With your due date quickly approaching, you probably have an idea of how you want your baby’s birth to go. Maybe you want a natural (unmedicated) birth, maybe you want an epidural, or perhaps you wish to schedule a cesarean birth. No matter what you choose, more than likely, you are probably feeling more and more anxious as your due date gets closer, which I will say is completely normal. To feel more confident about your baby’s birth, educate yourself about all the available options. Don’t be a bystander and let giving birth happen to you. Advocate for yourself and be an active participant. By educating yourself, you will feel much more prepared and confident about your baby’s birth day.
There are so many ways to have a baby, and it should be the experience you want it to be! You only get to birth this baby once, and this experience will be with you forever. So let’s make it a positive one.
A great exercise for learning about all of your options during labor, birth, and recovery is to create a birth plan.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is a document that lets your maternity healthcare provider know your preferences during labor, birth, immediately after birth, and recovery. You can include things like managing labor pain, who will be allowed in the room during delivery, and how you would like to push. Also, if you want immediate skin-to-skin, delayed cord clamping or donating/banking your baby’s cord blood, and so much more. Having a printed document gives you a place to make your wishes clear so that everyone present — your doctor/midwife, nurse(s), partner, doula, etc. — can respect your wishes and do their best to make it the experience that you want it to be.
What to do with your birth plan?
Once you’ve made these decisions about your labor, birth, and recovery, a birth plan will help you remember these details on the big day. Hopefully, you will talk about these choices with your care provider beforehand during your prenatal visits to ensure that your doctor or midwife supports you with all your decisions. However, they do have many patients they care for, so small details and discussions you have with them about the choices you’ve made can be forgotten. This is why you shouldn’t rely on them to remember your conversations.
As for you, you will be a bit busy on the big day since you will be the one going through labor and giving birth. Being the laboring mama can sometimes make it difficult to speak up for yourself and remind your team about your preferences. Having the ability to hand over a document with your wishes makes it much easier for everyone to be on the same page (literally).
How can others help?
Maybe you’ve told your partner they must remember all your desires during labor and birth. Of course, they will do their best to support you during the big day, but more than likely, because they’ve never supported someone through labor and delivery, they won’t be precisely sure what’s going on. They won’t know when or how to best advocate for your choices. A birth plan can be a helpful guide and reminder for them of what you both discussed.
Also, having a professional in the room designated to remember all of your choices, like a doula, is a great option. Even doulas like to have notes of what their clients’ preferences are. Some even require a birth plan from their clients so they can be the best advocate and support person during your baby’s birth. These are all great reasons to create the best birth plan for yourself.
Birth plan = birthing intentions
Honestly, I don’t like to call this document a “birth plan.” Instead, I prefer to call it “birthing intentions” or “birthing goals” because a “birth plan” sounds a bit too rigid to me. The only reason why I still refer to it as a “birth plan” is it’s the term that most people are familiar with when referring to this document.
In my doula career, I have seen some expecting women be a bit too adamant about their birth plans. While I want every woman to have the labor and birth they want, I also think it’s important to remain flexible. Women must understand that controlling every aspect and outcome of their labor and birth is not always possible. Yes, you absolutely should have a say on how you want to labor and give birth, but because they are unpredictable experiences, being flexible and open-minded when thinking about your birth experience and writing out your birth plan is helpful. Of course, we hope everything goes well, and you get the birth experience you want. Just remember that things can happen and that being flexible with your “plan” is important.
Below, I’m sharing my birth plan template that I use with all of my doula clients. Feel free to print it out and use it as a guide. I will warn you that it is pretty lengthy — four pages, to be exact — so please do not use this as your actual birth plan. Use it as a guide to creating your own. You want to keep your birth plan short and sweet since no one wants to review a novel before administering care to a laboring mama. The general rule for birth plans is to make it one page, front and back. This way, you will only list the most important things to you.
I also want to mention that not all the options on my template will be available to everyone. It depends on where you have chosen to have your baby and the options available to the care provider. Also, some of these options might not be available if you have complications during your pregnancy or have a high-risk pregnancy. But again, this template should at least give you a place to start. Then you can print my birth plan worksheet and use it to note your preferences.
May this birth plan template give you the tools to create your best birth plan for this baby and that you feel more prepared and confident than ever as you welcome this birth!