Your due date is quickly approaching, and you’re finally ready to create a birth plan. But why? What’s the point if giving birth never goes according to plan anyway? There are many reasons to create a birth plan during pregnancy, and we will talk about 10 of the best ones.
I’ll never forget the uncertainty I felt when I went in for my 28-week prenatal checkup and the nurse handed me a folder. Inside that folder was a sheet of paper that said “Your Birth Plan.” I wasn’t sure if I needed to fill it out or just something to keep on hand. So I turned to everyone’s best friend in their time of uncertainty: Google. I learned about a birth plan and the importance of making a birth plan.
What is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is a written document that describes all your preferences, wants, and needs while in labor. You’ll often see birth plan worksheets or templates pre-made so you can fill them out with your preferences. However, you can also write up your birth plan with your labor and delivery preferences.
10 Reasons to Create a Birth Plan
Creating a birth plan comes with many benefits for the expecting mother. Yes, it’s great to write down your wants and needs. But there are many other reasons to start working on that birth plan, and here they are.
1. Powerful Communication Tool
A birth plan is a powerful communication tool between an expecting mother and her labor and delivery team. Sometimes, it may feel overwhelming to tell your midwife or doctor that you DON’T want an epidural birth (for example), but writing it down can make it much easier to communicate those wishes.
Plus, let’s be honest. When you’re in labor, and those contractions start to kick up, you will not be thinking about the candles you asked to be lit in the room or the mellow music playing in the background. However, if they’re on your birth plan, your birth partner or team can see those wishes written down and make sure they get done to support your labor and delivery preferences.
2. Knowledge is Power
Creating a birth plan helps you learn so much about (you guessed it) birth! I always tell my pregnant friends that knowledge is power because it is. As a mother with two children, both induced, my first labor experience was a whirlwind. I had a failed epidural, and they still didn’t want me moving around too much during labor — ending up with my baby in the NICU. I always wondered if I had gone with my gut instinct to move into a different pushing position if I could have pushed him out quicker, preventing him from aspirating meconium. It’s an answer I’ll never know.
With my second birth, I felt much more confident and ready. I knew exactly what I wanted, and I wasn’t about to let anyone give me the run around (especially since my 2nd was born during the pandemic). I had a working epidural this time, AND I could move into different assisted positions — only ten minutes of pushing, go figure.
The more you know about labor and delivery, the more you feel confident in your choices, which is reflected in your overall birthing experience.
3. Empowered Self-Advocacy
As we touched on above, creating a birth plan gives you a written document to help advocate your wants and needs to those managing your care during childbirth. You’ll learn more about the options you have available to you (some you probably would have never known about otherwise).
Think of your birth plan as “setting the stage” with all those involved with your labor and delivery experience. If it’s written down, it will be addressed.
4. Ease Stress & Anxieties
As my due date approached with my first, I remember feeling extra nervous about all the policies and procedures. For example, I have very crummy veins. Because I knew I wanted an epidural — I’d need an IV catheter to administer fluids (this is to help prevent the epidural side effect of acute hypotension, aka low blood pressure, from occurring, which is a pretty common side effect1).
Whenever I’m hospitalized, I get so nervous because the hospitals always rush to place large IV catheters in my veins despite them bruising and needing to be replaced an hour or so later. In my birth plan, I could specify that I didn’t want an IV catheter greater than a specific size placed. This opened up the conversation with my healthcare team about why, and we came up with a plan that met our needs.
Scenarios like this are far too common with childbirth. Speaking up about them (or writing them down) can help ease the stress and anxiety you might feel had you not addressed them.
5. Allows Flexibility
Birth almost always involves some curveball thrown into the mix. Creating a birth plan gives you some flexibility if things don’t go 100% according to plan. For example, maybe you want a medication-free birth but are not confident you can handle the pain. For one, make sure to take a birth class to prepare. Second, if it’s just the epidural you’re not a fan of, no problem! You can opt to take other medications for interim pain relief during labor.
With that added flexibility, you’ll again feel less stressed about fitting things into this cookie-cutter birth plan. Instead, you’ll be prepared for (almost) whatever gets thrown your way.
6. Sets the Tone
Another great reason to create a birth plan is that it helps set the tone for your labor experience. Some mothers prefer a very calm, quiet birth experience. Others prefer more hands-on help, listening to music, or smelling certain scents, like essential oils. Whatever you choose is entirely up to you and what you will find comforting.
7. Helps Limit Guests in the Delivery Room
Some moms invite their entire family into the labor and delivery room, while others forbid anyone except their birth partner to enter. There is no right or wrong decision here. Just know if you’re a mom who prefers a little more privacy, you can write it down on your birth plan. This way, the birthing team will be aware of those requests, and if someone tries to say they were “invited,” your hospital team will know better.
The same goes for home births or birthing center births as well. Plus, doesn’t it come across better when a visitor gets denied by the hospital instead of that pressure falling on you? Let them handle it. They will have no problems granting your wishes.
8. Keeps Everyone on the Same Page
Sometimes, prenatal appointments will be scheduled with different healthcare providers. The same goes for labor and delivery if you go into labor on a day when your doctor isn’t on call for the hospital. In these situations, a birth plan comes in very helpful. It helps keep everyone you’ve seen and interacted with on the same page. Even if you deliver your baby with a midwife or doctor you’ve never seen, they’ll have your birth plan to guide them through your preferences.
9. Stepping Stone for a Smooth Postpartum
Making a birth plan isn’t only about birth. It can also pave the way for a smooth and happy transition into postpartum. For example, do you want uninterrupted skin-to-skin after your baby is born? Do you want to breastfeed (or need help latching) your baby right after birth, or do you want your partner to offer a bottle? You have control over these things and get to specify them in your birth plan.
10. Provides Clarity for your Partner
Often, our partners have little to no idea what we need or expect from them during labor and delivery. So, we need to paint the picture plain and clear. Imagine not worrying about your partner taking annoying business calls during labor because it’s part of your birth plan. Maybe you’d like them to provide counter pressure on your back whenever contractions pick up as a natural pain relief method. It might seem excessive to some, but the birth plan isn’t just for the hospital or birth center — it’s for ALL involved in your birth, including your partner.
I hope these reasons to create a birth plan provided enough clarity to inspire you to make yours. What questions do you have about making your birth plan? We’d love to hear them.