Do you need a birth plan? Common questions and concerns about birth plans

Should you have a birth plan or is it a waste of time? How do you write one? Are you just setting yourself up for disappointment by writing a birth plan? Will the doctor and nurses think your “that mom”? These are all common questions when it comes to writing a birth plan.

Guess what?? A birth plan is a useful tool, even if you don’t use it in the traditional way. It isn’t hard to make, doesn’t have to be formal or demanding, and isn’t set in stone.

Here you’ll find common questions and concerns about birth plans, how to write one, and if it’s something that seems right for you!

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“What is a birth plan?”

A birth plan IS a:

– list of desires and wishes for your birth

– communication tool between you and your health care provider

– way to organize your thoughts and recognize what you’d like to do more research on and discover the options and choices available to you

A birth plan is NOT: 

– A list of demands

– A guarantee of how your birth will go

– Set in stone, binding you to your pre-set wishes

A birth plan can be a written plan, a bullet point list of things that you want or don’t want, a visual picture indicator, or anything else you choose. There is no standard format for a birth plan and you can use any wording or organization method you’d like. Find some creativity if that’s your thing! Or stick to the basics if you’d rather.

It’s best to keep your birth plan 1 page (2 pages MAX). Short bulleted lists broken down into categories seem to be easiest to read but the visual birth plans with pictures work great too! Do what feels right for you and effectively communicates what you want.

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“I’m scared to commit to anything for fear I will be disappointed if it goes wrong…”

Fear of failure is a common reason women don’t write up a birth plan, but it’s flawed thinking that if you just don’t come up with a plan you won’t be disappointed. A quote that always comes to mind when this concern comes up is;

“If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.” Diana Korte &Roberta Scaer, Authors of A Good Birth, A Safe Birth: Choosing and Having the Childbirth Experience You Want

Just because you write a birth plan, doesn’t mean it’s written in stone. In fact, birth in it’s nature is unpredictable and it’s almost a guaranteed that it will NOT go as planned. But does that mean you shouldn’t bother to write one? No! If you don’t think a formal birth plan is for you, at least spend some time to think through how you’d like your experience to go, see if you’re on the right track to get there, and then research and know your options. You may even choose to write down some things just for your own personal use and not share them with anyone.

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In short, anything that’s important to you. Don’t include things that you feel are fads or just “everyone is doing” if you really don’t care either way. For example, it seems like everyone is asking for delayed cord clamping (this would be a great topic to research), but if you don’t care either way then don’t list it! I can’t stress this enough; ONLY put things on your birth plan that you actually care about!

It’s also good to think about some common complications and what you might like to do. C-sections happen and it’s good to have a plan like who goes with baby, who stays with mom, would you like skin to skin in the OR, would your like the drape lowered to see the birth, etc. You don’t need to include every intervention and scenario known to man, but the common ones or the things you really feel strongly about would be good to at least think through.

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Don’t know where to start?

Download a FREE birth plan worksheet here. This gives you a list of common options to decide what’s important to you, what you’d like to research more, and give wording suggestions to save you time and frustration. 

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“What do I do with my birth plan when it’s finished?”

As soon as it’s roughly finished, take it to your health care provider! The best thing about a birth plan is that it opens up discussion between you and your provider about things you want, things they’re comfortable with, and lets you know what things you need to compromise on or if you need to find a different health care provider.

If after your discussion, there were only a couple things your provider wasn’t comfortable with and those things weren’t deal breakers for you anyway then GREAT! If you leave your appointment feeling like several important things on your list are now a no-go or your going to have to fight from them while in labor, you may re-evaluate if this provider or hospital is right for you.

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“OK, a birth plan still just isn’t for me…”

If you’ve gotten this far and still aren’t sure that writing a birth plan is for you, then perhaps it’s not. A couple of cases where a birth plan might not be needed are if you’re SUPER comfortable with your provider and they have taken the time to really get to know you and your desires. Chances are you’ve already gone through a verbal birth plan with them and maybe writing it down just isn’t necessary. Also, if you really just don’t want to make any choices and are comfortable with going in a little blind and trusting the healthcare professionals to tell you what needs done, then you may not need one either.

But, even if you have a midwife, doula, supportive partner, and/or fantastic OB, it can still be extremely beneficial to at least write down the things that are important to you so everybody is on the same page. A birth plan isn’t meant to be pushy or demanding, but a list of talking points so you can make sure you’re on the right path! You may also consider writing a few thoughts down just for yourself without formally sharing it with others. It can help you organize your thoughts and find areas you’re interested in doing a little more research.

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BONUS: Here are a few other ways to use a birth plan or the writing process if you don’t think having a written birth plan is right for you.

– Use writing a birth plan as a way to research topics and find out what’s important to you.

– Use the topics you find important to you as discussion points between you and your provider. Is your provider helpful and accommodating? This may or may not be the right provider for you…

– Discuss with your partner topics you find interesting and/or that you’d like their input on.

– Find a new title if a birth “plan” just isn’t working for you. Jane’s Birth Wishes, Mary’s Rockin’ Birth, Annie’s List of Important Things, be creative!

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If you want to write a birth plan but aren’t quite sure where to get started or how to say what you want, you can download this checklist. It will give you samples of wording your wishes and a place to start where you can decide which things you’d like, which things you’d like to research more, and which things you really don’t care about. Again, because it’s SO TRUE,

“If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.” Diana Korte & Roberta Scaer, Authors of A Good Birth, A Safe Birth: Choosing and Having the Childbirth Experience You Want

At least glance through this checklist to see what stands out to you. You may be surprised what options you don’t know you have but you may also find that you already have some pretty clear opinions on a few things! Make sure those on your birth team share your goals and can help you get the birth experience you want.

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You might also like:

How to have a Perfect Birth – Advise from a Doula

Book Recommendations for Pregnancy, Birth, Breastfeeding, and More! – With Links

Hypnobirthing – Why would a woman choose self-hypnosis for childbirth?

30 Positive Birth Videos – A collection compiled by a doula

Freebies from New Little Life!

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15 FREE printable birth affirmations - Nature Theme, hypnobirth friendly

~ All things for you and your new little life ~

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