At Gentle Journeys Birthing, we are all about empowering through education. One of the most frequent questions we get is, “How do I write an effective birth plan?” Writing an effective birth plan can be easy and getting it read is a different story so we’ve got a few tips and tricks to share.

First, lets change our wording a bit. Instead of calling it a “birth plan”, lets call it our “birth preferences”. Plans can often go awry and if we are attached to a plan and one little detail of that plan changes, its very easy to throw the whole thing out the window. When we change the wording to ‘preference’, if things change it can be much easier mentally to ‘stay on track’ or get close to our preferences.

At Gentle Journeys Birthing, we are all about empowering through education. One of the most frequent questions we get is, “How do I write an effective birth plan?” Writing an effective birth plan can be easy and getting it read is a different story so we’ve got a few tips and tricks to share.

First, lets change our wording a bit. Instead of calling it a “birth plan”, lets call it our “birth preferences”. Plans can often go awry and if we are attached to a plan and one little detail of that plan changes, its very easy to throw the whole thing out the window. When we change the wording to ‘preference’, if things change it can be much easier mentally to ‘stay on track’ or get close to our preferences.

The other thing that is supper important to do before you start to write is to figure out your birth philosophy. This doesn’t need to be complicated (and require a 4 year degree) but sitting down to think about what you believe about birth can be very helpful. Do you believe that medical interventions were created for a reason and doctors know best? Do you believe that your body and your baby know exactly how to birth? Are you somewhere in the middle of the road where you know your body was built for birth and you would like your care provider to be on your team and consult as needed?

Now we are ready to start thinking of more specifics for this birth. Here are a few questions you could start with:
1. Where do I want to give birth? (This will help you determine who your audience is.)
2. Have you chosen a midwife or an OB and what is their ‘birth philosophy’? (What will be ‘standard practice’ to them can help you determine what details need to go on your birth plan.)
3. Who will be attending your birth with you? (a partner, doula, chiropractor, photographer, family?)
4. What does your ideal birth look like? (think about the environment, positioning, interactions with staff…)
5. What are your “important things”?

Once you have a good understanding of how you would like your birth to go, you are ready to put pen to paper! Here are my 4 tips for actually getting your birth preferences read and understood:

1. Make it 1 page – Nobody wants to read a book in a busy l&d floor.
2. Add a picture of your family – it makes you easy to identify and it personalizes you.
3. Make it bullet-ed and easy to read (grouped by timeline) – in a typical hospital, you’ve got about 30-60 seconds to get your point across. It is usually easier to group your preferences by “first stage”, “second stage”, “third stage”, and “baby care”. Consider putting all of you baby care preferences on a separate sheet as it will go to a separate nurse.
4. Say what you WANT and not what you don’t want. – The mind does not hear no’s and don’ts because all it can focus on is the thing you are saying you don’t want. Say what you want so it is clear to everyone.

One final note. Some hospitals are going to “form” birth plans. The rational is so that the staff can easily find the information they need. It is a good step in the right direction but still flawed so if you choose to complete a hospital checklist, consider who wrote the checklist in the first place and read it CAREFULLY! Just because an options isn’t listed on their form doesn’t mean it isn’t an option. Also consider writing your own birth preference in addition to the hospital provided form. The most powerful thing about writing a birth plan is not how you communicate but what you communicate. To do that, you need to know what you want first. Remember, the first step in getting your idea birth is to know what you want!

So there you have it! For your convenience, I’ve included a few templates below. These are starting points so please take what you like and leave the rest!

Additional questions to consider:

-“Who do I want to be with my during my birth?” Think about who you want in the room with you, who you may want available (if anyone), and what the hospital policy (if applicable) is on visitors. Also consider if you want continuous support and from whom. (For example – who would you like to be with you during an epidural or a c-section.)

– “Do I want pictures and/or video taken at any time during my birth? during pushing? during bonding?” Do you want to hire a photographer? Is this something your doula can do? When would you like pictures and video taken? What is the hospital policy (if applicable) regarding photography? (some hospitals will not ‘allow’ video of the second stage/pushing.)

– “Do I want to be able to move and eat freely as I wish?” This is usually not an issue at home births but some hospitals have policy against this so please check with your care provider.

– What is your care providers policy on IV fluids vs an INT/hep lock? Is that something you agree with and consent to? What are the benefits, risks and options?

– Would you like to wear your own clothes?

– Do you prefer to have only limited vaginal exams? Do you prefer to know or not know cervical dilation when a vaginal exam is done?

– Consider if you would like the nurses to ask you about pain relief options or even converse with you if not necessary. If you are using Hypnobabies, consider adding a line like, “I will be using Hypnobabies and will be in Hypnosis throughout my birth. Please speak only in the positive!”

– Would you like to use a mirror to see the birth of your baby?

-Would you or your partner like to help catch your baby? Your care provider would still be present and would usually have theie hands right under yours or your partners.

-Do you want Dad/partner to cut the umbilical cord? Will you bank the cord blood? Is you card provider comfortable with doing both? Would you like to wait to cut the cord and for how long?

– Are you planning on keeping your placenta? Let your care provider know ahead of time if you are.

– Would you like to do immediate skin-to-skin and breastfeed within the first hour?

– Does your care provider administer routine oxytocin (Pitocin) during the third stage and is that something you would like?

 

Please remember that these are just samples. Please take what you like and leave the rest. During the course of your pregnancy, if at any time you feel uncomfortable with your care provider, please understand that they are working for you. At any point in the pregnancy you can switch providers if you are not comfortable with your current provider. Please feel free to call me to discuss this further.