This post was written by Allison Thorpe, CNM, Parkview Health.
A birth plan is a written document that discusses a mother’s preferences and desires for her birth experience. When a patient discusses her birth plan with her partner and care team in advance, it has been shown to increase her satisfaction with her delivery.
The birth plan should be used to facilitate communication between the mother and provider regarding patient desires, evidence-based care, and hospital policies and procedures. This discussion helps providers understand a patient’s cultural, as well as personal, values and helps patients set realistic expectations for their birth. Even if a patient does not choose to write a formal birth plan, it’s important for her to discuss her preferences with her provider at prenatal visits.
Where to begin
There are many options available to help patients write a birth plan, but even a simple checklist or bulleted list of preferences is a helpful tool to engage in those important conversations with your care team. It’s important to make sure that you and your partner have discussed the items as well.
Things typically addressed in a birth plan
- Plans for pain management during labor – Do you want no medication, IV medication or epidural
- Plans for a Doula for labor support
- Cultural and personal preferences that may include not being touched for comfort, keeping covered as much as possible, etc.
- How a patient prefers to handle various situations such as C-section, if it becomes needed
- Birth environment requests, such as calm and quiet, dim lights
- Desires for positioning/activity in labor and delivery such as hydrotherapy, walking, and options for delivery positioning such as birth stool, squatting, hands and knees
- Preference for baby care, including medication and circumcision
Things to keep in mind
From the perspective of a provider, it’s helpful to know what the patient desires, particularly if it is not considered a standard of care and routinely done for all patients.
The most important aspect of any birth plan is flexibility. Birth is an unpredictable experience, and at times plans may need to be adjusted to provide the mother and baby with the best care possible. Know that you are in good hands and try to enjoy the experience of bringing a baby into the world.