Writing a Birth Plan
Every pregnant woman has a picture of how she wants her birth to proceed. Some women are happy to let the doctor or midwife run the show, while other women would like a bit more autonomy and control over the process. However you would like your birth to go, it is very important to discuss your wishes with your healthcare provider well before your due date to ensure that you are both on the same page, and to give yourself plenty of time to find someone else if you’re not.
Think of your birth plan as your ideal birth, but remember, should complications arise, your birth team will be more concerned with ensuring your safety and your baby’s safety than following your wishes. While any pregnancy can take a sudden scary turn, if your pregnancy is high risk, you may even want to create two birth plans, one for everything going well, and one if something goes wrong.
When thinking about your birth plan, it’s important to know what the hospital’s policies are. You need to know what procedures are and are not considered optional. There are a number of ways you can find out about the hospital’s policies. Talk to your doctor, talk to moms who have had a baby at the hospital, even better if they have seen your doctor. If your hospital offers classes, be sure to attend, as this can give you some firsthand insight into the hospital personnel and how they operate.
Some things you want to think about when making your birth plan include:
Starting labor – Do you want to go into labor on your own or do you want to be induced? There may be situations where your doctor may strong encourage or even insist on induction, be sure you know what these situations are.
Pain relief – Some doctors are more adamant about epidurals, while others are more supportive of unmedicated relief. If you don’t want medication, you also don’t want your doctor and nurses constantly “offering” drugs. On the other hand, if you are determined that you want an epidural as soon as possible, you don’t want a team that tries to get you to hold out just a little longer.
Mobility – Some hospitals have policies regarding IVs and continuous fetal monitoring, both of which can hamper your mobility in labor. Others are more willing to place a hep lock and use intermittent fetal monitoring, both of which will enable you to move around as much as you want.
Birth partner – Think about who you want with you while you’re in labor, such as your spouse, family members, or a doula. Your birth center may have policies limiting the number of people in the room at one time.
Newborn procedures – Except in cases where baby needs extra help, you may be able to have newborn procedures done in your room or delayed, if you wish.
Rooming In – It used to be standard for baby to go to the nursery and brought in every couple of hours to feed. Now, it is much more common for baby to be allowed to stay in your room with you. In most cases, you can still ask that your baby be taken to the nursery so you can rest, if you wish.
Feeding – Decide whether you want the staff to give your baby a bottle or pacifier, or whether you want to strictly breastfeed. If you plan to breastfeed, meeting with a lactation consultant while in the hospital can help you get off to a good start.
Don’t feel like your birth plan is set in stone. You may plan to move around and find that you are more comfortable in bed, or you may change your mind about pain relief or anything else. It’s all okay.
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