Let’s begin with a statement that I repeat frequently for students and clients:
You can't control the outcome of your birth, but you can influence it.
Identifying your preferences and priorities, not strict planning, is what a birth plan is all about. A birth plan is not a step-by-step outline of how labor will progress. Instead, it's a helpful guide for discussing your values and goals for your birth with provider and labor support team.
Think of your birth plan as a tool for communication throughout your birth.
First, creating a birth plan opens up lines of communication with your provider: After creating a birth plan, speaking with your doctor or midwife about your preferences for birth creates a structured way for you to bring up what's important to you and gauge how supportive your provider will be and whether you and your provider are on the same page.
Next, a birth plan opens up communication with your birth team as you begin labor. Bringing your birth plan to the hospital with you allows you to easily share your preferences with the provider and nurses who are on call to support you.
But when should you create a birth plan? Who should be involved? And how can you create your own?
Let's dive into more detail.
Make sure to download our printable birth plan template to follow along!
When should you create a birth plan?
Most people choose to create a birth plan sometime during the second trimester of their pregnancy. However, you can develop one at any time.
Often, parents create a birth plan as they participate in a birth education class.
Throughout all Nona birth education courses, we develop a birth plan together as we learn about evidence-based practices. As you gather information during birth classes or other education, you'll be able to identify priorities to incorporate in your birth plan.
Who should be involved in creating a birth plan?
Usually, the pregnant parent can create their birth plan alone or with their partner according to their preferences and priorities for birth. Next, they can take their plan to their provider and use it as a guide to learn more about their providers's positions and beliefs surrounding birth practices and to learn about hospital policies and whether those conflict with your preferences.
[Related: Questions to ask your birth provider, plus a free download.]
How can you get started creating your own birth plan?
To get started creating your own birth plan, I recommend learning as much as you can about evidence-based birth practices.
What does evidence-based mean? Practices that have been studied and examined critically – for both their benefits and risks. When you combine this with provider expertise and patient values and goals, you have Evidence Based Care.
Next, outline your birth plan using the stages of labor as a guide. Within each stage, consider your personal top priorities and preferences for labor. Choosing only three or four priorities for each stage can help keep your plan focused and more likely to be read in the birth room.
For example for first stage you can state: "Please don't offer me pain medication. I will ask for medication if I need it." or "I plan to use various options for coping such as shower, birth ball, regular upright movements, and position changes."
For second stage you could state: "I prefer to push in an upright position of my choice" or "Please do not perform perineal massage, I prefer warm compresses".
For third stage you might state: "Please delay cord clamping until it has stopped pulsing." or "Please don't announce the sex, we would prefer to discover this for ourselves."
[Related: Learn about the stages of labor and birth.]
After you've created your birth plan, it's time to bring your birth plan to your provider and discuss each of your priorities. Will your doctor be supportive of your preferences? Does your doctor have experience with the priorities you identify? Make sure to ask lots of open ended questions.
And finally, bring your birth plan to the hospital with you when you go into labor to aid communication with the staff as your birth progresses.
Finally, remember that a birth plan is not a roadmap that guarantees the outcome of your birth.
Instead, it's a set of priorities and preferences that can help shape your experiences during labor.
If you're interested in learning more about evidence-based practices, take a look at our current class offerings to see which course is best for you. If you're not in the mid-Missouri area, we've created a page of recommended online resources for more reading.