Birth Plans: Why and How to Create One
Birth plans have become the next “big thing” for pregnant women who decide that they want to maintain some control in the labor and delivery of their unborn child, as well as in the post-partum care both she and her baby receive in the hospital. Some people do not know how to create a birth plan, or why creating a birth plan is an important aspect of their pregnancy.
When a laboring woman arrives at the hospital, there can be limited time to get her feelings regarding how she wants her labor to progress across to the nurses on duty. Birth plans are generally written by the pregnant woman, sometimes with the assistance of her labor partner several weeks prior to delivery. It should then be taken to your doctor or midwife at one of your prenatal appointments to go over your wishes and make sure that your provider is aware of any concerns you might have.
One thing to keep in mind when creating your birth plan is to maintain flexible. Even if you have the textbook perfect labor and delivery, chances are that something in your birth plan will not be able to be accomplished or achieved. It might be because of your hospital, or it might be as simple as you originally saying that you do not want pain medication, just to change your mind half way through labor. If you remain flexible regarding what you wrote in your birth plan, the day of delivery will go much smoother.
Creating your Birth Plan
So how do you create a birth plan? You can use our customized birth plan creator, or you can create one from scratch. If you create one from scratch, be sure to remember to include everything that you deem important.
When doing your birth plan be sure to mention your wishes on pain medication. Do you want pain medication or not? If you do want pain medication, how much and what kind do you want? If you want medication, do you want to have just a shot through your IV of something to just dull the pain a bit, or do you want an epidural which will go in your back and pretty much get rid of all pain and contractions that you feel? Do you want the doctor or midwife to suggest to you medication, or not mention it at all?
Episiotomy or Tearing
Also, when creating your birth plan, be sure to let everyone know what you will prefer when it comes to having an episiotomy. An episiotomy is when the doctor or midwife cuts the perineal area that goes from your vagina to your rectum an inch or two before the babies head comes out in order to help the head come out easier. Some women prefer to be cut; other women prefer to tear naturally. Many women’s activist groups these days are promoting tearing vs. no episiotomy because some women won’t tear at all, or only tear a tiny bit, making the healing time less painful than it would have been with an episiotomy.
Let the nurses know in your birth plan who you want to be allowed in the room and when. Some women are fine with having everyone in at once, and others prefer to only have their birth partner, or have other visitors come in one at a time. You might want the interaction and distraction during the early stages of labor, but not want a bunch of people in the room towards the end. There are also times when you may not want your parent or an in-law in the room at all, but you do not want to be the bad guy. Buy writing these wishes down in your birth plan, it enables your nurse to tell people who can and can not go in and when, and also makes the nurse be the “bad guy” so you don’t have to concentrate on those issues when you should be concentrating on pushing your baby out.
Immediately After Birth
Assuming you have a vaginal birth, you should include in your birth plan your wishes for the baby immediately after birth. Some women will choose to bank their babies cord blood and will have that set up ahead of time. Others want to make sure the cord stops pulsating before it is cut, letting the baby get the remaining nutrients that are important for their health. If you are breastfeeding, you may want to be allowed to nurse immediately, vs. having to wait several minutes for your baby to get cleaned up a bit and get eye drops. Your baby is most alert in the 30 minutes or so right after birth so it is an important time for you to be able to nurse and bond.
Just incase a c-section becomes a necessity, you should list your wishes for the baby while they are finishing up your surgery, in your birth plan. Put down whether or not you want your baby accompanied at all times by your birth partner. Let them know ahead of time your wishes on them giving your baby a bottle of sugar water or formula while you are in recovery. Make it clear if you want your baby brought to you in recovery or if you want to wait till you get back to your room.
Part of your birth plan includes your post-partum care. Most hospitals support and encourage your baby staying in your room with you at all times, vs. going to the nursery at night or while you sleep. You can make it clear in your birth plan what your preference is. Whether or not you want to room-in, or if you just want your baby brought to you for feedings letting you rest as much as possible. You can also list whether or not you want your birth partner to be allowed to stay the night.
In your birth plan you will list your intentions on feeding your baby. You can state whether or not you plan on breastfeeding, and if you do breastfeed how often and when you want to do it. That is important in the instance that you choose not to have your baby rooming in with you, but instead in the nursery. You should make it clear if you want to feed the baby on demand, when the baby is hungry, or if you prefer to feed the baby on your schedule, allowing the nurses in the nursery to give the baby formula when he gets hungry.
There are always other things you might think of when it comes to your hopes and wishes for a happy and healthy labor and birth. Things like taking pictures, video taping, having music playing, moving around, being allowed to take a bath or shower during labor, etc. If any of these things are important to you, or you can think of others, be sure to list them in your birth plan for the nurses and your doctor or midwife. Happy birthing!
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