Make a birth plan
Courtesy of KidsHealth.com
In the happy haze of early pregnancy, you're probably thinking of baby names and planning to shop for baby clothes. The reality of labor and birth may seem extremely far off—which makes this the perfect time to start planning for the arrival of your baby by creating a birth plan that details your wishes.
The term birth plan can actually be misleading—it's less an exact plan than a list of preferences. In fact, the goal of a birth plan isn't for you and your partner to determine exactly how the birth of your child will occur, because labor involves so many variables, you can't predict exactly what will happen. A birth plan does, however, help you to realize what's most important to you in the birth of your baby.
A birth plan isn't a binding agreement, it's just a guideline. Your doctor or healthcare provider may know, from having seen you throughout the pregnancy, what you do and don't want. Also, if you go into labor when there's an on-call doctor who you don't know well, a well thought-out birth plan can help you communicate your goals and wishes to the people helping you with the labor and delivery.
A birth plan typically covers three major areas:
1. What are your wishes during a normal labor and delivery?
2. How are you hoping for your baby to be treated immediately after and for the first few days after birth?
3. What do you want to happen in the case of unexpected events?
You may find that your obstetrician, nurse-midwife, or the facility where they admit patients already has birth-plan forms that you can fill out.
It's important to be flexible. If you know one aspect of your birthing plan won't be met, be sure to weigh that aspect against your other wishes. If your options are limited because of insurance, cost, or geography, focus on one or two areas that are really important to you.
Finally, you should find out if there are things about your pregnancy that might prevent certain choices. For example, if your pregnancy is considered high risk because of your age, health, or problems during previous pregnancies, your health care provider may advise against some of your birthing wishes. You'll want to discuss, and consider, this information when thinking about your options.
Birth plans are relatively new inventions, and your doctor or nurse-midwife may not be completely comfortable with them. For this reason, make sure you communicate clearly that you intend to create a birth plan.
Here are some tips:
- Make your birth plan read like a list of requests or best-case scenarios, not like a set of demands. Phrases such as "I would prefer" and "if medically necessary" will help your health care provider and caregivers know that you understand that they might have to alter the plan.
- Think about the other personnel who'll be using it—hospital staffers might feel more comfortable if you call it your "birth preferences" rather than your "birth plan," which could seem as though you're trying to tell them how to do their jobs.
- Try to be positive ("we hope to") as opposed to negative ("under no circumstances").
- Once you've made your birth plan, schedule a time to go over it with your doctor or nurse-midwife.
- Strive to keep the plan as simple as possible and list them in order of importance. Focusing on your priorities will help ensure that the most important of your wishes are met.
- You may also want to make several copies of the plan: one for you, one for your chart, one for your doctor or nurse-midwife, and one for your birthing coach or partner. And bringing a few extra copies in your labor bag is a good idea, especially if your doctor ends up not being on call when your baby is born.