Birth plans are a terrific way to communicate your wishes for your baby’s birth and immediate postpartum care. Here are ways to make a carefully crafted plan that is more likely to succeed.
First, identify your values around childbirth and medical decision-making. Do you believe in more natural, plant-based remedies or do you prefer high-tech, Western drugs and medical tools? Are you proactive or reactive when seeking medical care? Do you prefer using as little treatment as possible or do you seek the maximum amount of treatment available?
Second, whenever asking for non-routine practices, clearly state WHAT you want and WHY you want it. For example, if you want to avoid immediate umbilical cord clamping, instead of listing “Delayed cord clamping, if possible”, say, “Please leave the cord unclamped until the placenta is out because I value a physiologic, unhurried 3rd stage.” Medical care providers are more likely to honor non-routine requests if they know your values, beliefs and reasons behind what you want. Always share your reasoning and values with your care provider for enhanced mutual trust, communication and collaboration.
Third, when considering what to include on your birth plan, know that the most useful information for medical care providers answers three parent-focused questions:
- What will you do to stay confident and feel safe?
- What will you do to find comfort in response to your contractions?
- Who will support you through labor and what do you need from them?
Your labor and delivery nurses can be a terrific advocate when they know the specifics about what you need to feel safe and how you plan to cope with your labor.
Parents who are active, well-supported participants in their own medical decision-making consistently report more satisfaction with their birth experiences and birth outcomes. Building a birth plan based on your values is a great way to ensure active, satisfying participation in your baby’s arrival.
More resources for building birth plans:
The Great Starts Guide: Excellent information on local hospital and out-of-hospital birth practices:
Identifying your medical mindset and medical decision-making values:
Penny Simkin’s Win-Win Birth Plan:
— By Kim James, ICCE, LCCE, BDT(DONA), instructor at Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations at Bastyr University