As much as you might wish to plan your labor and baby’s birth down to the exact detail, we must also learn to listen and respond to the needs of the moment. It’s wise, however, to approach your birth with thoughtfulness about your birthing preferences. Enter the written “birth plan” or “birth preferences.” Think of it less as a script and more as a communication tool between you and your care providers about your desires and values.
Drafting a Birth Plan
Click to see our template or feel free to create your own. Here are some tips for writing your birth plan. You may already know your preferences. If not, drafting your birth preferences will require you to do some research, and that’s a good thing! Check out the Lamaze 6 birth practices for ideas.
Tip: Keep your birth plan to one page, with bullet-pointed information divided by stage of labor, so nurses and care providers can find the necessary information quickly. Include:
- An introduction: Set the scene with a brief sentence or two about your family, your overall desires for the birth, and who else other than you and your partner will attend the birth.
- Laboring and Pushing: How do you prefer your labor to begin? Do you want to stay out of bed, push spontaneously, feel free to move, and eat as desired? Do you want a water birth?
- Comfort Measures: Perhaps you want to labor in the water, plan to use Hypnobirthing or Hypnobabies, or want to specify your desire for a dim room and soft voices. List your desire to move freely, any pain medication preferences, and if your doula will be present.
- Spinning Babies® Approach: In early labor or before, talk to your birth team — especially your midwife or doctor — about techniques or information you have from Spinning Babies® that may help your labor be more comfortable and smooth. We have prepared a useful chart of labor techniques that you can show your birth team.
- In Case of Surgical Birth: List the support people you want with you (partner, doula), whether you’d like baby skin-to-skin in the operating room, and if you’d like a clear drape to see baby’s birth.
- Immediate postpartum: What are your preferences for cord cutting/waiting, skin-to-skin immediacy, length of time before weighing and bathing, options such as Vitamin K, eye ointment, and vaccines, and whether you’re saving your placenta for encapsulation or other personal reasons.
Sharing your Birth Plan
Ask if you can schedule a longer appointment or a separate normal appointment to talk about your preferences. It’s good to have this conversation sometime between 35 and 37 weeks. Bring a printed copy of your birth preferences, as well as your partner and doula as a way to bring your birth team together. Talk about using the techniques recommended on SpinningBabies.com. Bring a copy or download version of Spinning Babies® Quick Reference for your provider to see or use in your labor.
Some parents worry about the provider’s reaction if they offer their own suggestions. While the doctor or midwife may have questions about your requests, most are willing to find a way to meet your needs while fulfilling their medical duties. You can influence many of the decisions about your care by communicating directly, rather than hoping they “get it right.” Don’t be afraid to speak up.
Tip: Download the guide 12 Steps to Safe and Respectful MotherBaby-Family Maternity Care, written by the International Childbirth Initiative (ICI).
Affirmations are short, powerful statements that can affect your conscious thoughts. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and slowly, and repeat the following to yourself each day throughout the next week. Fill yourself with breath and feel the joy: