My birth plan was an important key to my natural birth success. When I showed the nurses my plan, they were both thankful and impressed, and pinned it to the bulletin board in my hospital room. They even wrote ‘A+’ next to it (teacher reference since I’m a teacher) and showed it to other nurses, remarking at how helpful it was. I say this not to brag, but to really stress the importance of a birth plan. Yes, things happen medically that may mean your birth plan could be thrown out the window, but more often than not, most things can still be honored on your birth plan, including care for your baby after the delivery. Here’s why I think a birth plan is so important:
1. It forces you to do your own research.
You may be surprised to know that most hospital procedures concerning your birth and your newborn are standard procedures, but not required. From how you birth to what happens to you and baby after birth, you can choose these preferences and procedures based on your beliefs and what works best for you and baby. Making a birth plan forced me to research standard procedures and decide if I wanted those, or if I wanted a different procedure. It forced me to look at scientific research and decide what was best for my baby and me.
2. It helps by familiarizing you with the birthing process and also the decisions you can make on what type of birth you want, as well as what type of care you want for your baby.
I was undecided on a lot of things up until very close to my actual birthing date, but making a birth plan forced me to do the research and make a decision on what I really wanted. I found that many of my preferences were different than most hospitals’ standard procedures. Also, by making decisions and preferences to place on your birth plan, you really familiarize yourself with the birthing process.
3. It lets everyone know of your preferences and wishes.
I find that when things are written down, people remember them and pay attention to them more (teacher wisdom). Verbally communicating your preferences is not very reliable; what if you are in pain and can’t verbally communicate? What if your doctor or midwife misunderstands you? By having a birth plan, your preferences are in writing and not up for interpretation. Also, for my birth, I went through a hospital shift change; having a birth plan meant I didn’t have to explain everything twice.
4. It allows you to execute an informed plan for you and your baby.
Most hospitals will honor your wishes as long as it is medically conducive to do so. Hospitals have standard procedures, but they are willing to appease patients if they have different preferences on birthing procedures and newborn care. By having a birth plan, you can rest assured that your baby is getting the best care according to your wishes.
5. It puts you in control.
By researching, making decisions for your baby, and putting them on a birth plan, you have control over what types of procedures you and your baby go through at the hospital. You have control over how your actually delivery goes, breastfeeding preferences, immediate skin to skin contact, what happens with your placenta, if your baby is vaccinated, if you want your baby to have antibiotics, etc. If you don’t have a birth plan and don’t vocalize your preferences, hospitals will follow their standard procedure of care, which you may or may not agree with. A birth plan allows you to tailor that care to your needs and preferences. Remember: you have control over most things.
1. Visuals and color (if possible).
It’s easier for staff to visually follow and glance at to see your preferences quickly.
2. Only one page.
This allows the nurses to pin your plan up and not have to worry about flipping the page.
3. Only your preferences.
State your preferences and nothing more. You don’t have to state your reasoning.
4. Respectful language.
Hospital staff do not want to read a condescending or demanding birth plan. It’s nice to put a ‘please’ if you are making requests.
5. Any requests or actions you need help with.
I put a few things on my birth plan like ‘please direct me when to push.’ Hey, I’ve never done this before and didn’t take birthing classes. This request was appreciated and my midwife was awesome at this. I think the nurses and midwives were happy to help, and it’s nice for them to read that you need them and are requesting help from them. Remember, unless you vocalize this or put it on your plan, they don’t know what you need help with and what you don’t need help with. I also put on my birth plan to please support my perineum during pushing and my midwife was amazing with this. I had minimal tearing and can’t say it was all because of this, but it was definitely a huge help.
6. A ‘Plan B’ stated somewhere.
I wrote a short introduction at the beginning of my plan that mentioned ‘in case of a CS (Cesarean Section) to please follow a gentle CS.’ I also listed nitrous or an epidural for pain meds. Additionally, I put things like Pitocin ONLY if medically necessary. In my post about my natural birth, I talk about the importance of giving yourself other options. Write these in your birth plan so your birth team is aware of your preferences.
7. An attached information sheet.
I wrote this when I wrote my birth plan. It’s nice to have this with your file of paperwork when you go to the hospital. You can look at my template below. I would recommend this because it has all of the important information on one page, should an emergency arise, or just for quick reference for both you or hospital staff. I actually still have this in our office for info purposes.
I have attached birth plan template as both a PDF and Word document for easy editing, as well as my information sheet template. I have also compiled a list of totally awesome birth plans from other bloggers, as well as free icons. Whether you use my birth plan template or another template, I just encourage you to do your own research and put a birth plan together that works for you!
Here’s a list of other birth plan templates plus icons!
This is the birth plan that I based mine off of: I love how clear it is which allows it to be visual, but also list my preferences.
This one contains all the really pretty icons:
Another example of a really nice birth plan that is simple and visual: