How to Write A Birth Plan for Your Ideal Birth
A birth plan is really the beginning of your journey to becoming a mother. At this point, you might be saying to yourself, “Whoa! I’ve just found out that I’m pregnant, and you want me to decide upon my birth plan? I’m just not ready for this!”
In reality, you will write and re-write your birth plan many times during your pregnancy, so don’t worry about getting it right the first time. In early pregnancy, your first priority is to find your caregiver — a medical doctor or a midwife. If you have the beginning of your birth plan, you’ll know where to start looking for the caregiver who will help you birth your baby in a way that is meaningful to you.
It is important to start looking for your caregiver as soon as possible once you know that you’re pregnant. If you live in a large metropolitan centre, practitioners who are excellent at what they do have schedules that fill up quickly. Some women make appointments with these caregivers if they even think that they might be pregnant so that they can have the doctor or midwife of their choice.
Journal Exercise #1 – Visualize your ideal birth
In this exercise, take the time you need to connect with your thoughts and wishes you have with regards to labour and birth. Please note that this exercise is just the beginning of the birth plan process. You will be refining your ideas and rewriting your birth plan in a different exercise. Just let your ideas flow and if you don’t know what you want, that’s OK, too.
Take a few moments to clear your mind, sit in a comfortable chair with both feet on the floor. Take some nice and slow breaths and when you are ready, write in your journal your answers to the following questions:
Describe the birth experience that you would like to have, regardless of any influences around you and the people in your life.
Where would you like to birth your baby?
What would the room look like? Sound like? Smell like?
Who would be there?
How would you like to welcome your baby into your world?
How would you like your partner to participate in your birth experience?
Would you have a birth support person present?
When would you go home, if you weren’t there already?
Once you are home, who would be there to help you?
Journal Exercise #2 – Start Your Birth Plan
Now that you have visualized your ideal birth, it is time to start the first draft of your birth plan (there will be many more versions to come). We have provided you with a list of topics to consider, and all of these topics require an informed decision on your part. You need to know what each test or procedure does and what the pros and cons are. None of these are simple decisions, but if you take the time to research these tests and make your decision on facts and how you feel about then, you will be better prepared for your labour and birth.
For this exercise, write your initial thoughts on the following topics. You will need to do research on some, some will be easy decisions to make. Remember, this is only an early version of your birth plan. You have many revisions ahead of you.
Who will attend your birth?
How you would like your room to be during birth? Some ideas could be dim lights, soft music, and a quiet room.
How you would like your professionals to support you? – Do you want few interruptions, would you welcome students and other professionals to observe, or would you like to be left alone?
Do you want many or few vaginal examinations?
Would you like to eat and drink during your labour? Some women aren’t encouraged to do so and this can directly affect energy levels.
Do you want electronic fetal monitoring? If so, you will be confined to bed during most of your labour. If you choose not to have it, you might have to sign a liability form.
Do you want to move around freely during labour? Movement does encourage a faster birth, but electronic fetal monitoring won’t be possible.
Do you want pain relief during labour? While decreasing pain, epidurals tend to slow down labour times. Your risk of a cesarean section increases with an epidural. Medications to reduce pain can decrease awareness and can affect both your labour and your baby’s alertness just after birth.
Do you want a water birth? Some hospitals will allow this, others won’t. If you want a water birth, then consult with the midwives in your area, as they can usually accommodate this choice.
What body position do you want to birth your baby in? Lying down is the least productive way to birth your baby. Squatting adds the benefits of gravity AND increases the pelvic outlet by 10% which makes pushing easier. Some women chose to birth on their hands and knees.
Do you want interventions such as forceps or vacuum extraction? Do you want your caregiver to pull on your baby’s neck during birth?
Do you want an episiotomy?
After your baby is born do you want the umbilical cord cut immediately or do you want to leave it until it stops pulsing?
Do you want to hold and breastfeed your baby immediately after birth?
Do you want eye drops delayed after birth, or even at all?
When would you like your family to join you after the baby is born?
Do you want formula to be given to your baby at any time?
Do you want your baby to room in with you?
Do you want pain meds after birth?
How do you feel about circumcision if you have a boy?
Women do need to make informed choices when it comes to birth, and your birth plan becomes your wish list on your ideal birth. Please know that just like planning a wedding, what you get is not always what you’ve planned for, but it is always best to be prepared.
Dr. Melanie Beingessner is a pregnancy and pediatric-focussed chiropractor, a breastfeeding counselor, an infant massage instructor and a mom of three awesome kids.