What You Need to Know About Making a Birth Plan

Are they just filling time or do they actually matter when push time comes? Get expert advice on making a birth plan and what you need to know about having one, too.

From the first BFP, moms-to-be might spend a bunch of time (over) thinking about their birth plan – how they want their labor and delivery experience to go. Some want a natural birth; others want an epidural. Some want immediate skin-to-skin contact; others want to wait until the baby is cleaned and weighed.

But what is the best way to communicate your birth plan to your providers? Is it OK to change your mind? How does COVID-19 impact the birthing experience?

We turned to the expert, Dr. Rachel O’Keefe, to fill us in:

What is the best way to communicate your birth plan to your provider to ensure your wishes are followed?

Write down a few things that are very important to you and bring this to a doctor’s appointment. A great time to discuss your birth plan is between 30-36 weeks. Talk to your doctor or midwife at your appointments and have an open discussion about your desires. He or she can answer your questions and document your birth plan into your medical chart.

Do you know of any websites/apps with templates for birth plans?

March of Dimes has nice and simple birth plans that patients can access online. This can serve as an avenue for discussion with your provider about concerns or expectations.

Have you noticed any recent trends in birth plans?

The top trends I have noticed include delayed cord clamping, immediate skin-to-skin contact and requesting no episiotomy.

What would you say to a mom who has to change her birth plan due to medical necessity?

The ultimate goal of childbirth is a healthy baby and a healthy mom! Sometimes plans change, and that’s OK. Never feel like you did something wrong. Sometimes the baby gives us clues and we need to listen.

What would you say to a mom who comes in with a specific birth plan but decides to pivot for one reason or another? Regret and guilt for not following the plan can be an issue postpartum.

I always tell my patients it’s OK to change your mind. You may have one thing in mind for your baby’s birth but once you are in labor things can change. Pregnancy and labor and delivery are a judgment-free zone!

How does COVID-19 impact birth plans?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, visiting restrictions have become stricter at hospitals. Because there have been less visitors, patients have benefitted from more one-on-one attention from nursing and lactation consultants. The wearing of masks has not been part of a birth plan discussion until now. Talk to your doctor about the policies at your hospital regarding face coverings for the patients while in labor.

What are the best ways to “enjoy” the intimate experience of giving birth?

Keep your support group small while delivering. Having one or two people in the laboring suite can make for a more intimate and relaxed setting. Have an idea of what you would like but be open-minded. Plans can change. The baby will tell us if things need to move in a different direction. The health care team is there for you and will support you.

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