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…
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?