As the day that our sweet little girl will arrive draws closer, I am excited to start a new little mini-series about all of the fun things that come along with preparing for the arrival of a new baby! In addition to this post, I will also be sharing tips for building a registry of needs, tips for packing a hospital bag, and a list of the easiest make-ahead freezer meals for post-delivery in the coming weeks!
Please keep in mind that I am in no way claiming to be a health care professional, nor am I claiming to know everything about the topics of birth. These are simply things that have helped me on my journey to writing my own birth plan and preparing for the labor and delivery of a child!
Why do you need a birth plan?
I will be the first to admit that with our first child, I didn’t do enough research and really think about the many preferences that I would be asked about during my labor/delivery, as well as during the hospital stay. Not knowing enough about some of those “bigger” decisions really changed the way that my experience went and although we ended up with a beautiful, healthy little boy, I was very foggy and “out of it” during the labor and delivery. So, with this second pregnancy, I wanted to be fully prepared to make decisions (and have my husband help me make decisions) that I would be happier with.
Basically, your birth plan will be a reference point for medical staff that will save you from having to repeat your preferences over and over throughout your labor and delivery, as well as once your baby is born. It will also be a sort of “safe guard” because it will spell out certain things (especially newborn care) before they occur, rather than things happening so quickly that you are unable to vocalize your preferences in the midst of a busy room! Creating a plan pushes you to really research the things your body will be doing, as well as the protocols that are already in place by your doctor and hospital staff.
Do your research
First and foremost, you need to do your research on all things labor, delivery, and post-delivery to really determine what you do and don’t want. All of that can seem really overwhelming, but once you start reading up a little bit, it will seem like less of a burden! Really, there are not that many things that you have to include (you don’t want your plan to be too long), but if you don’t go ahead and start reading about your options, you will feel out of control and a little bit lost throughout the whole process.
Doing your research really allows you to make educated decisions with your spouse (and/or your other L&D support person) rather than following a “fad” that everyone else is doing. It also helps you determine which things are really important to you and which things you would be willing to budge on if necessary!
Work stage by stage
Once you have done a good bit of research, you can start to pull your plan together. Personally, I found it easiest to work through and separate each preference depending on when that specific thing would be most likely to occur (1st stage labor, 2nd stage labor, 3rd stage labor/newborn care). This will also be really helpful for the nurses and doctors to easily view your specific preferences without having to sift through things that have already been taken care of or things that won’t have to be dealt with at all.
Just for a quick reference, the first stage of labor includes early labor (when you begin effacing and dilating) as well as active labor (when you begin dilating quicker) and then approach the “transition” period. The second stage of labor begins when you are fully dilated and begin pushing. The third stage is right after your baby is born and includes the delivery of the placenta. As I mentioned, do your research, but below are a few suggestions of what to include on your plan for each stage:
Stage one: Pain management, IV/monitoring preferences, vaginal exam preferences, etc.
Stage two: Pushing/position preferences, induction preferences, delivery aid preferences, etc.
Stage three/newborn care: Umbilical cord preferences, placenta preferences, breastfeeding/skin-to-skin preferences, etc.
Keep scrolling for a full list of suggestions that you may want to include in your plan.
Consider what you want if things don’t go how you planned
Although my birth plan is built around the fact that I really want a non-medicated, vaginal delivery, I have listed a few preferences at the bottom of my plan that cover what I would like to happen if a caesarean is completely unavoidable. With childbirth, a plan is just that–a plan. There is no guarantee that everything will go exactly as you want it to (in fact, it probably won’t), so there needs to be room in your plan for flexibility and you need to be sure that you have covered all of your bases!
Keep in mind that if your labor and delivery doesn’t go exactly as planned, that is ok. A lot of times, we can get hung up on how we want things to go that we forget the most important fact of all–the goal of our labor and delivery is a healthy baby. Go into your labor and delivery experience with educated expectations and preferences, but don’t let yourself get so focused on those things that you allow yourself to become sad or frustrated!
Things to consider/include
- Who will be present during labor and delivery: If you plan to have someone other than your spouse with you, be sure to check with your hospital on how many people are allowed to be in the room with you during L&D. Also, be sure to list the names of these people at the top of your birth plan so that when they arrive at the hospital, it is already in writing that those specific people are welcome in your room. If someone (like a photographer) is only welcome during parts of L&D, be sure to mention that as well so that you do not have to worry about “hinting” at a person when it is appropriate for them to leave.
- Include your primary OBGYN doctor as well as the office that you have been going to throughout your pregnancy. Your doctor may not be on call when you go into labor, so you want to be sure that just in case doctors/nurses have questions that cannot be answered by your records, they can easily get ahold of someone that works with your maternity care provider.
- Due date. This will most likely be listed in your records, but you may get this question a lot anyway. Just go ahead and include it at the top of your plan (with the other points mentioned above) so that the information is offered freely to those who need it.
- Induction/labor progression options. After doing your research, mention how you feel about being offered Pitocin, having your membranes stripped, having your water broken if it doesn’t break on it’s own, etc.! Be sure to also add in your preferences about the use of forceps, a vacuum, and/or an episiotomy under your “Stage 2” section.
- Mobility during labor: If you would like to be able to move around as you please while you labor, this needs to be mentioned in your plan. You will want to mention preferring non-continuous, external fetal monitoring as well as certain preferences for your IV. Most hospitals will start an IV with fluids when you arrive and while this can help a mother stay hydrated, it makes it close to impossible to labor in many different positions, especially outside of the bed. If you prefer to not receive the IV for fluids, you need to research a Hep Lock and keep in mind that you will be responsible for keeping your body hydrated during labor!
- Pain management: Would you like to be offered pain medication as soon as possible or would you prefer that you not have it offered to you at all? If you are turning down pain medication, what are your plans for managing your plan? Briefly include some of those so that the nurses understand your preferences and how they can best aid you.
- Vaginal exams/pushing cues: Would you like your cervix to be checked for dilation throughout labor? Would you like the medical staff to use monitoring to help you know when to push or would you like to strictly follow the cues of your body?
- Delayed cord clamping, banking, and the cutting of the cord. Would you like to delay the cord clamping until after it has stopped pulsing? Are you going to be using a specific cord blood bank (if so, include the information of that company within that point on your plan)? Who will be cutting the cord?
- Immediate post-birth preferences: Would you like the baby to be immediately placed on your chest following delivery or would like him/her to be cleaned first? Do you prefer the baby be cleaned off and examined for immediate problems while in your arms or are you fine with the nurses doing this in-room and then giving the baby to you? Would you like your baby’s eyes to be coated with the eye ointment? Would you like to immediately attempt to nurse? If immediate skin-to-skin is a big priority, how long would you like the medical staff to wait for the miscellaneous things they need to perform after birth (like the full bath, vaccines, etc.)?
- Vaccines. Which vaccines would you like your baby to receive during your hospital stay? Ask your doctor/hospital what their recommended/normal routine is for vaccination.
- Preferences for infant soothing by medical staff. Are you OK with your baby being given formula, a pacifier, sugar water, etc. by nursing staff? You can also include whether you would like your baby to be placed in the nursery during the night of your stay or if you would like your baby to remain in-room at all times.
- Preferences for visitors.
- If your birth plan is being written for a vaginal delivery, be sure to cover a few preferences for any possible caesarean delivery. You can include things like who you would like to have present in the room and any other preferences that may change with the difference of setting.
Other helpful tips
- REVIEW your plan a few times before printing it out and placing it in your hospital bag. Read back over some of your highlighted websites/books and make sure that you didn’t leave anything out that is a big deal to you. Also, be sure that when you are sure the plan is completed, you review it with your spouse or the person that will be supporting you through labor and delivery. There may be times where you are focused on a contraction or enjoying a moment of relaxation between contractions and that person might need to be your mouthpiece. Make sure they are on board with everything and are able to notice if something is not being done as specified on the plan without your consent!
- Keep things short. You don’t have to list out exactly why each decision is important to you–just list what it is you prefer. Make sure that you completely understand each and every thing you have listed on your plan, but don’t worry about explaining it! The medical staff is obviously trained well in this area and will know what it is your are talking about without an explanation. There will be many nurses and doctors to come and go throughout the duration of your hospital stay and they need to be able to glance quickly at your plan and have a good idea of your wants!
- Be respectful. While you want to remain quick and concise in your plan, you also want to make it very clear that these decisions are yours and that you have done your research and would like these decisions to be respected. Keep the language positive and let the medical staff know that you respect their opinions, but will not accept them attempting to change your mind.