You are nearing the home stretch of your pregnancy. The crib is assembled, diapers are on order, and your bag is packed. Is that everything? What about your birth plan?
A birth plan is a blueprint of your preferences and desires for your childbirth and hospital stay. Many couples do not bother with a birth plan because they are perfectly comfortable trusting their healthcare providers to help them make appropriate choices as the needs arise. Other people have strong opinions and expectations, and write detailed plans covering all eventualities.
A birth plan is not a must. It is fine if you do not want to write one. But besides helping improve your birth experience, a birth plan has an unexpected benefit. While you are putting it together, you will learn what happens during labor and delivery. You will also learn about the choices available to you and about the options offered by your providers, hospital and health plan.
You may get a sample birth plan in a book, from your doctor or hospital. Check out several, and select the items that are relevant for you. Do not include things that are not important to you.
Think About What You Want
Spend some time thinking about what you want and prioritizing. Do you want a completely unmedicated birth, if possible? If you want pain relief, what kind do you want and when? Do you want to use unconventional positions for pushing, or giving birth? Plan for after the birth, too. Consider your choices on issues such as breast-feeding and circumcision.
Many hospitals offer tours of the maternity department. Bring a list of questions to help you determine how the hospital’s set-up fits in with your plans. There may be conflicts between your wishes and hospital policy on issues such as keeping the baby with you in your room or wearing fetal monitors. You may be able to adjust and work things out to your satisfaction, or you may want to investigate other hospitals.
Knowledge Is Power
The more knowledgeable you are, the less fear you will have — and many people believe fear increases pain and worsens labor. Also, things can move fast and furiously in the late stages of labor, and you should incorporate flexibility into your birth plan.
But even if you wind up deviating immensely from your plan, you will not be plagued later with guilt and doubts. You will know that under the circumstances, you made the best and most-informed choices for you and your baby.