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A birth plan spells out your preferences. Should you write one?
Record your birth preferences with this easy checklist. It's a great guide for discussing your preferences with your doctor or midwife.
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Linda Murray: If you are a planner, one tool for focusing your thoughts about how you'd like labor to go is called a birth plan, although plan sounds a lot more firm than it really is. The point of a birth plan is to spell out your preferences for yourself, your partner, and everyone on your birth team. It can speak for you when all your energy is focused on getting through the next contraction, it can make it easier for your partner to support and encourage you, and it can help ensure that everyone in the room communicates effectively. But it's not required and it's certainly no guarantee that things will happen the way that you want.
Think about the options available to you and your goals for the experience, ask your partner what he'd like to include too; for example, would he like to cut the umbilical cord? You also should think about how you'd want to handle unexpected surprises. If you're set on a drug-free labor, do you want the option of an epidural if the pain is worse than you imagined? If you need an unplanned c-section, would you want to watch your baby being born? An easy way to get started writing all this down is with our birth-plan worksheet; you'll find the link below. Once you've written your preferences, the most important thing to do is review them with your doctor or midwife. This will help you figure out what may or may not be possible, given the nature of your pregnancy and where you plan to deliver.
For example, your doctor may tell you that continuous fetal monitoring is necessary for your situation and your hospital may not have a tub for you to soak in. Make any changes, then print out clean copies of your final plan: one for your caregiver, one for your file at the hospital or birth center, and one to bring with you when you go in during labor.
Mom 1: Of course, I had a birth plan like every mom out there, but I knew birth plan didn't mean that it was going to be how it was, like these are my “would like to haves” kind of a thing.
Mom 2: I don't think you can fully prepare for birth or fully know what to expect, but I definitely had my birth plan followed almost to the letter; it was everything that I had hoped it would be. I had music playing, I was wearing my own T-shirt, and my son was born in low lighting without any interventions.
Mom 3: At that point I realized that the birth plan of the all-natural birth with no pain medications and no interventions and all this stuff probably was not going to happen.
Mom 4: [It went ] pretty much according to my birth plan; the only big surprise was I did end up getting an epidural. I wasn't planning on it, but it ended up not being a big deal.