October 03, 2022

What Is a Birth Plan?

birth plan

A birth plan is something you create to communicate your wishes about your labor and the time after your baby is born. It’s meant to inform your care team and others, but it also helps you gather your thoughts about this very important day and the following days. 

Birth plans aren’t required, so you shouldn’t feel pressured to create one. But it can be reassuring to have one in place before you go into labor and to know that everyone involved is aware of your preferences.     

Using a Birth Plan Template

If you’re wondering what to include in a birth plan, the good news is that you don’t have to “start from scratch.” You can find many birth plan examples online. Your doctor or the hospital where you’ll deliver may also have informational booklets or forms you can review to get ideas for your personalized birth plan.  

General Information and Birth Plan Questions to Consider

Some of the personal information you should document and birth plan questions you should consider in creating yours are noted below.

General information

  • Your name
  • Your support person’s name
  • Where you plan to give birth
  • Due date or induction date
  • Doctor’s or other practitioner’s name
  • Your important health factors
  • How you plan to deliver
  • Who your birth team includes

During labor

  • Do you want to eat and drink during labor if your practitioner allows it?
  • Do you want to move around during labor or primarily stay in bed?
  • How do you want to labor (In water? With an exercise ball? Etc.)
  • What environmental conditions do you want for the room where you labor (lighting, music, etc.)?
  • Will your partner take photos or videos?
  • Do you want to use a specific birthing position?
  • Are there other labor preferences you want to share with your care team?

Medical intervention

  • Is artificial rupture of the membranes acceptable to you, or would you prefer that your care team leave membranes intact for as long as possible?
  • Do you want external and internal electronic fetal monitoring? Intermittent fetal monitoring? Doppler fetal monitoring?
  • Is the use of IVs, enemas, or catheters acceptable to you?
  • How do you feel about the use of oxytocin to induce or increase labor contractions?
  • Do you want an episiotomy (an incision in the perineum and posterior vaginal wall that can aid in delivery) if your doctor recommends it, or would you prefer natural tearing?
  • Do you have a preference regarding the use of vacuum extraction or forceps to assist in the birth?
  • Are there other medical intervention preferences you want to share with your care team?

Pain management and comfort measures

  • Do you expect to want pain management medication? If so, what measures are acceptable to you?
  • Do you want additional comfort measures during labor like acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, etc.? 
  • Are there other pain management and comfort measure preferences you want to share with your care team?

During delivery

  • Do you want to see your baby crown using a mirror?
  • Do you want your partner to help “catch” your baby?
  • Do you want your partner to cut the umbilical cord or assist with suctioning your baby’s mouth and nose?
  • Are there other delivery preferences you want to share with your care team?

In the event of a C-section

  • Do you want to be conscious?
  • Do you want to view your baby emerging through a clear drape?
  • Do you want one arm free of medical devices so you can hold your baby immediately? 
  • Do you want to breastfeed as soon as possible?
  • Are there other C-section preferences you want to share with your care team?

Newborn care

  • Do you want to hold your baby immediately after birth or allow them time to creep from belly to breast?
  • Do you want to breastfeed immediately?
  • Do you want to have a lactation consultant available?
  • May the care team give your baby vitamin K and an antibiotic eye treatment?
  • Do you want to bank or donate the cord blood? 
  • Do you plan to keep your placenta to take home?
  • Would you prefer that your baby have breast milk only, or may nurses give them formula? 
  • May the care team offer your baby a pacifier?
  • Do you want your baby to room with you, or can they sleep in the nursery? 
  • Do you want your baby boy to be circumcised?
  • Are there other newborn care preferences you want to share with your care team?

These are just some of the many considerations for your labor and post-labor experience. Thinking about and discussing them with your partner and care team in advance means you don’t need to focus on them during labor when the physical and mental requirements can be all-consuming. 

Birth Plans and Flexibility

A carefully considered birth plan is a strong foundation for a positive birth experience. But it’s also important to be flexible. Your goals and preferences may change as labor begins and progresses or after your baby arrives, and that’s OK! 

For example, you might state a preference for not having pain medication but then experience particularly intense discomfort and realize that it’s in your best interest and that of your baby to accept medication. 

Medical necessity may also require your care team to deviate from your birth plan. If there are concerns about your health or your baby’s, it’s essential to address them in ways proven to be most effective in producing positive outcomes. 

Discuss Birth Plans with Your Baptist Health Care Team

If you have questions about whether creating a birth plan is right for you, where to get a birth plan template, or what to include in yours, our maternity care experts are happy to talk with you. Their goal, like yours, is for you to have a positive birth experience! Our team wants to help you and your baby enjoy a happy, healthy start to the next phase of your journey.   

Learn More.