Birth plans are guides that parents-to-be make to help their health care providers best support them you induring your labor and delivery. There are lot of things to consider before you make a birth plan. This is a great opportunity for you to educate yourself about the various practices, procedures, pain relief methods, and other options that are available during childbirth.
Your birth plan can be very specific or very open. For example, some women know they want to try to have an unmedicated, or "natural," childbirth, and others know they absolutely do not want to have unmedicated childbirth. Most want to explore their options and see how their own labor is going before making these decisions.
It is important to share your birth plan with your doctor or midwife well before your delivery date.
Do you want to try to give birth without pain medicine, or do you want medicine for pain relief? Would you like to have an epidural for pain relief during labor?
Would you like to be able to labor in a tub or shower, if allowed, at the hospital?
How can your labor coach or partner help soothe your pain?
What to Bring to the Hospital
What do you want to bring to your labor and delivery? Music? Lights? Pillows? Photos? Make a list of items you want to bring with you.
Do you want to film the birth of your baby? If so, check with the hospital ahead of time. Some hospitals have rules about video-recording births.
Who Will Be in the Room
Who do you want to be with you during labor? During delivery?
Will you include your other children? In-laws and grandparents?
Is there anyone you want kept out of the room?
Do you want your partner or coach to be with you the entire time? What do you want your partner or coach to do for you?
Delivering the Baby
Is there one birthing position you prefer over others?
How do you feel about the use of stirrups to brace your legs? If you do not want to use stirrups, who will hold your legs when you push?
Would you like to have a mirror so you can see your baby being delivered?
Do you have strong feelings about assisted delivery (the use of forceps or vacuum extraction)?
If you have to have a Cesarean section (C-section), do you want your coach or partner to be with you during the surgery?
Right after Your Baby Is Delivered
Who do you want to cut the umbilical cord?
Do you want to hold your baby as soon as it is born, or do you want the baby washed and clothed first?
Do you have wishes about how to bond with your baby after it is born?
Are you planning to breastfeed? If so, how do you feel about having your baby stay in your room after delivery?
Would you like to avoid pacifiers or supplements, unless ordered by your baby’s doctor?
Do you want anyone from the hospital to help you with breastfeeding? Would you like someone to talk to you about bottle feeding and other baby care issues?
Do you want a male baby to be circumcised (extra foreskin removed from penis)?
Take time to think about your choices. Write them down. Talk to your partner as you make your birth plan, as well as your doctor or midwife.
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Patterson DA, Matus CD, Curtis J. Vaginal delivery. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC, eds. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap 177.
Rosenthal TM. Episiotomy and repair of the perineum. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC, eds. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap 166.
Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.