A birth plan is basically a list of what you do and don’t want during labor, birth, and after. Of course you don’t need to have one, beyond 1. show up at hospital or stay home and 2. have baby, and of course no one can never know in advance exactly how birth is going to go. And if you give birth at a hospital you can’t expect that anyone attending you but your partner or doula has actually read it.
Instead consider your birth plan a conversation starter between you, your partner and your health care provider about the things that might happen and choices you have when it comes to care for you and your baby.
This list could be much, much longer, but here are the basic categories of what you’ll want to include:
What To Include in a Birth Plan
|Pain relief||Epidural||The most effective pain relief, generally extremely safe.||Limits your ability to change positions in labor, can make labor last longer, side effects can include a headache or chills.|
|Relaxation techniques, walking, changing position||Helpful ways to cope, no side effects.||Requires someone such as a doula to guide you through techniques, positions and walks.|
|Water birth||Soothing, reduces pain||Not available in most hospitals, and may not be an option if you experience certain complications.|
|Who you want in the room||Your partner, labor assistant (doula), mom, other family, friends, hospital residents, videographer||Family can be supportive, residency programs are important for training new health care providers.||Too many people in the room can be distracting or irritating. Hospitals may also have limits on how many visitors are allowed.|
|Your significant other’s involvement||Do you want your partner to be able to catch the baby, cut the cord, take pictures or video?||Your partner can be an important source of support, an extra set of eyes and ears and provider of practical help.||Some partners are enthusiastic about being involved, others may be fearful or squeamish.|
|Eating or drinking during labor||Some hospitals allow it, some don’t, some don’t officially allow it but will turn a blind eye.||With labor lasting many hours you may want more nourishment than ice chips.||Hospitals are concerned that having food in your stomach could cause complications if you need emergency surgery, many women have no appetite or feel queasy during labor anyway.|
|Baby care||Delayed cord clamping, delayed bath, rooming-in vs. nursery, circumcision, vaccinations, breastfeeding.||Mary and variable– go over options with your partner and pediatrician before you arrive at the hospital.||Depends.|