What is the point of writing a birth plan? An how do you write a birth plan that’s meaningful?
When I was to give birth the first time, I sure had ideas about how I wanted the birthing to proceed. Actually, I wanted the labor to be quick, normal and painless – and without pain relief… :-)
At the same time, I understood that no matter how much I had prepared; things could go wrong and I would have to rely completely on my midwife and doctor for taking me and my baby through a safe birthing process. So I certainly didn’t relly understand the point with a birth plan – giving birth can’t be planned – or well it can be planned, but you can’t expect the plan to hold.
But my midwife insisted that I should write a birth plan because it would force me to actually learn about the birthing process, all the pain relief methods, possible birth positions and last but not least, why giving birth hurts. All this knowledge, she said, would make me a more prepared and less frightened mom-to-be. And I agree!
The birth of you baby might not turn out at all as in you plan, but you will be much prepared and the midwife and doctor use the document to try to help you have the birth process you want. It is actually a really good preparation tool!
In the birth plan, you can specify your thoughts, fears, and wishes regarding your labor and childbirth. In most places, you can get a form to fill in from your midwife or the hospital where you plan to give birth. If not, or if you want to get started right away, you can download a complementary birthing plan here. (It is a birth plan pdf, just right-click on the link and save.)
To be able to write a birthing plan that will be meaningful for yourself and your midwife, the best you can do is to really read up on all the options you have as well as how childbirth actually proceeds.
Below you’ll find tips on what to write in the different sections of a birth plan. (Download your template here.)
How To Write A Birth Plan
- Write a bit about yourself and your spouse
- Our thoughts about giving birth
- Our wishes regarding the environment
- What I think about pain relief
- Pain relief methods I do/do not want to try
- Birth positions I would like to try
- What I worry about the most regarding this childbirth
- What you should know about the last time I gave birth
- How can the midwife/doctor/doula support me the best?
- How can the midwife/doctor/doula support my spouse best?
- This would be my ideal childbirth
- Cutting the umbilical cord
- After our baby has been born…
- In case of emergency
- Other specific issues
1) Write a bit about yourself and your spouse
Here you might want to simply write if you have been talking through the childbirth at all, if you have been taking breathing and/or relaxation classes if this is the first time of giving birth for either of you (since one of you but not the other may have a child from a different relationship, for example), any medical conditions you would like to stress or anything else you would like to share.
If you will be accompanied by a doula (or someone else) that already knows you well, but who does not belong to the hospital, you may also want to mention that.
2) Our thoughts about giving birth
Here you share whatever thoughts you might have. Do you feel well-prepared, calm, scared, or uncomfortable (with what)? Do you have any strong views on episiotomy, birth positions, directed pushing, giving birth naturally or anything else?
3) Our wishes regarding the environment
Maybe you don’t care. Or maybe you really want soft music, dimmed lights, and low voices. Or the opposite! Maybe you would like to ask for a doula, as some hospitals can provide that.
4) What I think about pain relief
All pain relief methods have their pros and cons. Some expecting moms feel strongly that not hurting too much is their first priority, while for others it is way more important to not use anything that may interfere with the labor process or the well-being of the baby.
Think through what your priorities are and state them here. Even writing “I don’t know, please help me decide as the birthing continues” is better than not saying anything!
5) Pain relief methods I do/do not want to try
After reading about pain-relief, write down which methods you prefer and if there are any that you absolutely don’t want to try. Specify both medical and natural methods. Or simply write that you have studied the methods and will decide what to use when the time comes.
6) Birth positions I would like to try
First read about birth positions here. And here you can also learn about the stages of labor and specifically about what it is like to push in the second stage of labor. Understanding the different stages of labor will help you decide how you want to act while going through them.
You then write about if you, for example, would like to be able to walk around, have a bath, be in an upright position while pushing and so on.
7) What I worry about the most regarding this childbirth
What are your foremost worries? Is it to not be able to cope with the pain? To be forced to an episiotomy (you have the right to question that), the well-being of your baby, being ignored by the midwife, that your partner will faint or something completely else? Let them know.
8) What you should know about the last time I gave birth
Have you given birth before? What was it like? Is there anything you would like to do differently or the same?
9) How can the midwife/doctor/doula support me the best?
These people don’t know you (yet). What is the best way to support you, as far as you know? Should they give you a lot of encouragement? Instructions? Remind you to relax and breathe? Tell you where in the process you are? Or not disturb you unless you ask them to? If you want them to help you avoid tearing and episiotomy during the pushing stage, this is also a good thing to stress here.
10) How can the midwife/doctor/doula support my spouse best?
Does your spouse want to take an active part in helping you through the contractions? Any other particular wishes or thoughts your spouse may have?
11) This would be my ideal childbirth
Here, simply fantasize about the best possible childbirth you can imagine, to help the midwife understand what you are striving for.
Natural? Quick? Painless? Without any tearing? One where breathing and relaxation made your birthing a positive event?
12) Cutting the umbilical cord
Here you state whether you want your spouse to cut the umbilical cord and whether you want the cutting to be postponed for a few minutes to allow the iron reserves of your baby to be filled up. (A study by researchers at the University of California, Davis has shown that postponing the cutting of the umbilical cord will boost your baby’s iron reserves significantly and hence prevent anemia.)
13) After our baby has been born…
Here you can write things like if you want your baby to be put on your belly immediately if you want to check the gender yourself, if you want to be the one giving the first bath, if you want examinations and weighing of the baby to be held off for a little while if possible if you want your baby to have a pacifier or not, if you would like to receive support by a nurse or (lactation consultant if available) to help you with the positions of your baby for breastfeeding and similar things.
14) In case of emergency
If your baby’s heartbeat goes down sharply or something else forces the doctors to intervene quickly, you might still want the staff to follow your wishes if possible.
For example, you might want your spouse to be allowed to be present during a C-section, you might want them to still hand over the baby to your spouse or yourself as soon as possible, you may want them to make an effort to keep the two of you informed of every step that has to be taken, for example.
It might also be that if time permits, you would like to stay awake during the procedure.
14) Other specific issues
Is there anything else you would like to share or ask in your birth plan? Just go ahead! If you have any religious or cultural concerns that are important, remember to add them too.
Remember to keep the different parts of your birthing plan fairly short, friendly, and easy to read. Your midwife should be able to quickly find out your wishes and thoughts while you are giving birth.
When you are done, make sure you know exactly where you keep your birthing plan, so you won’t forget where it is or to bring is when it is time to give birth. Make a few copies of it too and take a photo of it with your mobile phone, to be able to provide a copy each to the people assisting you.
Now you have done a great job in preparing to give birth. Just remember to be open to changes in plans and preferences along the way.
If you have questions or additional tips on how to write a birth plan, please share by leaving a comment below!