Planning for your baby’s birth is one of the most exciting parts of pregnancy. You may have envisioned exactly how you want your delivery to play out, including how you will prepare for labor, where your baby will be born, who will be with you, even what music you’ll play. Creating a birth plan is a good way to define your preferences well before your due date.
“A birth plan is simply a written statement outlining your personal choices for labor and delivery that you share with your care team in preparation for your baby’s birth,” says Maria Murillo, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Scripps Clinic Encinitas. “It helps ensure that you and your care team know what to expect on the big day.”
Your birth plan can be as general or detailed as you’d like. Discuss your ideas with your partner or family. If this is your first baby, ask friends who have children about their plans, including what they are especially happy they did and what they might have changed.
Your obstetrician may have a template that you can use to develop your birth plan, but it’s not required. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Who is your primary support person?
- Do you want to walk around during labor? Do you plan to use a birthing ball or pillows?
- Do you want to move in specific ways? Pelvic rocking?
- Do you want to be able to take a shower? Get a foot massage?
- Do you want a hospital gown or will you wear your own clothes?
- Are there visualization or breathing patterns you want to use?
- Do you have music or audio that you’d like to listen to during labor?
- Are there specific phrases that you want to hear from those around you?
- Will you use an obstetrician? A midwife? Both?
- Who do you want to be present during the delivery?
- Will someone record the birth and/or take photos?
- Do you want natural lighting? Soft lighting?
- Will you bring specific music? Or do you prefer quiet?
- If you will bring a “focal point,” what is it and where will you place it?
- How do you plan to manage pain? Do you want to use natural pain relief such as massage? Will you have an epidural?
- What is your preference on an episiotomy?
- Who will cut the umbilical cord?
- Do you want your baby to have eyedrops or a vitamin K shot? If you want to breastfeed your baby or bottle-feed
- Do you want to keep the placenta?
- Do you want to bank or donate your baby’s cord blood?
- If you have a son, do you want him circumcised?
It’s important to keep in mind that your hospital may not be able to accommodate all of your birth plan preferences. Candles are a fire hazard, and fragrances, such as essential oils or room scents, may not be allowed.
“Bring your plan to one of your prenatal appointments and discuss it with your doctor” says Dr. Murillo “At Scripps, we want to provide the best experience possible for our moms-to-be while keeping safety and quality care top of mind.”
Also, understand that sometimes even the best plans need to be adjusted at the last minute. You can plan your birth experience down to the smallest detail, but unexpected changes can and do arise, so be prepared to be flexible.
Finally, consider touring your hospital’s labor and delivery areas as you prepare your birth plan. Scripps offers a variety of hospital tours at each of our maternity care locations.