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The answer is yes. I believe your customized birth plan is one of the most important things to pack in your hospital bag. No, it is not required by hospitals to have one, although it can’t hurt to have one. In many ways it might even be helpful.
What is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is a document written by you that outlines your preferences during labor, delivery and postpartum. This will aid your birth team in your care process for routine care or in the case of an emergency.
Please write your birth plan knowing that it is very common for birth to not go the way you imagine, but this tool can serve as a guide for you and your birth team to make decisions along the course of your birth.
What should I include in my birth plan?
There are a lot of variables during the labor and delivery process
Would you like the lights dimmed?
What will you use for pain management?
Would you like immediate skin-to-skin contact with baby?
These choices can all be outlined in a birth plan. You may not want to be answering a ton of questions during the later stages of labor, so this is a great way to gather your choices on paper.
If you chose to go with birthing at a birth center or use a midwife for prenatal and postpartum care, they’re usually wonderful about communicating your preferences with you. Most midwives and doulas advocate for the most natural birth possible and take a hands off approach through labor progression.
It is likely that your birth team has delivered dozens if not hundreds of babies. Maybe even multiple babies that day! So they’re going to be cycling through a few rooms during the duration of your hospital stay. There also may be a staff shift (or a few) during your labor progression. These are all reasons why I believe outlining your birth plan can be beneficial for your birth experience.
Birth Plan Preferences
This can be short and simple, but be sure to include some health history. You can include how many times you’ve given birth, what your expectations are for your birth, any medical conditions during your pregnancy like; gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, high or low amniotic fluid, or any other diagnosis or concerns.
Labor Pain Management
You can request pain management in the form of medications like an epidural or nitrous oxide during labor. You can also try non medicated routes such as massage, bath or shower, meditation, counter pressure, hot or cold therapy or ‘labor tools’ like a birthing bar, peanut or birthing balls.
Delivery Room Preferences
You can make decisions based on what you would like your birth experience to be like. Some things to think about include;
- Dimming the lights
- Playing Music
- Sound level in the room
- Fetal Monitoring
- Food or drink
Delivery Options and Complications
You can have a preference for a vaginal birth or a cesarean. On your birth plan, include your preferences for each. For a vaginal birth you can add which positions you would like to push in, if you want to be coached to push or use your own instinct, and who you would like to be at the foot of the bed (your partner, any residents/students, etc).
For a cesarean, you can request your baby’s father or birth support partner to be in the room, to hold your baby as soon as possible afterwards, and no pre-operative medications.
For complications, make sure you make it clear who is able to make decisions for you and your baby.
Be sure to include your preferences for after labor for your baby. These things can include;
- PKU testing
- Feeding preferences
- Nursery preferences
Your baby does not have to leave your room if you do not want them to.
If you’re nervous about creating a birth plan and don’t know what to include, don’t worry we’ve got you covered you can download a free editable copy of my birth plan template at the end of this post.
I didn’t end up writing a birth plan until the week before I went into labor for my first birth. My midwife had recommended that I wrote one up around 24 weeks pregnant and bring it in to discuss with her. I fortunately remembered to have it printed out bad packed in my hospital bag.
I feel that I made the right choice having a birth plan laid out. It mostly came in handy during the later stages of labor when we talked about things like pain management and what I wanted my during and afterbirth experience to look like.
I had requested things such as, dimming the lights, letting me play my music, no suggestions for an epidural and to labor in the jacuzzi tub attached to my hospital room.
Every nurse that came into my room referenced the birth plan upon entry and I really appreciated that.
Again, not everything always goes according to plan. I did end up getting an epidural around 8 cm. Other than that I feel my requests were granted and my plan was respected.
Please keep in mind that when emergencies happen, they can happen very quickly. You never want to be put in the situation where there is an emergency during your birth and no time to discuss your options. Once again, this is where having a birth plan can come in handy.
If you’re bringing a partner or spouse with you to your birth you can go through the birth plan with them so in certain situations they can be the best advocate for you.
So where do you start? Great question! I’ve created a free editable birth plan template for you. Simply enter your information below and receive both a PDF version and editable Canva link for your customized birth plan.
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