If you are expecting a baby anytime soon then you have probably heard of birth plans. You may know some mamas who have very specific birth plans including words to say, or not say, to them, things to suggest to them, whether meds or not, how they want to push, etc. and you may know others who said their only plan was to have a vaginal birth and not a cesarean.
Before we get any further let’s talk about some differences in some meanings. Some mothers talk about natural birth and mean that they want a vaginal birth and don’t really care if they use pain medications or not, others refer to natural birth as a pain med free vaginal birth, and others refer to natural birth as pain med free AND intervention free vaginal birth. Know exactly what you want before you start writing out your birth plan because when a nurse or doctor looks over your plan you want them to know exactly what you are referring to.
If you are having a cesarean, no matter the reason, you can still make a birth plan. Cesarean mothers now have many options; you can have a cesarean that is centered around you and your new little one. And even if you are planning to have a natural or vaginal birth it would be wise to create a cesarean birth plan just in case it is needed.
How do you create a birth plan that works for you?
Step 1: Envision Your Perfect Birth
What does your perfect birth look like? Are the lights dim? Is there soft music playing in the background? Are you wearing your own clothes or a hospital gown? Do you have birth affirmations posted around your room? Are you in a hospital, birth center, or your own home?
Take your time with this first step. It truly is the most important step of creating your birth plan.
Keep in mind that just because you are creating a birth plan does not mean that you will have a birth that exactly follows your birth dream. This exercise is just to start you thinking about how you would like your birth to go.
If you aren’t sure of your options, talk to other mamas who know who have had a baby. Read lots of books from many different perspectives. Search out articles and encouragement from online resources. Know all of your options before proceeding to the next step.
Step 2: Create a Birth Plan with Your Best Birth in Mind
Once you have envisioned your perfect birth, write it down. Break it into smaller sections and label those sections with a bold type or larger print. Here is a small example to help you get started (I have included options for several different types of labors, so they may seem to contradict each other, this is simply a way to write out a birth plan):
Once Labor Begins:
*I would like to labor at home as long as possible
*I would like to use any position that I desire- this includes walking, swaying, dancing, hands and knees, etc
When I arrive at the Hospital/Birth Center or Once my Midwife Arrives– if having a home birth:
*I am declining cervical checks after the initial exam until I feel the urge to push
*I would like an epidural once a consistent and strong labor pattern is underway
*I would like to labor in the tub or shower
*I would like music to be playing
* I would like to enhance the atmosphere by dimming the lights and using flameless candles
*My doula will arrive shortly, please make her feel welcome
*I would like to push in the position that is most comfortable for me
*I would like to be directed when and how to push
*I would like to attempt a water birth
* I would like to have the cord clamping delayed until the cord stops pulsing
*I would like to take my placenta home
*I would like baby cleaned up before I see her
Step 3: Surround yourself with a strong support system
Take your birth plan to your appointment with your doctor or midwife. Go over it with them to make sure they will back you up and support you in your decisions. Hire a doula. Make sure your partner is on your side. If anyone on your team has some concerns about your birth plan make sure that you have all the current information and research then discuss their concerns and go from there.
Step 4: Prepare for your birth
It may seem cliché, but preparing for your birth truly is like preparing for a marathon.
Attend a childbirth education class. Know the different stages of labor and all the options that you have to cope with the pain.
Use the Braxton Hicks contractions to try out different positions and breathing patterns.
Prepare your mind for labor. Use positive birth affirmations and read encouraging stories. Also prepare your mind for changes in your wishes during labor. Sometimes during labor our desires do change, there can be medical reasons for your plan to change, or you may simply change your mind. That’s okay. Be ready to go with the flow and to be flexible if the need arises.
Prepare your body by staying fit during pregnancy. Continue exercise unless your doctor or midwife tells you to stop. Usually anything that you do before pregnancy is fine to continue during pregnancy, but there are some exceptions to that. Staying active during pregnancy can help your labor to be shorter and will help your recovery during the postpartum period.
Make several copies of your birth plan and pack them in your bag. Give one to your husband, your doula, your midwife or doctor and to your nurses. This will help to ensure that everyone is aware of your wishes and will help them to support you as you wish.
Writing a birth plan can seem overwhelming because you don’t even know where to start. Use the steps to help you write out a birth plan and then go rock your birth. You got this, mama!
Did you use a birth plan during your labor? Do you feel it helped you to stay focused? Is there anything you would have changed?
If you are writing a birth plan for the first time, do you have any questions? Leave them below, I would be glad to try to answer them.
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Rebekah Thompson writes at Surviving Toddlerhood. She has been married for nine years and is momma to four little boys ages eight, five, three, and eight months. She is the author of The First Six Weeks: Thriving Naturally On Your Postpartum Journey and a certified birth doula through DONA International. She enjoys good coffee and tea, dark chocolate, running and learning as much as possible about healthy pregnancy/postpartum and fitness. You can check out her blog at www.survivingtoddlerhood.com