Birth plans, ahhh, what a controversial topic! They really shouldn’t be. My opinion is that a birth plan is an incredibly valuable tool and every woman should bring one with them to the hospital. Having a birth plan usually means that women have researched what can happen during labour and birth. It also means they have come to a conclusion as to what they would like to happen in every possible scenario.
It’s true that every birth is different and technically there is no way to plan for it, but the birth plan makes it easier to know the woman’s true wishes.
The reality is that once you are in hospital, being taken care of by nurses and doctors, you are at risk of having multiple interventions that would never take place at home. Therefore it is important to be informed and educated on what can happen and try to make clear what it is you want for each possible scenario.
This blog post will cover what your birth plan should include. It might be helpful to use each heading in this post as a separate heading in your actual birth plan.
I’m not a huge fan of preprinted checklists, there are a bunch of them on google, but I find that when women use those they tend to be less thought out. That being said, a preprinted checklist birth plan is better than none at all!
For another great resource on Birth Plans, check out MomSmartNotHard’s post: The Three Part Birth Plan
Who is Allowed in the Room?
Your nurse has the power to remove anyone you do not want in the room.
Remember, this is your day!
Don’t compromise your wishes for someone else’s. If you don’t want your aunt’s best friend there, a good way to inform the hospital staff is to have it written in your birth plan.
It could be a good idea to include names and phone numbers of people you would like there, just so us nurses can contact your peeps when you are busy labouring.
It’s good to be specific.
You might want someone there during labour, but not for the actual birth.
What Interventions Would you like to Avoid?
And also, which ones are you ok with?
Examples include artificial rupture of membranes, oxytocin, episiotomy, epidural and vaginal exams. You have a choice!
Honestly, I often hear other nurses scoff at birth plans. I’ve heard other health care professionals say that women have no choice once they are in the hospital.
I would like to vehemently disagree with that statement.
This is your body and your birth, you have every right to ask questions and make informed decisions about your care.
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Unfortunately, sometimes you might feel less supported when you decline an intervention. Do not let that deter you from making decisions you feel are right for you and your baby.
You can also request another nurse if you feel you are not being respected.
Include information about how you would like to be induced, whether you would like to wait to start oxytocin after your waters have been broken to see if labour happens naturally, for example. Also, discuss medications you are ok with.
A lot of women put information about when they want the epidural.
A birth plan isn’t only for women who are delivering without pain meds!
You should talk about positions you’d like to try, and also about props such as a birthing ball, birthing stool or squatting bar.
What you’d like to Happen at Delivery?
Write out in your plan who you want to be present in the room when you’re pushing. Who do you want to support you?
It might not be the same people who were in the room during your labour.
Do you want a mirror to see what’s going on “down there” while you’re pushing? Would you like to try different positions while pushing?
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The birth plan should include information about whether you’d like to do skin-to-skin with your baby right after delivery.
Also, would you like your partner to cut the cord? Usually, the nurses and doctors offer this, but not always, so it’s good to know your options!
Also, your baby will receive Vitamin K (IM injection) and Erythromycin (eye ointment) shortly after birth.
You can delay this, so include it in your plan if you’d like to wait for the baby to get those medications.
Discuss your plans on how you want to feed your baby. If you’re planning on bottle feeding, this is a great spot to explain why.
It will decrease the number of times you’ll be asked by nurses and doctors why you aren’t breastfeeding.
Again, your birth plan is a great place to go into detail about your decisions, so that your care providers get to know you and your decision-making process. Your birth plan might spark discussions that might have not come up if they hadn’t been written down.
Special Requests or Information
You can include as much or as little information as you’d like, but sometimes it’s nice to have some extra information about you and your partner.
For example, what is your personality like?
How do you typically cope in difficult situations? Do you have a history of mental health issues like panic attacks? What triggers them?
Even though nurses and doctors do a pretty thorough interview on admission, it might happen that you come into the hospital in rip-roaring labour and then this section will come in handy when you’re not available to have a full-on conversation.
As a labour and delivery nurse, I appreciate any way I can get to know my patient better. The best way for me to be an advocate for you is to have information about you and know your preferences. That is how we can build a trusting nurse-patient relationship.
That is why birth plans are so important!
I am a firm believer in the power of positive presence. If you have a good rapport with your nurse, your whole process will go smoother.
It’s important to minimize the amount of negative energy in the birthing room.
A birth plan is the first step to clear communication to your health care team.
Make This is Your Experience
I don’t think nurses or doctors should be offended when they see women have a birth plan. I think they should view it as a positive thing. It means the patient has come well prepared and likely spent some time researching what it is like to give birth in the hospital.
I think it is awesome and that health care professionals should use that information to their advantage.
Did you bring a birth plan to your birth? What information was imperative? How did your caregivers react when you gave them your birth plan?
Please contact me and let me know what your experience was, I’d love to understand more about how women perceive the importance of birth plans and how they affected their experience.
Check out what to include in your C-section Birth Plan right here! Planning For Your C-Section. A Detailed Birth Plan.