Birth Plan Basics

Don’t write a birth plan. Or do write a birth plan. But if you write one, make it thorough. But not too long! And not too short. Maybe a checklist? Make sure you’re not too friendly. Or too direct. Or….can’t you just skip this all together? So confusing! Let’s look at why you want to write birth your own preferences, what format works best for hospital births, and what to include. (Hint: No need to mention enemas.)

Your birth preferences are similar to a birth plan; they share what you want for your birth.  You’re not planning how to have a baby. You’re letting your birth team know what is most important to you and your family. In a hospital, the birthing person may have never met the nurse, midwife, or the obstetrician attending their birth. Birth Preferences introduce the family, sharing who we are, why we’re here, and what we need from you. If you’re fortunate enough to have your own provider attending your birth, you’ll have a quick and easy cheat sheet to share with them. Let your team know your expectations in writing.

So what should your birth preferences look like? What format to use? Online, we can find countless checklists or multi-page options. Your provider or birth place may even supply a sample. In reality, the best birth preferences are short, sweet, and customized for each family.

Patient Information: Name, DOB, Birth place, provider’s name, and people joining you go here.

Introduction: Share a little of your family’s story. What number baby is this? Does baby have a name? Are there special things the birth team needs to know about you or this birth?

Disclaimer: No matter how you phrase it, be certain to add in a phrase along the lines of, “These are our preferences in the event of a normal birth and postpartum. If for any reason a change of plans is needed, we’re happy to make different decisions after the briefest of consultation about options.”

Labor/Pre-Birth for a planned cesarean: Pick 3-4 things that are really important for your medical care during the time that you’re at your birth place, preparing for an imminent birth. They don’t need to know about your plans for Enya and burritos while you’re laboring at home. Just tell them what medical care is most important to you for labor or pre-op once you’re checked in at the hospital.

Pushing and the birth of baby: Again, choose 3 things or so to highlight here. Not sure what your options are for pushing? Check out What’s missing from your birth plan.

Delivery of placenta and immediate postpartum: What few things are most important to your medical care here? (And check the link above for 2nd and 3rd stage of labor options)

There are a multitude of medical care options for hospital births. Here’s where some of those online check lists or hospital samples come in! Browse through samples to identify which care options are most important to you and your family during your baby’s birth. Things to be sure to include:

  • Positive language (I would like, I prefer, etc.)
  • Preferences for comfort (epidural, water, movement, etc.)
  • Preferences for medical care (saline lock, Pitocin, monitoring, etc.)

Leave off:

  • Automatic options that your birth place offers (skin to skin with baby, delayed cord clamping, rooming in, etc.)
  • Obsolete options. I promise, there will be no enemas or shaving. Even if you ask nicely. Many online checklists are outdated. Check with your birth place for current options.
  • Newborn preferences: Leave these off your birth plan. Instead, write them on an index card, then hand the card off to your baby nurse or place the card in the baby warmer after baby arrives.

Do write your birth plan; do make it short and sweet; and do prepare it well in advance of your actual birth. You’ll want to begin discussing these preferences with your provider at each appointment by 34 weeks of pregnancy or sooner.


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