The benefits of drafting a birth plan are threefold. One, it’s your first step toward making sure that what you want to happen to your body and your baby during the birthing process actually happens. This can make a huge difference in whether you enjoy the birthing process or feel powerless during it. Two, it encourages you to educate yourself about your birthing options. Three, it informs your partner and family of your birthing preferences so they can back you up on your wishes when crunch time comes.
There are a number of items to consider on your birth plan, many of which involve how much intervention, if any, you wish to have during birth. The more detailed the better, but your birth plan doesn’t have to be complex if you don’t want it to be. Here I’ll explore some options you will want to consider when giving birth.
Where do you want to give birth?
Home birth, birthing centers and hospitals are all viable options here. You may wish to give birth in the comfort of your own home, with access to your own bed, shower and clothing, or in a comfortable birthing center with the assistance of a midwife. Some women feel more comfortable in a hospital environment where they will have easier access to the OR and other medical interventions if something goes wrong.
Who do you want present at birth?
Some women only want their partner present, while others want their mother, best friend and a videographer present for the joyous occasion.
What, if any, pain medication do you wish to use?
An epidural isn’t your only option here. You may want to explore other medical interventions or even some nontraditional options for managing pain, such as hypnosis, acupuncture, reflexology or water birth.
Are you willing to be induced?
Educate yourself on Pitocin and decide whether or not you will allow it to speed along the birthing process. You can be specific here and request induction only if there is danger to the baby or to yourself.
Do you want to be placed on any monitoring devices?
This typically refers to the different types of fetal heart rate monitors. You often have the option to have the fetal heartbeat monitored at set times during labor or nonstop through the entirety of your labor. There are also options for fetal heart rate to be monitored externally or internally.
Do you want an episiotomy?
This procedure used to be commonplace in hospital births to prevent unnecessary tearing, but now women can choose to forgo the incision.
Finally, you should include at least some considerations for after the baby is born. Clearly state your feeding preferences, who will cut the umbilical cord, who will hold the baby first and if you wish to have visitors. With some advance planning and education, your birth can be a truly empowering experience.