What is a birth plan and do I need one?
While a healthy mom and baby are our primary goals in childbirth, the process by which you get there is just as important. Women take different approaches to pregnancy and birth. Some want to be heavily involved in education and decision making. Others do not want the responsibility, trusting their provider to make decisions on their behalf. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, my hope is that you feel educated and supported in your wishes.
So what exactly is a birth plan? A birth plan is a written document allowing you to communicate your wishes and preferences for your labor/birth experience to your provider and other members of the birth team on delivery day. Not everyone wants a birth plan, but they are beneficial for moms who may have preferences outside of some of the normal/routine procedures done in the hospital. A birth plan can be helpful for those whose provider is not on call when they go into labor as well as for the staff in the hospital. When you are in the midst of labor it can be difficult to discuss your wishes with your birth team so the birth plan comes in handy.
So, how do you know what to put in your birth plan? Throughout pregnancy you will learn from your OB provider about the processes of labor and birth. Utilize them to ask questions at each visit because that is YOUR time to educate yourself and discuss goals/wishes for birth. While many women often receive encouragement and advice from friends and family, it’s important to clarify questions with your OB provider. Some things to consider include pain management options, desired mode of birth, labor positions, delivery positions, breastfeeding or formula feeding, etc. You have nine months to ask these questions so try not to get too overwhelmed by that list!
Tips on making a birth plan:
Keep it short and concise and one page if possible. The hospital staff and your delivering provider will be quite busy on delivery day taking care of you so the quicker they can read it the easier your wishes will be honored. Organize it into categories: labor, delivery, newborn care, cesarean birth, etc. Ultimately, some things in birth are unpredictable and being flexible is important.
So, to answer the question, do I need a birth plan? That’s completely up to you. For some, the anxiety and stress of feeling like you need a plan is overwhelming. If this seems like just another task for your list, then maybe a birth plan isn’t for you. But for some people, a birth plan helps ease anxiety and stress around giving birth by allowing them to have a voice in their care and to think about their goals. Regardless of whether you have one written or not, you should feel confident in your care with your provider and trust that they have your best interests in mind regarding your birth.
Tiffany Golub, CNM, CRNP