Guide to Birth Plans and How to Write One
If you’re getting closer to your due date, you may have heard about birth plans and may be thinking: do I really need a birth plan? If you’re not sure how to write one, or even what a birth plan really is, this post is for you.
I’ll cover the details on the purpose of birth plans, the different types, and how to create one (or where to find great pre-made plans and templates).
What Birth Plans Are (and Are Not)
Birth plans are a way to communicate your wishes for labor, birth, and after, in writing, to the doctors and nurses on staff during your delivery.
Since labor can be chaotic and overwhelming, it can be a great idea to have something written down to share — allowing you to not have to tell everyone in the moment what you’d like, or to have to try to remember those wishes.
Birth plans are not a guarantee. It’s likely that your birth will not go the way you envision it all, so while writing out a birth plan can be a great way to prepare yourself for delivery, it’s also a good idea to not get too tied down to your plan.
Here’s an example from my own first delivery experience: I really wanted to be able to move around during labor, and went in open to an epidural, but hoping to go without pain meds at all.
Instead, when we arrived at the hospital, there was an issue with my baby’s heart rate, and I was forced to stay in bed while they monitored him. This made the pain much less tolerable, and led to me asking for an epidural much earlier on than I’d ever thought or planned.
So the key here? Know what you want, but manage your expectations and be ready to be flexible.
In the end, the medical professionals will try to do what is best for you and your baby’s health, and that means your plans may have to be put to the side.
Related Reading: Pregnancy To-Do List for the First Trimester
How to Create Your Birth Plan
Birth plans are generally organized into three sections: Labor, Delivery, and Post-Natal/Newborn Care.
Step one? Do your research! Think about your preferences and talk to your doctor – if you haven’t already – to make sure you’re on the same page about your care.
For example, if you are worried about being coerced into having a c-section, talk to your doctor about the c-section rate at their practice and at the hospital you’ll be delivering at.
You’ll also want to do research on the actual hospital or birthing center and their policies. Find out what procedures or care they require and what kind of facilities they have available. Do they have birthing balls or tubs? Do they encourage skin-to-skin right after birth? Is baby required to stay in your room overnight or is the nursery an option?
What to Actually Put In Your Birth Plan
American Pregnancy has a great, comprehensive list of questions to consider, but here are some of the questions and topics I covered in my own birth plan:
- Do you prefer to move around during labor or are you ok with staying relatively stationary?
- What’s your plan for pain meds? Do you plan to go natural? Do you want to be offered medication or do you want to request it on your own?
- What kind of environment do you prefer during delivery? Quiet and dark? Do you want a lot of vocal encouragement?
- Do you want to give birth in a position other than on your back?
- How do you feel about episiotomies? Last resort only?
- Do you want to delay cord clamping? Who’s cutting the cord?
- Do you prefer immediate skin-to-skin with your baby after delivery? Does your hospital support this, or do they require newborn exams to be done right away?
- Do you want to give your baby their first bath or are you ok with the nurses doing this?
This is just a sample of the topics you can cover! You can make it as comprehensive as you wish, because it’s your plan, but always keep your expectations in check and know that everything may not go as you’ve envisioned.
Related Reading: How to Get Your Newborn to Sleep
Types of Birth Plans
Ok, so now that we’ve covered the basics of what a birth plan is, let’s talk about the types of plans you can create. There are two main ways to write a birth plan:
Option 1: Make a Visual Plan
Visual plans are just at as they sound – a plan that is made up of mainly pictures, with a short description to illustrate the photo.
These are great, because they are much easier to read and digest quickly. Here’s a look at what a portion of my own visual birth plan looked like:
How to Create a Visual Birth Plan
There are a ton of different templates online that allow you to build a visual birth plan yourself. You can also purchase one on sites like Etsy, for a pretty low price. Here are some good options:
- Healing Homes – Build Your Own Birth Plan
- Mama Natural’s Free Customizable Plan
- Magnolia Mama’s Design – Customizable Visual Plan
- Visual Birth Planner – Easy, customizable visual plan
If you want to create a plan from scratch, it’s fairly easy to do in a program like Powerpoint. Here’s a few easy steps I took to create one there.
STEP 1: Create a new document
STEP 2: Skip the header slide and create a new slide. In the menu, click on “Insert” and then “New Slide.” If it doesn’t create the slide automatically, choose the “Title and Content” slide format.
STEP 3: Use the “Title” section to put in your personal information: Name, Support Person’s Name, Doula, etc.. This is also where you’ll want to write a very short summary about the type of birth you’ve planned for (Natural/No-Meds, V-Bac, etc.) and any other important info/preferences you want the doctors and nurses to know.
STEP 4: The larger content box is where you’ll make your actual visual birth plan. You can add a pre-made set of boxes that will allow you put in a photo and a text description beneath it.
Go to “Insert,” then select “SmartArt.” Select “Picture” and choose the template you would like to use. The “Captioned Pictures”, “Picture Grid,” and “Bending Picture Caption List” are just a few options that would work well for a visual birth plan.
STEP 5: Add as many boxes as you would like and start adding in your short text description and photos.
Option 2: Write it Out
Your other option is to write out a traditional one or two pager version of a birth plan. It communicates the same information as a visual plan, but is just text.
As with the visual plan, you’ll want to have a header section with mom’s name, partner and/or support person’s name, and your due date. You can also include your doctor’s name, doula’s name, and the name of your hospital or birthing center. Finish the header section off with a short paragraph about your preferences for delivery.
You can sort the plan into three sections to make it a little more digestible and organized:
- Newborn Care/Post-Birth
How to Create a Traditional Birth Plan
These text plans are obviously a bit easier to do on your own in a Google Doc or in a program like Microsoft Word. As always though, there are a bunch of options and templates online to help you get started. Two good options:
- The Bump – The Bump offers a free template with a ton of detail and options to check. You could also use this as a base to type up your own, shorter plan.
- The Aria Code – the pretty floral design won me over on this one, but the content is also good, and there’s free space to write in extra notes
In the end, birth plans can be a really useful way to easily let your medical team how you would like your labor and delivery to go.
Though things don’t always go to plan, writing out a birth plan can at the very least serve as a tool to help get you mentally prepped, and thinking about the different aspects of labor, delivery, and newborn care you’ll encounter.
Did you have a birth plan for your deliveries? Did it all go as you envisioned, or not all? Let us know in the comments!
More Pregnancy and Labor & Delivery Articles You May Like
- The Items You Actually Need for Your Hospital Bag
- Ultimate Pregnancy To-Do List for the First Trimester
- Second Trimester Checklist: 14 To Do’s for Your Baby Prep List
- Last Minute Things You Should Do Before Baby Arrives
- What You Actually Need in Your Postpartum Care Kit