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How to Organize and Write a Birth Plan | Plan Your Best Birth (part 3 of 3)

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how to write a birth plan pregnant mom

Despite some physical difficulties and some fairly major emotional difficulties as we learned our son might have down syndrome, I absolutely loved being pregnant. It’s such a special time where you don’t have to “share” your baby with the entire world. (That’s me ready to burst at 37 weeks with Judah, my second-born.)

As much fun as it is to decorate a nursery and pine over adorable miniature outfits while your belly swells (and your ankles puff up like baby elephant feet), it’s also an important time of preparing yourself for childbirth.

I titled this post “how to organize and write a birth plan” since that’s the terminology most would recognize, but I actually prefer to use the term birth preferences. I know all too well that birth doesn’t always go according to plans, but I believe that it’s crucial to think through your plan (preferences) anyway.

If you missed it, part two of the Plan Your Best Birth mini-series was Four Reasons You Should Write a Birth Plan. Hopefully that will sell you on the importance of thinking through this stuff if you’re still on the fence about whether or not it’s worth your time and effort.

I’m going to try and keep this list as concise as possible, since it’s your plan to work through, not mine… 

how to organize and write a birth plan

6 categories to consider including in your birth plan:

1. Environment – lighting, music, number of staff present, etc.

2. Labor – medication you will or won’t allow, types of monitoring you’re comfortable with, procedures, augmentation, natural pain relief techniques, eating, etc.

3. Delivery – positions for pushing, movement, using a mirror, water, coached or spontaneous pushing, forceps, vacuum, etc.

4. Immediately after delivery – managed or physiological delivery of placenta, skin-to-skin, delayed or immediate cord clamping, immediate breastfeeding, etc.

5. Postpartum recovery and breastfeeding – baby rooming in with mother or in the nursery, breast milk or formula, bathing of the baby, desired duration of hospital stay, etc.

6. In the event of an unplanned cesarean birth (c-section) – support person present, sheet being lowered or not during last part of delivery, photography, immediate skin-to-skin and breastfeeding, delayed cord clamping, etc.

Once you’ve thought through all of your options and the potential ramifications of your choices, it’s time to determine your preferences and put it all together in a document that can serve as a communication piece between you, your partner, and your care-givers.

4 simple tips for writing your birth plan:

Format.

Keep it to no more than one page with short and sweet bullet points under each category. I have several midwife and doctor friends who’ve told me that medical providers are more inclined to skim and/or disregard your plan the longer it is. Honor them by keeping it simple and straightforward.

Tone.

Write as though you’re informed, but recognize that you’re not the professional. Write in a tone that communicates respect and gratitude for those who will assist you. Don’t be an arrogant or demanding mother-to-be.

Attitude.

Call it your Birth Preferences rather than your Birth Plan. This simple change can help show your caregivers that you understand birth doesn’t always go according to our nicely laid-out plans. The message that you’re conveying between the lines is important, too.

Preface.

Begin your Birth Preferences with something along these lines (feel free to copy+paste if it’s helpful):

I understand that labor and birth are unpredictable and ultimately want the health and safety of both the baby and I to take precedence. Except in extreme emergency, I request that all recommended procedures be explained thoroughly (benefits and risks) so that I can be included in the decision-making process. My husband/partner will be present with me, as well as another support person. Below are items that are important to me. All of the requests are for a normal labor, birth, and postpartum period. Your help with these is very much appreciated.

Dear friends, I’ve tried to keep this short and to-the-point. I hope these suggestions help you in thinking through what you’d like to include in your preferences. Will you write a plan? If you’ve written your birth plan before, are there things you’ve included that I haven’t thought of? What was (or is) important to you?

In case you missed it – Plan Your Best Birth part 1: When Birth Goes According to Plans (or Not) and Plan Your Best Birth part 2: 4 Reasons to Write a Birth Plan.

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14 Comments

  • Reply Abby Reinhardt 7 June 2012 at 3:00 am

    Adriel! I’m sure you probably don’t remember me, but I met you in Nepal when I was 13 (formerly a Treese, Jodi Winger is my sister). Anyway, my husband and I are expecting our first child in November so I have been perusing your blog (ok, and Pinterest too) for insight and ideas and didn’t want to be a silent stalker. :) I will be working on my birth preferences plan in the next few weeks and months and wanted to say thanks for posting ideas on where to begin! It seems I have a lot to learn in this process.
    Blessings on you and your beautiful family!
    Love, Abby

    • Reply Adriel @ The Memos 13 June 2012 at 11:59 am

      “I met you in Nepal” – haha, that’s something you don’t hear every day!! 😀 I have SUCH great memories from those days!

      Hi Abby, great to “see” you again. Congrats on being a grown-up and having a husband and BABY on the way. 😉 That is so, so awesome. I hope it’s all going well for you!!

      I’m so glad you decided to say hello instead of just silently stalking. I hope you can find some stuff here and on pinterest that will be helpful for you. :) You’re going to do great!

      Keep in touch,
      love adriel x
      Adriel @ The Memos recently posted..4 reasons to write a birth plan | plan your best birth (part 2)My Profile

  • Reply Dr. Rupe 10 June 2012 at 11:58 am

    I agree with using the wording “birth preferences.” The tone is much more appropriate.

    I would also add I think it help to write out your own one page sheet, rather that print off a massive one online that is 6 pages. This shows the provider that you have really though it through and aren’t just ‘checking boxes.’

    There are several sites who have these crazy long birth plans that my patients bring in, 90% of the information is superfluous: ie: I want to visit my baby often should he be admitted to the NICU. (DUH! Who wouldn’t want to see their baby?)
    Dr. Rupe recently posted..Rethinking Normal Labor Could Reduce the C-section RateMy Profile

    • Reply Adriel @ The Memos 13 June 2012 at 12:08 pm

      Man, if I were a doctor and someone came at me with a six-page plan, I’d want to run the other direction! 😉

      Yes, I agree that you should write your own – it forces you to actually think through what’s important to you. Obviously some OBs or midwives will help their patients do that, but some don’t, which is why it’s so important for women to do themselves!

      I recently saw someone call it their “birth intentions”. I thought that was also good terminology. We can plan our menus and our road trips… but birth… well, it’s a little more complicated! 😉 Thanks for weighing in with your expertise – really appreciate it.

  • Reply 35+ Resources and Encouragement for New Moms 1 November 2013 at 12:46 am

    […] How to Organize Write a Birth Plan […]

  • Reply 100 Little Things About Pregnancy, Birth, and Being a First Time Mom 15 December 2013 at 9:52 am

    […] 22. Have a birth plan but know that it’s just a plan, not a prophecy. It will look different. (Need help? Here’s how to organize and write a birth plan.) […]

  • Reply Jenna 29 January 2014 at 1:04 am

    I am wondering if you can publish a copy of your birth plan? I am interested on what it looks like. Or even an outline of what it looks like. Thank you in advance

    • Reply Adriel 13 February 2014 at 10:57 am

      Hi Jenna. My birth plan looks just as those six points above describe, but with a little more detail. I’ll just do this very quickly, but this is roughly what it would look like…

      1. Environment – I’d prefer the lights to be dimmed a little and minimal staff in and out of the birthing room.

      2. Labor – I plan on having a natural birth, free of medication and augmentation. I plan on using natural pain relief techniques such as movement, water, heating pads, etc. and therefore do not want to be hooked up to machines for constant fetal monitoring, but request intermittent monitoring so I can be free to labor with as little restriction as possible.

      3. Delivery – I prefer to be free to work with my caregiver to find positions that are comfortable for me and conducive to pursuing natural labor. I’d love to have a mirror available so that I can see when my baby’s head begins to crown.

      4. Immediately after delivery – I would like immediate skin-to-skin contact with my baby and delayed cord clamping. I also prefer physiological delivery of my placenta assuming it’s all progressing normally.

      5. Postpartum recovery and breastfeeding – I plan on exclusively breastfeeding my baby and desire than he not be bathed by hospital staff.

      6. In the event of an unplanned cesarean birth (c-section) – I would like my husband to be present and allowed to take pictures and request that the sheet be lowered during the last part of delivery so that I can watch my baby being born. I would like immediate skin-to-skin contact with my baby (with my husband’s help) before he is taken off for weighing, unless there is an immediate threat.

      **All of these preferences are assuming labor and birth progresses normally, free of medical emergency, and I’m grateful for the the medical expertise of staff who may need to intervene at any given time. If that becomes necessary, I ask that my husband and I be included in discussion and decision-making as much as possible given the circumstances.

      Hope that helps, Jenna!
      Adriel recently posted..How to Be a Stay-At-Home Mom Without Losing Your MarblesMy Profile

  • Reply Silvia B C 15 November 2014 at 10:26 am

    Thank you for such great information on this article, and the rest you have on your website regarding maternity! I am not pregnant yet, but doing lots of research on what to expect during the 9 months and beyond. Your articles are very helpful and whereas before, the thought of being pregnant was quite scary, I am feeling much better already. Knowledge is power indeed! Thank you again. And blessing on your beautiful family. Silvia

    • Reply Adriel 18 November 2014 at 1:36 am

      Thanks Silvia. So glad you feel empowered! Becoming a mother is a wonderful thing. I hope you’re able to become pregnant with ease. x

  • Reply Mira 6 March 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Adriel,

    I love everything about your blog. Im going to have my baby delivered in June this year. God knows how I feel right now.
    I am so scared of the labor (DUH, of course), but at the same time, I cannot wait to see my little me exiting? my body. HAHA.

    The thing I terrified the most is of course the pain that I will endure during the labor. But I believe that GOD make us women that can conceive human and we can definitely hold on to the pain. After read your blog, a lot of things started to come together.

    I love how you said not to blamed= yourself about the gender thing. I always have this feeling on how i can manage myself and even more the baby itself. But, i know that this blog will definitely helps me ease my feeling a lil bit and i want to thank you on that.

    Adriel, I hope the best for you and you baby. and I hope I can stay positive throughout this pregnancy as I know for sure I will miss this pregnancy moments soon after I have the baby.

    Thanks again, from Malaysia.

    Love,
    Mira

    • Reply Adriel Booker 31 March 2016 at 1:05 pm

      Thanks for your note Mira, and I’m glad you’re finding my blog helpful. Becoming a mom is a wonderful and sometimes terrifying thing! A huge learning curve! All the best for you as you head toward labor. I found what helped me the most was to be informed and then have a few people around me that would really be cheerleaders for me. Good support makes all the difference.

      You can do this! :) x
      Adriel Booker recently posted..Why I believe in early pregnancy announcements despite the risk (and fear) of miscarriageMy Profile

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