Tips on Writing a Birth Plan

Here are some things to consider when writing a birth plan:

Some people like birth plans, others feel it’s too restrictive.  If you’ve thought about what you want and talked with your provider and feel comfortable that everyone’s on the same page and you just want to go with the flow, please do!  If it feels better for you to have things organized on paper rather than in your brain, here are some tips to help you along!

  • Know your options – They say if you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.  Research different elements of labor, birth, and postpartum.  A great place to start is to read The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer and Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper
  • Keep it brief – No hospital staff is willing to read a 20-page manifesto!  Keep it simple and use bullets or numbers.
  • Prioritize – There are so many things you might want in your birth but choose the few that really mean a lot to you, ie, keeping the baby with you skin-to-skin after birth.  Don’t put things in your birth plan that you know aren’t allowed, for example if the hospital doesn’t allow waterbirth, it won’t mean much that it’s in your plan.
  • Use positive language – No one wants to deal with a belligerent person!  Instead of “We don’t want the baby taken away” say “We prefer the baby to be examined on mom’s chest and to stay skin-to-skin as long as possible”
  • Separate wishes into categories – By organizing the list into “Labor”, “Birth”, “Postpartum”, and “Newborn Care” staff can easily find what your wishes are.
  • Talk with your Partner – It’s important you’re on the same page
  • Show the plan to everyone involved – Make sure your midwife/OB/doula know what your wishes are and can respect them.  If they can’t respect a vital point, it may be time to find a new care provider.  Remember, it’s never too late to make a change that could mean a world of difference to your birth!
  • Find out about waivers – See if you need to sign waivers to decline something in hospital/birth center policy.  For example, you may need to sign a waiver if you don’t want eye drops for the baby because you don’t, say, have a venereal disease.
  • Have care providers sign the plan – Keep the plan in your chart and carry one with you in your bag if it makes you feel more at ease.
  • BE FLEXIBLE! – Everyone has an idea of their ideal birth but it’s important to be flexible if something unexpected happens.  The main point is that you feel respected and consulted at every twist and turn of labor and birth.
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