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Top Ten Tips for writing a birth plan: A Doula's perspective

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

You've researched car seats, strollers, and cribs. Your baby's nursery has been planned to the last detail. Many, many itty bitty little onesies are folded and tucked away into a dresser. You may think you are ready to have this baby but wait! There's one tiny little detail you need to make sure you've completed: the birth plan.

Making a birth plan may seem overwhelming, but here are my top ten tips to help you simplify the process and reduce your anxiety surrounding the decisions.

1. Pick a plan!

There are many different types of plans to choose from. You can make a list separated into labor, pushing, and postpartum sections, you can write your caregivers a story, or you can use a visual birth plan. I love this customizable visual birth plan from Mama Natural, but you can find many, many different versions on Pinterest, and Etsy, or you can create your own!

2. Research what you don't understand.

Once you've looked at templates, you'll start to see all the choices you may need to make. If there are any that you don't understand or need more information on, reach out to a trusted provider like a midwife, doula, or childbirth educator. They can help you weed through the internet to find unbiased, evidence-based information.

3. If it's important to you, put it on there!

Many things are pretty standard at most birthplaces these days, ie. immediate skin to skin contact, delayed cord clamping, delaying the first bath, etc. However, unless you've hired a home birth midwife or are in a smaller town, the likely hood that you will know who is going to be present at your birth is low. It's important that even the 'standard' practices that are important to you are on your plan, just in case it's not as important to the provider.

4. Keep it simple!

Try your best to keep your birth preferences to one page. The longer it gets, the more you run the risk of it not being read fully. This is why I love a visual plan, it's attention-grabbing and easy to see everything at once.

5. Include your wishes for cesarean birth, transfers, or unexpected outcomes.

Many new parents don't want to think about the what-ifs. But, the worst time to try and make major decisions in an emergency is in the actual emergency. Thinking through what you'd like to happen in the case of an emergent (or nonemergent) cesarean section, transfer or any other unexpected outcome prior to being in labor allow you to make calm, rational, and informed decisions. If anything were to crop up in labor, your partner, doula or other birth attendant can relay your wishes. Plus, once they are written down on paper, you can put it away and return to visualizing the birth that you would love to experience for you and your baby.

6. Start with the name and phone number for anyone that is to be present at your birth.

Labor can be unpredictable at times. Everyone should be able to get a hold of everyone with a moment's notice.

7. Include any wishes for the postpartum hours that you will be at your birthplace.

This is for you, your partner, and your baby. Think about skin to skin contact, if you'd like your baby to be offered the breast or if you would like to attempt the breast crawl (ask a doula or lactation consultant about this!). If you aren't planning to breastfeed, make sure this is included and ask for feeding guidance. This is also where vaccination preferences for baby will go.

8. Share it with anyone who will be attending the birth.

If you plan on them being there, they need to see it. This includes partners, parents, doulas, midwives, OBs, nurses, your siblings, etc. Everyone who you invite to this most special time should be on the same page. Your birth preference will help set the tone for your labor, and its best to show everyone ahead of time.

9. Be flexible.

This is probably the single most important aspect of your plan. It's important to remember that there is another party involved in your birth (your baby), and they may just have a plan that's very different from yours. Understanding that your labor may take some unexpected twists and turns, and being able to adjust accordingly, will help your emotional state both during and after the birth.

10. Put it away. Focus on the connection between you and your baby.

You did it! Your plan is written, packed, and shared. Now you can stop researching, worrying, and questioning (if but for just a moment!) and focus on the connection between you and your baby. Spend some time each day talking to your baby, visually walking through your birth together, affirming your decisions, and manifesting the birth of your dreams. This connection will help you understand what they are communicating to you on your birthday, which in turn will let you make informed, confident decisions. You've got this.

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