How to Write a Birth Plan

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Need help on how to write a birth plan?

You may have already heard the term birth plan.  It’s a document that is drafted by the expecting parents about how they plan on having their birth go.

But the thing is birth often doesn’t follow our plans, so it is good to look at all possible outcomes and our preferences if things shouldn’t follow our perfect plan.

This is why I like to use the phrase “birth preferences” more than birth plans.  For me, this includes all everything that you’d like your birth to be like and also your preferences if things go differently then the plan.   It also lets the medical staff know that you understand that birth isn’t in your control and are open to their professional and medical opinions. So here are a few tips on creating your most effective birth preferences:

 

  • Start out your letter with a paragraph that thanks them for their care and attention to your desires. Don’t just jump into the “I WANT” and “I DON’T WANT”.
  • Be careful with your choice of words.  If you write your birth plan, or birth preferences, boldly and say that you don’t want a certain intervention, it can come across that you not being open to medical advice and also naive in the fact that medical emergencies do happen.  Remember, this is your birth team, treat them as members of that team! Let your preferences be known but make sure your words are welcoming.  For example “I would prefer to avoid pain medication so I ask not to be offered an epidural” or “unless medically necessary please avoid using Pitocin after birth” instead of “don’t mention an epidural to me” or “I do not want any Pitocin, even after birth”.
  • Do your research! Find out what your doctor and your hospital does as routine care and what they don’t.
  • Only add things that aren’t routine care that you are hoping to have done. Things like delayed cord clamping and immediate skin to skin have become routine in many hospitals so don’t take up valuable page space, or take up doctor’s time, with this request.
  • Request for nurses that support your way of birth – for example, some nurses are much better at supporting women who have a natural birth and everyone on the nurse floor know who those nurses are.
  • Keep it short! No more than one page and have bullet points so they don’t have to search for what you are wanting to say.
  • Make anything that is VERY important to you in bold letters so it stands out. For example, some parents keep the gender of the baby a surprise and want the parents to find out when the baby is placed on mom’s chest and it is really important to them that the doctor or nurse doesn’t mention the gender until the parents discover it for themselves.
  • Keep in mind that things may not go the way you plan – so plan for that! Write about your preferences for a cesarean birth in case you have one.
  • Ask to take time to discuss any interventions with your birth team before taking action if it isn’t a medical emergency. This way you can look at all the angles and make the best decision for you and your baby.

My last tip is this:

Bring in copies of your birth preferences along with a gift to the nurses.

I always carry a box of chocolates in my doula bag that I gift to the nurses.  Don’t forget shift changes! It’s always a good idea to let them know you see them as part of the team – you are working together to make this a great experience for all of you!

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