Pregnant woman looking at birth plan

How to Create a Birth Plan

April 11, 2019
5 min read

As you approach the exciting day when you get to meet your baby face to face, it’s time to think about your preferences for labor and delivery. Some moms-to-be create birth plans to gather their thoughts and to use as a springboard for a discussion with their healthcare provider.

Although pregnancy, labor, and delivery are unpredictable, sharing your preferences with everyone involved may help you feel more confident and in control. Read on to find out how to make a birth plan, perhaps with the help of our birth plan template, and what to do once it’s written.

What's in this article:

What Is a Birth Plan and Why Is It Useful? Creating a Birth Plan for a Vaginal Birth Background Details During Labor Giving Birth After the Delivery Birth Plan Template and Examples Cesarean Section Birth Plan What Is a VBAC Birth Plan? What to Do With Your Completed Birth Plan

What Is a Birth Plan and Why Is It Useful?

A birth plan is a list of your preferences relating to the hospital environment, your medical options, and the immediate care of your newborn. The birth plan provides a guideline for your medical team so that when you’re in active labor, you don’t have to worry about any of this − you can just focus on the task at hand.

Labor is a fluid experience, and a birth plan is simply a guide or checklist. You can change your mind at any time about your preferences, in consultation with your healthcare provider. It’s important to remain flexible and expect the unexpected. Read the story of one mom who did not regret that her labor experience did not follow what was in her birth plan.

“Just like our children, our labors and deliveries are all unique. Rather than going into it with an elaborate plan (…) be fully present and in the moment.”

Lauren Jimeson

Just as some parents prefer not to find out the gender of their baby, not writing a birth plan is also a viable option. If you believe that you and your healthcare provider have been working together seamlessly as a team for the past months of your pregnancy, you may feel confident that your provider will make the best choices during labor, delivery, and the hours after your baby’s birth. In this case, it may make sense to go ahead without providing detailed instructions.

Check out our birth plan video, which offers advice from a labor and delivery nurse.

Pregnant woman looking at birth plan

Creating a Birth Plan for a Vaginal Birth

Before you start writing your birth plan, speak to your provider about the different options available to you, and find out what the hospital (or birthing center) and your insurance plan offer. This information might influence what you decide to add (or what’s possible to add). Don't be afraid to ask questions − your healthcare provider and hospital team want you to have the best experience possible!

When making a birth plan, it’s a good idea to keep it short and easy to read. Aim for one or two pages at most, rather than an overly detailed checklist.

Below we’ve listed some of the basic details moms-to-be often include in a vaginal birth plan, including some of the things you might consider asking yourself when writing your plan for a vaginal birth.

Many of these details can also be useful if you’re making a plan for a different type of birth, like a cesarean delivery or a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean delivery), and we’ll cover these in more detail, too. Of course, in the end, it’s up to you what you decide to include, but these examples of birth plan items can be a good place to start if you expect to have a vaginal delivery.

Background Details

  • Your name
  • Your baby’s due date
  • The doctor, midwife, doula, and pediatrician’s contact details
  • Where you would like to give birth (e.g., in a hospital or a birthing center)
  • The hospital or birthing center’s address and contact details
  • The name and contact details of your birth partner or support person who’ll be with you during labor and delivery. You can also specify if this is the person the hospital or birthing center staff can consult with in case you’re not in a position to respond.
  • Any important medical issues that healthcare providers should know about

During Labor

  • Who do you want with you during labor and delivery (for example, your partner, mom, best friend, or children)?
  • What positions do you want to try (e.g., lying down, sitting, moving around)?
  • If labor is not progressing as it should, do you consent to inducing labor?
  • Do you want any medication to help with the pain (e.g., an epidural)? Curious how other moms-to-be feel about labor pain relief? Take our Pain Relief Plan poll to find out!
  • If the hospital is a teaching hospital, are you comfortable having students observe or help with your labor and delivery?
  • Are there any comfort measures you would like to try, such as breathing or relaxation techniques, having the chance to move around, getting a massage, having the lights dimmed, or playing relaxing music?
  • If possible, would you like to spend part of your early labor time in a water tub, or try using a birthing stool, ball, or chair?
  • How would you like to stay hydrated? Water, ice chips, or an IV drip may be options available to you.
  • Do you prefer to wear your own clothes rather than a hospital-provided gown?
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Giving Birth

  • If your hospital policy allows it, do you want your birth partner there with you in the delivery room?
  • Would you prefer having an episiotomy or taking the chance of the perineum tearing?
  • If a cesarean section is needed in the end, what anesthesia option do you prefer, if you have the choice?
  • Where do you want your birth partner to stand while you are giving birth? And do you want your partner to film or photograph the delivery, if this is permitted? Remember to discuss your preferences with your partner and any other support person who’ll be there with you on the day. They may have feelings and expectations about how they would like to experience the day, which you may need to discuss.

After the Delivery

  • Do you want your baby placed on your chest for immediate skin-to-skin contact, or would you prefer that your baby be given to your partner first?
  • Would you like to discuss any medical procedures before they are administered to your baby?
  • Would you prefer to have your baby with you at all times, or is it OK for him to spend some time in the nursery?
  • Do you plan to breastfeed, and if so, would you like the help of a lactation consultant?
  • Are there any cultural or traditional rituals you would like to take place right after giving birth?
  • Who would you prefer to cut the umbilical cord?
  • Are you planning to bank or donate your baby’s cord blood?
  • What are your preferences for your baby’s first bath?

It could also be a good idea to discuss with your family and friends whether you would like hospital visits and when may be a good time for them to come see you and your newborn.

As a quick recap, here are some of the things you may consider adding to your birth plan at a glance:

Birth plan template tips

Birth Plan Template and Examples

To make it a little easier, you might want to use this birth plan template.Whether or not you use a template when writing your birth plan, remember that your healthcare provider’s top priority is the health and safety of you and your baby. Focus on what you do want while keeping in mind that labor and delivery are unpredictable, and that you can’t always control what happens. Here are some examples of how you can phrase your birth plan preferences:

“If possible, I’d like to…”
“Unless there’s an emergency, I’d prefer…”
“I’d prefer X, only if it’s necessary.”
“Please offer me X when it becomes an option, so I can make a decision at the time.”

Cesarean Section Birth Plan

Although your birth plan for a vaginal birth might also include your preferences for anesthesia in the case of an unplanned cesarean, you may already know that you’re going to have a cesarean delivery. In this case, use the questions listed above as a starting point but consider adding a few extra items to your birth plan, like these:

  • Who you would like to be with you in the operating room
  • Whether you would like hospital staff to document in your medical history the types of incisions made in your abdomen and uterus. This will be important to know for any future pregnancies.
  • Your preferences for breastfeeding. If you and your baby are doing well, you'll most likely be able to start nursing soon after delivery.
  • Your preferences for post-surgery pain relief

What Is a VBAC Birth Plan?

VBAC stands for vaginal birth after cesarean delivery. Medical professionals used to think that having a vaginal birth after cesarean was risky, because the previous cesarean scar was likely to rupture.

Now, though, it’s estimated that as many as 60 percent to 80 percent of moms-to-be can have a successful vaginal birth after a previous cesarean section. Of course, every pregnancy is different, and a VBAC does still present a few risks, so you’ll want to consult your provider when deciding what’s right for you.

A VBAC birth plan might follow the birth plan template for a vaginal birth, but it can also include elements specific to a cesarean section birth plan, in case your provider deems a vaginal birth too risky for you or your baby when the time comes.

For example, you might include your preferences for pain or relaxation techniques for while you’re in active labor, but also include your preferences for anesthesia if it turns out that you’ll need to undergo surgery.

Because having a successful VBAC delivery isn’t 100 percent guaranteed, it may be helpful to discuss the potential scenarios and your options with your healthcare provider first, and then create your birth plan accordingly.

What to Do With Your Completed Birth Plan

Once you’ve made your birth plan, review it with your healthcare provider, knowing that your preferences may be impacted by

  • your healthcare provider’s recommendations, which aim to lower your risks based on your medical situation. (If you’re uncertain about one of your provider’s recommendations, ask for more information so you feel more comfortable.)
  • the hospital or birthing center’s policies
  • any limits on what’s feasible and what facilities are available at the hospital or birthing center
  • any emergency that arises during labor or delivery, in which case your medical team may need to make changes to the plan based on what’s best for the health of you and your baby.

Once your birth plan is ready, give copies to your doctor, midwife, doula, and birth partner. Keep a few copies in your hospital bag, too.

FAQs at a Glance

  • Q : When should I make my birth plan and give it to my healthcare provider?
  • Q : What if my delivery preferences change once I’m in labor?
  • Q : Can I add requests related to my baby’s care to my birth plan template?

There is definitely a lot to think about, but with a plan in hand, you may feel a little more in control. On the big day, your healthcare provider and the rest of your medical team will keep a close eye on you and your baby, and make sure you both get the best care possible. Above all, remember that even if things don’t go exactly as planned, this will be a life-changing day. Try to be present in the moment, and keep in mind this is just day one in the life of your beautiful newborn. You’ve got this!

And, for a little extra help once your baby is here, join Pampers Rewards to earn gifts and savings for you and your little one.

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Book: Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month, Sixth Edition Paperback – January 1, 2016 by American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (Author)

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