Giving birth is a beautiful and natural experience, but it can often be more complicated than you might imagine. Your doctors and nurses all exist to ensure a safe birth for you and your baby, but this can often leave the mother feeling left out and isolated from decision making, mainly if complications arise.
To prevent this from happening most hospitals and mothers would recommend that you create a birth plan ahead of time. Planning for your admission into the hospital and the process that follows can help you and your partner to feel involved, more connected to your child and excited rather than nervous. This is why we created this birth plan checklist to help make sure you have everything covered.
What is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is a concise document which you can create to let the doctor, nurses and support team know your wishes for the birth. You might have a specific routine that you want to follow, you want to note whether you would like painkillers and which, or you could even mention what you would prefer to happen if certain complications arise.
This birth plan shouldn’t be long or overly complicated. Treat it as a checklist or a bullet point list, covering ideally only a single page and certainly no more than two. While you might feel this is restrictive, it’s vital that your medical team can read it quickly during emergency situations so they can respect your wishes while caring for you and your baby.
A birth plan is often created using your format, but increasingly hospitals and support staff have created their templates for you to use. Using their templates is advisable because it speeds up the support team, helping them to help you and your baby.
How to Write a Birth Plan
Knowing how to write a birth plan can be confusing. You’ve been told to keep it short and sweet, but you have not idea what to include and how to specifically write. I’ll cover what you might want to consider later, but there is a specific style of writing that is advantageous.
Rather than writing in hyperbole and absolutes, using suggestive and optimistic language instead. For example; you could write, “I would prefer to have the baby on my chest directly after birth” rather than “Put the baby on my chest after birth.”
The difference takes into account emergency situations, complications that might arise and simple oversight from a stressed and tired medical team. Birth can be complicated and writing a prescriptive and unwavering birth plan sets you up for failure. Go into it optimistic that your wishes will be met but be willing to compromise for the safety of you and your baby.
When Should I Complete a Birth Plan?
Your birth plan should be completed at least a month before you are due to give birth in case your water breaks earlier than you expect. However, it’s not wise to write your plan too early because you’re likely to change your opinions as you go through the pregnancy.
Instead, around the 6 or 7-month mark is usually a wise time to start compiling your requests so that you have time to check it over and do any research that you might want to complete. While not necessary, it’s often useful to consult with your family support team which usually consists of your partner and parents.
Your desires come first, obviously, but they might have insight or recommendations that you could find helpful. Once you have finished the list, you can format it so that it can be scanned quickly and easily by any new medical staff that joins the team during the birth.
Consider All the Options
Before you begin to write your birth plan, the first step is to consult your health-care provider and hospital to inquire into their policies and procedures. If you don’t do this, it’s possible that they could have a policy that you don’t agree with and have failed to include on your list.
You may consider creating two separate pages, one to cover an ideal or uncomplicated birth and postpartum, with a second for handling potential complications should they occur. The following is a list of questions that you might consider answering in your birth plan. Not all of them are relevant to every mother, but many are.
Talk to Your Doctor
Rather than creating this plan in solidarity and only making your medical team aware of it after admission, you should talk to them far before you head to the hospital. It is possible that your doctor will not be receptive to some of your ideas, viewing certain points as overly demanding or too risky for you, your baby or the doctor’s team.
Every birth is different, as is each doctor and hospital. You need to be frank and open with your communication as early as possible so that everyone is on the same page and playing for the same team.
You may also consider asking about the specifications of the department you will be situated in. They may have certain equipment or products that you won’t need to bring, or vice versa. This list could include pillows, clothing, towels, and bath or shower products.
What You Don’t Need on Your Birth Plan
Making sure to include the most important points of your birth plan is critical. But arguably just as important is ensuring that you leave out certain things. The research on birth plans is conflicting, with some suggesting that it helps women to gain a sense of control over their birth by clarifying and communicating more effectively with their healthcare providers.
On the other hand, other research indicates that a birth plan doesn’t lead to any better of an outcome for the mother or baby. With a study in the journal Midwifery, explaining that it can create false expectations among mothers and irritate many providers.
However, even those against birth plans note that they grievance with them is overly long plans that prevent their team from acting quickly and effectively. One doctor noted seeing eight-page long plans.
The logical conclusion is that a birth plan can be useful, if only to the mother, but under the conditions that it is short, authentic and not prohibitive.
Copy and Paste
While some women think for years about what exactly to include in their birth plan, others copy and paste lists without thinking deeply about the requests on the plan. This can lead to a more complicated birth without any additional benefit.
As mentioned earlier, using the word “don’t” is incredibly dangerous during something as complicated as a birth. It sets the wrong tone and can lead to you feeling disappointed afterward rather than relieved.
Instead, using suggestive and positive language such as “I’d prefer” or “I would like” or “If possible,” will communicate more fairly and leave you feeling more positive about the outcome. One study found that 65 percent of women who wanted to avoid epidurals on their birth plan ending up receiving one, with 90 percent being happy with the outcome.
Birth plans exist so that you as a mother can more efficiently and effectively communicate your wishes to your family and healthcare providers, especially under stressful circumstances. Rather than leaving it to the last minute, consider it a work in progress, constantly consulting your doctor to ensure that it is reasonable and not overly restrictive.
By approaching your birth plan with an open mind and a positive attitude, you can frame the entire experience in a better light. Overall, your goal is to have a healthy birth, for both you and your child, and knowing how to create a birth plan that helps you without inhibiting the process is vital.