Jana Brand, C.N.P.
Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB-GYN), Prenatal Care
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If a baby is in your future, you've likely been planning — stocking up on diapers, newborn clothes and blankets, as well as considering what you'll name your new little one. Before your baby is born, you should create a plan leading up to the delivery and immediately following the birth. This is known as a birth plan, and it's an important piece of two-way communication between you and your health care team.
Review this Q&A to learn more about birth plans and considerations to help you design a plan to best meet your needs:
Why is a birth plan necessary?
A birth plan is a way for you to communicate your wishes to your health care team during your labor and after the birth of your baby. Each birth is a unique experience.
Creating a birth plan empowers you to become informed of all your options during labor. At the same time, it's a tool to let the team caring for you know about your preferences.
Do you need to write your own birth plan?
You don't have to create your birth plan from scratch. Many hospitals have a standard form or booklet you can complete at your convenience.
It's recommended to review your birth plan with your primary health care professional during your pregnancy. For example, if your pregnancy is high risk, your health care team may recommend certain things on your birth plan. It's a good idea to have this conversation before you arrive at the hospital for the delivery.
What needs to be included in the birth plan?
Although you may have in your mind how you want your baby's birth to be, your choices may not be shared effectively with your health care team if you don't have a birth plan.
Some questions you may answer in your birth plan include:
- Who do you want present in the delivery room?
- Do you want to be offered medication for pain management? If so, what type of medication?
- Do you want a natural birth and to use alternate measures for comfort?
- Do you want to move freely during labor?
- Do you want to use hydrotherapy?
- Do you want your baby continuously monitored?
These are just a few items that can be included in your birth plan.
After the baby is born, how do you indicate your preferences?
A birth plan does not end with the delivery of your new baby. The care team will want to know how you want your baby to be cared for in the hospital. For example, explain who will cut the umbilical cord, change the baby's first diaper and give the baby his or her first bath.
In addition, the birth plan can indicate how you wish to feed your baby. Identifying breast milk or formula as a nutritional preference is an important item for your birth plan. Religious or cultural preferences should be included in your plan as well.
Make your plan adaptive
Your birth plan is tailored to meet your personal wishes. Keep in mind, your health care team may need to depart from the plan to ensure the safest possible delivery. The goal during delivery is to have a healthy mom and a healthy baby. Your birth plan can help communicate your preferences to the care team during one of the most exciting times of your life.