What Is a Birth Plan? Do You Need One?

Katherine Cork's picture
By Katherine Cork on January 23, 2017

You have the crib put together and the car seat safely installed. There are stacks of diapers at the ready and all the onesies are neatly folded. You’ve planned everything perfectly for bringing home your new baby. But do you have a plan for the labor and delivery that comes first?
 
Consider putting together a birth plan–a one-page summary of what you want and don’t want during the time you are in labor, while you are delivering your baby, and after your baby arrives.
 
“Creating a birth plan in your third trimester is an important way to address issues that you may not have thought about,” said Kelley Morel, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist with Carilion Clinic. “It’s also a great exercise for couples to do together and a good thing to go over with your physician.”
 
Creating a birth plan helps you prepare mentally and emotionally for the experience you will have and helps you consider what you want to do if an emergency arises. That’s something you want to think about before you’re actually in labor.
 
Good things to put in your birth plan include:

Labor:

  • Induction – How do you feel about being induced if you are well past your due date or your labor has stalled?
  • Pain management – Do you want an epidural or IV medication for pain? Do you want to avoid all medication? If you have an IV, do you still want to be able to walk around?
  • Who will be there – Do you want multiple people in the room or just your partner? Is there anyone you don’t want there?
  • Shower or bath – Do you want to use the shower or bathtub while you labor?

Delivery:

  • Positions – What positions do you want to use for pushing?
  • Coaching – In what way do you want your partner, family or nurses to coach you?
  • Potential interventions – How do you feel about the use of a vacuum or forceps to help deliver your baby, if the doctor thinks they are necessary?
  • Episiotomy – Will you be ok with an episiotomy or would you rather avoid one?
  • Cesarean – What are your feelings about a Cesarean section, if the doctor determines one may be necessary?

 Postpartum:

  • The umbilical cord – Do you want the father or another person to cut the baby’s umbilical cord? Do you want the cord clamped?
  • Skin to skin – After the baby is delivered, do you prefer skin-to-skin contact? For how long?
  • Breastfeeding – Do you want to try to breastfeed your baby?
  • Rooming in – Do you prefer to have your baby room-in with you while you are in the hospital?

While your birth plan should include details about your preferences and expectations, remember that things don’t always go as planned.
 
“Labor is often the first exercise of parenthood and makes you realize you need to be flexible,” said Dr. Morel. “Remember that the goal at the end of the day is to have a healthy mom and baby, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you have to deviate from your birth plan.”
 
For more information on birth plans, visit the American Pregnancy AssociationNational Institutes of Health or National Partnership for Women & Families.