Birth Plans Are Good Guides for Moms-to-Be and Their Health Care Providers

Women's Health Update

A pregnant woman can have a lot on her mind leading up to the day of the baby’s birth.

One step a mom-to-be can take to help feel like she has some control over her wants and needs being met during the labor and delivery process is to create a birth plan, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Your birth plan can include information about your birthing room, labor and delivery, pain relief, right after delivery, and postpartum care.

It’s good to work out details of what you would like to include in your birth plan early on in your pregnancy so you have time to review your wishes with your health care provider, according to the NIH. By reviewing the plan, your provider will be able to help you know how the plan fits with both hospital regulations and your personal health needs.

Some things you might want to consider adding to your birth plan, according to the NIH and the American Pregnancy AssociationOff Site Icon (APA), include:

Birthing room

  • Do you want anyone in the room during labor?
  • Do you want to have music playing?
  • Do you want to wear your own clothing?
  • Should anyone be kept out of the room during labor and/or delivery?
  • Who do you want to be present for the birth?
  • Will you request a mirror to watch the birth?

Labor and delivery

  • Do you want to be able to move around or stay in bed?
  • How do you feel about assisted delivery, for example, the use of forceps or vacuum?
  • How do you feel about fetal monitoring?
  • What do you prefer for pain relief during contractions, such as breathing exercises, cold packs, a balance ball or a tub?
  • What positions do you think you want to use during labor and birth?
  • Who do you want to cut the umbilical cord?
  • Will you want any treatment to move the labor along faster?
  • Would you be willing to have an episiotomy?
  • Would you like to have a focal point?

Pain relief

  • Do you want to take pain medication? 
  • Have you decided whether you do or do not want an epidural?
  • If you need a cesarean, do you have special requests about pain management, recovery, etc?

After delivery

  • Are you planning to breastfeed, bottle-feed, or both?
  • Do you plan to save or donate the cord blood?
  • Do you want to hold your baby as soon as he or she is born? Or do you want the baby to be cleaned and clothed first?
  • Do you want your baby to stay in your hospital room with you or in the nursery?
  • How do you want to bond with your baby right after birth?

Postpartum care

  • Do you want a lactation consultant to help with breastfeeding?
  • If you have a boy, do you want the baby circumcised during the hospital stay?

It’s important not to feel overwhelmed, even though there are a lot of decisions to make about how you hope for the birth of your child will go, according to the APA.

Also, remember that no matter how planned out you have your baby’s birth day, many parts of your birth plan could have to change at the last minute for reasons affecting your health and your baby’s health, according to the NIH.

Think of your birth plan as a guide that you and your healthcare provider have agreed on. Your provider might need to change parts of the plan, or you might decide you want to change parts of the plan, as you progress through labor and on to delivery, according to the APA.

For more information about birth plans, talk with your doctor or find a physician