What is a Birth Plan and Do I Need One?

Posted at 12:10 PM on Mar 7, 2024

Northwest Family Clinic – What is a Birth Plan

As a group of family doctors, with many of us who practice OB, we have guided countless expectant mothers through their pregnancy journey, addressing concerns, offering advice, and ensuring the healthiest outcomes for both mother and child. A common topic that arises as the due date approaches is the concept of a birth plan. Let us explain what a birth plan is and if it’s right for you.

What is a Birth Plan?

A birth plan lays out your preferences for your labor and delivery experience. It's a way to communicate your wishes and expectations to those who will be supporting you during childbirth. The plan can include a variety of topics, such as where you will deliver, pain management options, labor positions, delivery room preferences, who you'd like present during the birth, and how you'd like your baby cared for immediately after delivery, including desired newborn procedures.

The Purpose of a Birth Plan

The primary purpose of a birth plan is to clearly lay out how you would like the birthing process to go when the time comes. It serves as a conversation starter with your doctor, helping you to explore and understand the various aspects of labor and delivery. It also ensures that anyone involved in your delivery is aware of your preferences, which can be particularly helpful in a hospital setting where you might meet multiple caregivers.

Do I Need a Birth Plan?

Whether or not you need a birth plan is a personal decision. Here are some considerations to help you decide:

  • If you have strong feelings about certain aspects of your labor and delivery, a birth plan can be an effective way to communicate those wishes clearly and concisely.
  • The process of creating a birth plan can be educational, prompting you to research and understand the various options and interventions that may be proposed during labor.
  • It's important to approach your birth plan with flexibility. Childbirth can be unpredictable, and while a birth plan outlines your preferences, medical considerations may necessitate deviations from the plan for the safety of you and your baby.

Birth Plan - What to Include

What to Include in Your Birth Plan

A birth plan can be as detailed or as simple as you like. Some common elements to consider include:

  • Labor Preferences: Include your wishes regarding mobility during labor, the use of pain relief (such as epidurals, nitrous oxide, or natural pain management techniques), and positions for labor and delivery.
  • Atmosphere: You may want to specify the environment you'd prefer, such as dim lighting, specific music, or the presence of a doula.
  • Interventions: State your preferences on interventions like the use of forceps, vacuum extraction, or episiotomy.
  • After Birth: Include your wishes for immediate skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding initiation, vaccinations, newborn medications, and/or circumcision.

Discussing Your Birth Plan with Your Doctor

If your doctor has not already brought up the discussion of a birth plan now is the time to ask during your next visit. This discussion can help ensure that your wishes are understood and feasible for your unique pregnancy and the hospital's policies. Your doctor can offer valuable insights and advice, helping to align your expectations with the realities of the birthing process. If you don’t have your next visit scheduled, book today!