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What’s the Plan, Mom?

baby and stork

When you find out that you’re pregnant, your world dissolves into a various shades of joy, curiosity, and worry. There’s a lot to learn about pregnancy and labor, especially if it’s your first child. One way many moms sort through the madness is to create a birth plan.

Birth Plans – Remember, it’s Just a Guideline

A birth plan is a short (typically 1 page or less) document that communicates your desires for labor and delivery to your medical team. It lets expectant mothers sort through their preferences and clearly articulate what type of childbirth they’d like. It’s important to remember that a birth plan is only a guideline. Delivery rarely goes as expected, and your medical team may be forced to make decisions that go against your written plan for the health of you and your baby. But if you’re trying to make sense of all the information you’re learning about labor, a birth plan is a good place to start.

What to Include in Your Birth Plan

Write your preferences clearly and concisely. It’s best to discuss your medical questions and preferences with your obstetrician and your family before writing anything down. Clearly communicate your preferences with your medical team ahead of time, before labor pains become the top priority.

  • Family: Who would you like in the delivery room with you?
  • Labor coach: What expectations do you have of the nurse who will coach you through labor?
  • IV: IV’s are typically not necessary during labor, but some women need them to receive fluids and prevent dehydration, or to quickly administer medications during labor. If you want an epidural, you will need an IV.
  • Blood tests: Though typically only necessary for high-risk pregnancies, blood tests may be needed to ensure labor goes smoothly.
  • Inducing or augmenting labor: Know how you feel about starting or speeding up the delivery process.
  • Pain relief: From breathing exercises to epidurals, there are plenty of natural and medical pain relievers for moms during labor.
  • Delivery positions: Positions vary from sitting or semi-sitting to lying on your side or squatting.
  • Episiotomy: Making a cut to widen the vaginal opening is not necessary for all women, though it may be necessary during difficult labor.
  • Cutting the umbilical cord: Waiting several minutes to cut the cord may help your baby receive more blood supply. Some fathers like to get involved by cutting the umbilical cord.
  • Skin-to-skin contact: This can help create intimacy between mother and child or father and child.
  • Cesarean section: Whether you’ve scheduled a C-section or you’re simply planning for an emergency situation, consider what types of pain relief you’d like in the event of a Cesarean birth.
  • Breastfeeding: Beginning breastfeeding is often most effective in the 30 to 60 minutes after birth. Skin-to-skin contact stimulates your infant’s impulse to breastfeed, making it more likely to be a success.

To learn more about creating a realistic birth plan, talk to your obstetrician or midwife at your next appointment.