The importance of a birth plan

Posted by Jana Brand, C.N.P.
September 08, 2015

Pregnant Couple_Medium

If a baby is in your future, you’ve likely been planning ahead — stocking up on diapers, newborn clothes and blankets, as well as considering how you'll name your new little one. But before the baby is born, you should make a plan leading up to the very moment of birth. This is known as a birth plan, and it’s an important piece of two-way communication.

Here are a few frequently asked questions about birth plans and some considerations to help you design a plan best meets your needs:   

Q. Why is a birth plan necessary?

A. A birth plan is a way for you to communicate your wishes to those caring for you during your labor and after the birth of your baby. Every birth is a unique experience. Creating a birth plan empowers you to become informed of all your options during labor. At the same time, it’s a tool to let the team caring for you know about your preferences.  

Q. Do I need to write my own birth plan?

A. You don't have to create your birth plan from scratch. Many hospitals have a standard form or booklet that you can complete at your convenience. It’s recommended to review your birth plan with your provider during your pregnancy. Find out if the location at which you are delivering can accommodate your wishes. For example, if your pregnancy is high risk, your provider may advise against certain things on your birth plan. It’s a good idea to have this conversation before you arrive at the hospital.

Q. What needs to be included in the birth plan?

A. Although you may have in your mind how you want your baby’s birth to be, your choices may not be heard effectively if you don't have a birth plan. Who do you want present in the delivery room? Do you want to be offered medication for pain management? If so, what type of medication? Do you want a natural birth and to use alternative measures for comfort? Do you want to freely move around during labor? Do you want to use hydrotherapy? Do you want your baby continuously monitored? These are just a few items that can be included in your birth plan.

Q. After my baby is born, how do I indicate my preferences?

A. A birth plan does not end with the delivery of your new baby. The care team will want to know how you want your baby to be cared for in the hospital. For example, explaining who will be cutting the umbilical cord, changing the baby’s first diaper and giving the baby his or her first bath. In addition, the birth plan can indicate how you wish to feed your baby. Identifying breast milk or formula as a nutritional preference is also a very important item for your birth plan. Religious or cultural preferences should be included in your plan as well.

Your birth plan is tailored to meet your personal wishes. Keep in mind, there can be circumstances where the medical team needs to depart from the plan to ensure the safest possible delivery. Remember, the ultimate goal during delivery is to have a healthy mom and a healthy baby. Your birth plan can help communicate your preferences to the care team during one of the most exciting times of your life.

Jana Brand is a certified nurse practitioner in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing.

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