Preparing for the arrival of a new baby can be exciting and overwhelming. Whether it’s your first or fourth child, it’s easy to have a mental picture of what your perfect delivery looks like. But perfect isn’t always possible. There may be some decisions that have to be made in an instant – just when a mother is least prepared or able to make them.
That’s why establishing a birth plan in the months leading up to delivery is helpful. A solid birth plan can help you feel more prepared and confident, ensuring your loved ones and all of the members on your delivery team know how to best support you through this process.
What Is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is a list – sometimes written, sometimes mental – of a mom-to-be’s wishes and care preferences for labor and delivery. Birth plans are a vehicle for open communication between expectant mothers, their families, and the medical team that will be assisting them during the birth. Most importantly, birth plans are an opportunity to discuss your needs and express any concerns you may have before you’re on the way to the hospital.
Checklist: What Should Be Included in Your Birth Plan?
It isn’t difficult to find unsolicited opinions regarding your labor and delivery choices, but your birth plan should be focused on the choices that are right for you. If you are uncertain about some of these decisions, it is best to speak openly about your concerns with your doula, midwife and/or primary care provider to ensure that you are getting trustworthy information.
Natural Birth vs. Medicated Birth– Around 40% of all births are natural, or, un-medicated. While there is some debate around the topic of natural birth, the goal is always to bring a healthy baby into the world. Your preferences about natural birth should be one of the first items communicated in your birth plan.
Medications – Any restrictions, allergies or preferences for medications should be included in your birth plan. When in doubt, your doctor will be able to advise you on the safest options for you and baby.
Pain Relief – For those who wish to give birth without the use of an epidural or other medicinal relief aids, there are several other pain relief options to consider. At Washington Hospital, expectant mothers are offered exercise balls and encouraged to walk around in order to offer relief while promoting labor. Massage and other manual therapies can be incorporated between contractions to help ease the pains of labor. If you are adamantly against using an epidural, your health care team can be asked to avoid mentioning this option when the day comes in order to help you avoid temptation.
Afterbirth Options – Some routine care and preventative measures like Hepatitis B vaccinations and antibiotic eye drops will be carried out for your baby shortly after birth.
During the first few moments of your baby’s life, at Washington Hospital, you can expect:
- Immediate skin-to-skin contact between baby and mom to help with maternal bonding
- Delaying cord clamping to promote as much blood transfer from the placenta as possible
Understandably, your expectations for the big event may be high. But it is best to keep these plans brief, and straightforward. Think of the aspects of your birth experience that will be most impactful for you and your baby.
It’s important to remember that diverting from your birth plan during labor is completely normal. Labor can be unpredictable, and it is highly realistic to anticipate sudden changes to your birth plan if the situation calls for it. Rest assured, in the event of an emergency like an unexpected Cesarean birth or other complications, your doctors and nurses will fully explain the circumstances and will do all they can to respect your wishes while keeping you and your baby safe.
Help for Expectant Families
There are a variety of online birth plan templates available, but creating your birth plan can be as simple as talking through your options with your doctor during pre-delivery appointments. If you have a written birth plan, present it to your doctor in advance so that it can be shared with the nursing staff. That way, when the moment arrives, your birth plan is accessible before you even get to the hospital.
At Washington Hospital, we support moms and families throughout their pregnancy journeys. We are one of the only hospitals in the Bay Area that offer families the opportunity to have a pre-admission interview in the birthing center so that the necessary long list of questions regarding medical and family history, cultural preferences, and other expectations can be completed prior to admission. At this appointment, (called a Pre-delivery Appointment), expectant mothers can share their birth plan and get answers to any additional questions or concerns.
From prenatal parenting classes to lactation support, we believe information is reassurance. In addition to the planning materials and support services, our dedicated delivery nurses stay with moms-to-be throughout the labor process supporting their birth plans, disseminating important information and advocating for their needs.