When I have to travel for work and leave my three kids to a baby sitter, I always leave a plan posted on the fridge mounted with fridge magnets. It includes their sports schedules, what they would like to eat that day, whom to call in an emergency, who will drive each kid to and from school. A clearly defined plan makes it easy on both me and my baby sitter. Less emergency calls asking where’s the cough syrup, are the kids allowed to stay late for one more TV show. Spending twenty minutes of quiet and less stressed time to write the plan saves me many hours of answering phone calls from home or worrying about the kids while at work.
A birth plan is a carefully thought out plan of simple things; sometimes as simple as ‘what music you would love to listen to while you are in the recovery room’; to more complicated things as ‘who will cut the umbilical cord’. Why let someone else decide that while you can have it written, you know what music makes you feel like you want to live again, you never know how the whole ‘giving birth’ thing is going to turn out, especially if this is your first pregnancy. Once you have it written down, it makes the packing much easier as well.
When you are actually ready to pack your bags for hospital, you have one place to refer to. Remember no matter what you planned; be prepared to face different circumstances. Plans may need to be adjusted last minute as needed, an emergency C-section for example. So be ready to go alone with the changes if needed. Your care provider would like to have read what your requests were so he/she can prepare to give as much room as possible for your requests.
Journaling about your thoughts and plans while pregnant is a good way to start your birth plan. A simple note book to put down your ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ would be extremely useful as your own unique source of information for your birth plan, whether you are a first time mom or if this is your third pregnancy.
American Pregnancy Association provides a compilation of sample questions to guide you when writing your birth plan. If your gynecologist can afford the time, it is better to answer some of these questions together so you both have a good understanding behind the reason of a certain request. So they will know how to improvise if the request cannot be fulfilled for some reason. Who do you want to be present?
- Do you want a doula?
- Will there be children/siblings present?
- Are you wishing to delay the cord clamping for baby?
- Do you want immediate skin to skin contact?
- Do you wish to breastfeed immediately after birth?
- Do you want mobility, or do you wish to stay in bed?
- What activities or positions do you plan to use? (walking, standing, squatting, hands and knees)
- Do you prefer a certain position to give birth?
- What will you do for pain relief? (massage, hot and cold packs, positions, labor imagery, relaxation, breathing exercises, tub or Jacuzzi, medication)
- How do you feel about fetal monitoring?
- How do you plan to stay hydrated? (sips of drinks, ice chips, IV)
- Do you want to take pain medications, or not? Do you have a preference for certain pain medications?
- Would you be willing to have an episiotomy? Or, are there certain measures you want to use to avoid one?
- What are your preferences for your baby’s care? (when to feed, where to sleep)
- Do you want a routine IV, a heparin/saline block, or neither?
- Do you want to wear your own clothing?
- Do you want to listen to music and have focal points?
- Do you want to use the tub or shower?
- For home and birth center births, what are your plans for hospital transport in case of emergency?
- If you need a cesarean, do you have any special requests?
Make sure to leave room for last minute change of plans. After delivering my first baby, I asked the nurses to keep the baby in the nursery for an hour during that 2am hour and I hadn’t had a minute of close eye, despite my own initial request of not keeping baby in the nursery. This new ‘mom’ role had started kicking in and I needed a minute to rest and I asked for help.