What do you write in a birth plan?
It’s becoming more normal and popular to write a birth plan these days. Women are more aware of what they do and don’t want during a birth. One women will write a 6 page novella, and another will just list a few important points on one page, but they all have the same goal: a birth which, if at all possible, goes the way you (and your partner) want it to go.
But what should you include in a birth plan? It’s very personal. There are birth plans which include things you’ve probably never even thought about. 🙂 In my experience, hospitals like birth plans which are short and to the point. Of course, it’s always nice to write an introduction, but I’ve noticed that they like to be able to see at a glance what your wishes are. My advice is therefore to keep is short and succinct, and divide it into 3 ‘stages’: contractions (dilation phase), the birth itself (pushing stage), and once the baby is born. This way every caregiver can read whatever is applicable at that moment.
I have 2 birth plans. One for at home, and one for a hospital birth. In the hospital there are protocols and various rules, so that plan is more detailed than my plan for at home. In this blog there are also points which are only relevant for a hospital birth.
What kind of topics should you include in your birth plan? Here are some tips for things which you can include. You don’t have to mention all of it – take what you need and leave the rest. It’s good to have thought about these things in advance, because in retrospect it’s not possible to change things! 😉 I have mentioned the things, which, in my opinion, occur the most often, but there’s so much more if you want to look into it. Not everyone wants that, so I’m taking a middle road.
Your name and birth date, your partner’s name, sex of the baby (if you know), due date. You can also mention whether any other people will be at the birth (like a birth photographer, for example 😉 ) and you can also mention whether you’ve followed any kind of birthing course which you think you should mention.
The dilation phase – contractions:
- How do you want to deal with contractions?
The least efficient way to do this is in a bed, on your back. When you have contractions it’s hard to find a comfortable position because nothing is really comfy, and if you include your preferences in your birth plan, then your caregivers can remind you and stimulate you to do it. Most hospitals also have birth balls, and the shower or bath tub is also sometimes an option, depending on where you’re giving birth.
- How often do you want vaginal examinations to be done?
Most hospitals check every 2 hours to see how far you are. Some women appreciate this, others want to be left alone and only checked when they ask, and others don’t want to know at all. What do you want?
- Would you want to have your waters broken?
- How would you feel about being offered an IV to speed labour up and strengthen contractions if labour is slow?
- Think about pain management. If it’s necessary, what would you want? Look at the pros and cons of every method, because at the time you won’t be able to think clearly. In my plan i’ve said that I don’t want to be offered anything for the pain. If I need it, I’ll ask. It can be very hard to say no when it’s offered to you.
- Do you want to create a particular atmosphere in the room?
With music, for example, a nice smell, or soft lighting? You can take these things with you to the hospital. This doesn’t have to go in your plan, but it is good to think about it.
The pushing phase – the birth
- Again, on your back in a bed is the least advantageous position to bring your baby into the world. In my plan I’ve stated that I don’t want to give birth on my back, but would like to be encouraged to use a birthing stool, or on hand and knees, or on my side. This is, of course, in case of a hospital birth, because if I give birth at home I plan to give birth in the tub. 😉
- Would you want to be able to watch the birth with the help of a mirror?
- Do you want to catch the baby yourself, or maybe your partner would like to catch the baby?
Once baby is born
- Do you want to delay cutting the cord until it’s finished pulsing? It’s done more and more often, also in hospitals, but it does no harm to mention it in the plan.
- Instead of using a cord clamp you can also take a crod tie with you. I’m a fan of this – it’s nicer for the baby than a hard clamp. We have one at home, and one in the hospital bag.
- It’s normal for baby to have one hour of skin-to-skin time with its mother, but this can also be a special moment for the father. You can choose to give daddy some skin-to-skin time after mommy has had her hour. I always find this to be a very special moment!
- A baby loses the most warmth via its head, but did you know that the smell of your baby makes your body produce oxytocin? This helps your uterus to contract. Also, there’s nothing better than the smell of your own new baby! You can also choose to delay putting a hat on the baby (or not do it at all). But do make sure that baby stays nice and warm!
- What do you want to do with your placenta? Most people don’t want to do anything with it, but if you do want to do something with it, then mention this, before it lands in the bin!
- Are you going to breastfeed or bottle feed?
You never know how the birth is going to go, and sometimes certain things need to be done for the sake of baby’s safety, and your own. The more you learn and read about it all, the more you know about what is and isn’t possible. That’s the most important part of it all.
Good luck writing your own birth plan!