To plan or not to plan, is that the question? No, you definitely should have a plan! Not everyone has a good opinion about birth plans though. In fact, when I had my daughter in 2015 I handed my provider my birth preference sheet with a couple of extra copies for the nurses. Later after my baby was born and I rocked my unmedicated hospital birth, my midwife told me that when she showed the nurses my birth plan they all said I would be having a cesarean. Now, tell me how that makes sense? In what other part of life do we bet against people who plan?
Here's the thing though, a birth plan isn't a place for you to plan out exactly what type of birth you want to have, when you want it to happen and how long you plan to do it. Your birth plan is a tool for research. And it is a tool for clear and open communication with your birth team.
How so? Let's start with the research! To have a plan, you need to know what the standard of care is. You can find this out by talking with your provider, ask what typically happens from admittance to discharge. From there you can research and decide what you would like to decline or try something different.
How about communication? Once you've decided your preferences from all the research you did, you can make a bullet-printed list to hand out to the nurses and your provider. Your partner and/or doula should have one to reference too!
Side note- There are many birth plan templates that are full of boxes that you can check off your preference and can be a few pages long. These are great starting points but please don't hand your provider pages of checkboxes. They won't take it seriously or have time to get to know your preferences.
What types of things should you include on your birth plan?
Some basic information about you and your birth team is a good place to start.
You can list your preferences on things like whether or not you want to be offered pain medication, if you'd like intermittent monitoring vs continuous monitoring, delayed cord clamping, and things like that.
You can also be specific. If you want to be told what your provider is doing before or while he or she is doing it, express that. If you want to push in various positions instead of on your back, say that.
I think the most powerful use of birth plans is actually when the birth you imagined isn't what's happening. While I don't want you to dwell on the fact that things can go wrong, it is so important to prepare for that. If you were planning a home birth and had to transfer but had no preferences you will be either fighting the whole time or have consented to whatever the standard is. If you're planning a vaginal birth but end up needing a cesarean, having a plan allows you to remain in control, you will feel prepared and feel less traumatized.
I think the most important thing to know is that your birth plan is just a wish list. Things you would really like to happen, understanding that birth is a mystery and can't always be done the way we envisioned.
The only setting that your birth plan is no longer just a wishlist is when the baby is born and you're discussing your newborn care plan. If everything has gone well and baby doesn't need a NICU stay or anything like that, then you have complete control over what does and doesn't happen with your child. Even if your baby does need a NICU say you still have control over many things.
Things like delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, whether or not your want the eye ointment, vitamin K, and the Hep B immunization. These are all your decisions to make and a good provider will respect that.
If you're expecting and need some help making a birth plan, just fill out the form above to get my free birth plan worksheet! I go through each stage of birth, newborn care, and cesarean preferences.
"The moment a child is born, a mother is born also."