little of both? Some bottle-feeding moms face bottle guilt, but keep in mind that breastfeeding isn’t always possible or desired.
Creating a birth plan isn’t about trying to control birth, and it’s not about restricting the possibilities of what’s considered a positive birth experience. You’re less likely to feel disappointed if a few things go differently from planned if you keep in mind that your birth plan isn’t a contract but more of a flexible guide. Also, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to write one – it’s, by no means, necessary!
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