Tips for creating a birth plan and ensuring it's followed
A birth plan is essentially a blueprint for how you'd like your labor and delivery to go. Of course, if there's one thing that cannot be planned, it's the birth of a baby, but in general, a birth plan communicates your desires to the doctors, nurses, and midwives who will attend you during delivery.
Although a birth plan can be created at any time, it is best to start early in your pregnancy so that you have time to research, consider, and discuss your options, as well as to formulate and revise your birth plan so that it is complete, accurate, and clear by the time you give birth.
Making a Birth Plan: Research
The first step to creating a birth plan is to research your options, as well as possible complications, to ensure your final plan will be complete. Talk to friends or family who have given birth, consult a birth coach or doula, and consider registering in prenatal classes. All of these can give you an idea of what your options are, what the pros and cons of each option are, and what other considerations might be important.
Some initial questions to consider include:
- Where do you want to give birth (home, hospital, birth center)?
- Who do you want present (partner, parents, friends)?
- Who will assist/supervise delivery (midwife, doctor)?
- What aids will you use (music, pictures, lighting, etc.)?
- What pain relief methods will you use (massage, breathing, epidural, etc.)?
- What monitoring devices should be used?
- How active will you be (in a bed, walking around, squatting, etc.)?
- What position to you prefer for delivery?
- What if assistance (e.g., vacuum) or a Cesarean is necessary?
- Who can speak for you in case you're unable to provide guidance?
Of course, there are myriad other questions and considerations. The point is to be as thorough as possible and account for all possible occurrences. At the very least, though, your birth plan should be an outline of your ideal labor and delivery.
Writing a Birth Plan
Once you've finished your research and made the decisions about where and how you'll give birth, you must clearly communicate these wishes to others, particularly medical professionals. You may do so by writing out your wishes in a full birth plan or by creating a birth plan checklist that highlights your major choices and decisions. Either way, discuss your choices with your doctor or midwife, as well as your birth coach or partner, well in advance of your due date.
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