What is a Birth Plan?
A birth plan is an outline of what you want the labor and delivery process to be. It can give you more control regarding your body and your labor and delivery process. Hospitals, obstetricians, midwives, and birthing centers are providing women with options they never before had.
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What are the Four Basic Parts of a Birth Plan?
Once you have finalized your thoughts, you should put the Birth Plan in written form and review it with your doctor or nurse-midwife. Although you may not be able to control everything that happens to you during your baby's birth, you can play a decisive role in the decisions that are made about your body and your baby.
1) Your wishes regarding a normal labor and delivery:
This includes how you want your health care provider to handle labor and delivery issues like enemas, fetal monitoring, C-section or vaginal delivery, induced labor, an episiotomy, and pain medication and relief. You can plan if you want to use a nurse-midwife, a doula or doctor. The plan can even include selecting the hospital or other the environment in which you want to have your baby (hospital delivery room, special hospital birthing room, or a birth center), who you want to have present during the birth process, and even what birthing positions you plan to use when giving birth.
2) How you want your baby to be treated immediately after birth:
Do you want the baby's cord to be cut by your partner; do you want the baby placed on your stomach immediately after birth or taken directly to the newborn nursery; are you planning to care for the baby or are you placing the baby with an adopting family; do you want to feed the baby immediately and, if so, do you want to breast feed or bottle-feed; and do you want the baby to be with you in the room or do you want the baby to sleep in the nursery?
3) What you want to happen in the case of unexpected events:
Given the number of women who have cesarean sections (C-sections), or some complications, your birth plan should include your wishes in the event that your labor takes an unplanned direction. You might also want to plan for possible complications such as a premature birth or an unexpected amount of pain during labor and birth.
4) Include any and all other wishes you have about any aspect of the labor, delivery, and after care.
Finally, you should find out if there are things about your pregnancy that are not typical. For example, if your pregnancy is considered high risk because of your health, or problems during previous pregnancies, or your age. In these instances your health care provider may advise against some part of your birth plan and suggest different alternatives.
Where Can I Find Additional Sources of Information?
For more information about factors to consider in developing a birth plan, birthing options, procedure during labor and delivery, pain management, position during delivery, episiotomy, and assisted birth, please visit PregnancyAndChildren and the page Birth Plans and Birth Options.
You may also find the following websites helpful:
Midwives: Why choose a midwife
Doulas of North America (DONA)
American College of Nurse-Midwives
North American Registry of Midwives
American Association of Birth Centers
Back to basics for safer childbirth
American Association of Birth Centers: Find a Birth Center
Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA)
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