Birth plan, birth preferences, wish list for birth...they go by many names! But no matter what you call it, chances are if you have a birth plan it means a lot to you. Why else would you have taken the time to write it all out? Birth plans don't give you a guarantee that everything will work out the way you want it to, but they do make it easy for your caregivers to understand what your wishes are in the event that you are unable to tell them. (Even under the best circumstances, laboring people don't always feel up to a chat!) Today we're discussing birth plan facts, components of an effective birth plan, and how to write your birth plan so your provider actually wants to read it.
Facts about Birth Plans
- They are not only for people who desire an unmedicated birth! If you want medical pain relief, you can say which medications you want and which ones you don't. If you are planning a Cesarean birth, you can discuss any Family Centered/Gentle Cesarean options you want to include.
- Some birth places have their own worksheets or checklists available to make a birth plan. There are two schools of thought as to whether you should use it or create your own. If you use the one from your birth place, your caregivers may be more familiar with the layout and it might be easier for them to find the information they need in a hurry. However, writing your own is more personal and shows your caregiver that you have done your research and feel strongly about your preferences.
- The baby doesn't get a copy of the birth plan. It's important to remember to be flexible because unexpected and uncontrollable circumstances can come up at any time.
Framework of an Effective Birth Plan
Every birth plan looks different, but at the core of every birth plan is the following information:
- Name and other practical information, such as partner's/doula's/caregiver info, contact information for everyone, and your estimated due date.
- A short introduction about you and why your preferences are important to you
- Any other important information - pregnancy complications, issues, fears, accessibility requirements and any other needs or concerns
- Preferences for managing labor pain
- Preferences for uncomplicated labor and birth and for unexpected events in labor/birth
- Preferences for newborn care in uncomplicated birth and for unexpected events
- Preferences for postpartum care
Tips for Writing an Effective Birth Plan
- Politeness may go a long way! Say please and thank your caregivers for taking the time to read your birth plan. Let them know you trust them to do whatever they can to help you have the birth you want, but that you realize some things are out of everyone's control.
- Be educated about your options. Birth plans don't cover all situations, so it's good to be informed if you have to make a decision on the fly. If you've taken any childbirth classes, consider mentioning them so your provider knows you have done your research.
- An effective birth plan is about 1-2 pages long and is easy to read. When you first start writing out your birth plan, it's easy to get carried away and list out every single thing you want, but that would take forever to read. An effective birth plan will identify the things that are most important to you. A good way to narrow things down is to list out all the things you want for your birth, then choose five things you would eliminate if you had to. Continue doing this until you have identified only the things that are the highest priority.
- Discuss your birth plan with your caregiver ahead of time. Make sure they are on-board with whatever options you've chosen. If they're not, you can discuss the reasons why and then make decisions about whether you want to change your birth plan or find another provider.
Need Help Writing Your Birth Plan? I've Got You Covered.
As a doula and childbirth educator, help writing birth plans is one of the many ways I support my clients. I present you with the most common options available in your area, give you unbiased information about the risks and benefits of each, and help you decide what's most important to you, so you can make the right choices for your family. Contact me to set up your free consultation and see if we'd make a good team!