Birth Plans: What They Are and Why You Need One

How do you prepare for the birth of your baby? With a birth plan.

Baby is on the way, and you can’t wait! You decorated the nursery. Picked a name. Loaded up on diapers and cute clothes. You even signed up for a maternity class and packed your hospital bag for delivery. But there’s one more thing left to do: create a birth plan.

Birth Plan Basics

You want your birthing experience to be enjoyable and as smooth as possible. A birth plan helps. The purpose of a birth plan is simple: to give you a voice when heading to the hospital. With a birth plan, you write out your wishes and provide them to your care team. This information guides your care throughout labor, delivery, and recovery. While a birth plan can include any number of requests and preferences, here are some common topics to consider when creating your birth plan:

  • Atmosphere in your birthing room (music, lighting, TV, etc.)
  • Certain people expected in or out of the room during labor and delivery or in operating room during cesarean delivery
  • Desired freedom to eat, drink, or move around the room during labor
  • How long baby will stay with you immediately after birth
  • How to handle the unexpected (your flexibility when medically necessary)
  • Position in which you want to give labor (standing, sitting, etc.)
  • Preference regarding pain medication
  • Type of monitoring you desire
  • Use of forceps or vacuum extraction to assist in birth
  • Whether your male baby will be circumcised
  • Decide who will cut the umbilical cord and give baby’s first bath.

Tips for Writing Your Birth Plan

When developing a birth plan, you may want to consult a birth plan template, but be aware that many online birth plan templates are outdated. Birth plan examples can also be overly specific and may keep your team from providing optimal care. To create a birth plan that makes sense and leads to a positive birthing experience, remember these tips:

  • Don’t write it alone. While your birth plan reflects your wishes, consult your OB-GYN to ensure your plan is appropriate. As you discuss your birth plan, ask if any part of it should be modified. Some of your choices may lead to a less pleasant experience. Knowing this can help you modify your plan now, so you have a more enjoyable labor and delivery later.
  • Keep it simple. Try to keep your plan on a single page. Use bullet points and short sentences. This will help your care team understand your desires at a glance.

Is a Birth Plan Necessary?

Birth plans have become a very popular way to support a successful pregnancy, but they aren’t necessary. In fact, little ones are born every day without the aid of a birth plan. However, birth plans are a good idea for a number of reasons:

  1. Many women don’t realize how strongly they feel about their birthing experiences until they create a birthing plan.
  2. Developing a birthing plan gives you control over your labor and delivery. It also ensures your baby’s first hours of life align with your desires and values.
  3. Creating a birth plan encourages you to research your options and to communicate with your OB-GYN and birthing partner. Increased knowledge and communication lead to increased confidence and clarity.

What to Do with Your Birth Plan

Once you create your birth plan, make sure it gets to the right people. Give a copy to your OB-GYN and your birthing partner and pack a few copies in your hospital bag. When admitted to the hospital, give one to your nurse and leave a copy on your bedside table. This way, your plan is readily available for all who participate in your care.

The skilled and caring maternity team at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital is here to help. Call 661.200.1312 to schedule a consultation.

Be Flexible: Birthing Plans Shouldn’t Be Written in Stone 

Your care team’s goal is to provide your ideal birthing experience, but they should also have freedom to make changes as necessary to ensure the good health of you and your baby.

Sometimes things happen that are out of our control and we need to adopt an alternative plan. Your maternity care team will take every step to meet your expectations, but they may need to change course if they feel the health of you or your baby is at risk. While that isn’t likely to happen, take precautions anyway. Once you’ve completed your birth plan, discuss it with your provider and ask if any part of it would prevent your maternity team from providing essential care and why—and then give them permission to override it—because your health and your baby’s health are what matter most.