“Birth Plans” or “Birth Wishes” are becoming more and more popular for women having their baby in a hospital. Some hospitals even have a birth plan form that they hand out to all of their pregnant women. I will refer to the birth plan as ‘birth wishes’ for the remainder of the article.
Most couples have at least one thing that they either really want or really don’t want during their birth. Some examples include: being able to freely move around, using the tub for natural pain relief, delayed cord clamping, no epidural, etc. I’m not a promoter of having a set birth plan, but I do think it’s important to write down and discuss the things you want and don’t want before and during your birth.
It can be very helpful to write down your birth wishes and desires and review it with your doctor before the big day. This can do a couple of things for you:
- You will know how your doctor feels about your birth wishes. If you want something like delayed cord clamping, and your doctor is against it, it may be a good idea to switch providers. You won’t know how he/she feels about it until you ask.
- You can have your doctor review and sign your birth wish form. It’s not always guaranteed that you will give birth with your doctor. In that case, you would be working with someone you have never met before. If you have your birth wish form that your doctor signed, then you can show the on-call doctor. Even if he/she doesn’t agree with what you want, they are more likely to go along with your desires if your doctor signed off on it.
- The nurses will know exactly what you want. The nurses are there more than the doctor and if they know what you want, then they can give you better support. If your nurse knows that you don’t want an epidural beforehand, then she/he will be less likely to ask if you want one.
- If you have a request that the hospital is not used to, it is best if they know right away (like keeping your placenta, for example). This will give you more time to discuss it with them and come to an agreement.
Here are some helpful tips to writing a good Birth Wish form:
- Try to keep it short and precise. A one page typed letter is best so it can be easily reviewed (and quickly – the nurses and doctors are often very busy).
- Rate which ‘wishes’ you want most and put them right at the top.
- Be respectful. Your birth wish form can set the tone for future communications with hospital staff. Try to use phrases like: “Thank you for helping me to achieve a natural birth.” or “We appreciate your support with… ” or “Please don’t ask me if I want an epidural – I will request it if I want it.” – “Please” and “thank yous” are great.
- Decide what you can ask for in the moment, and leave those things off your birth wish form. Don’t feel like you have to write everything down. There are some things that can be asked for in the moment – like walking around, or using the shower, using the birth ball, etc.
- Find out your hospital policies beforehand – for example, some hospitals do immediate skin-to-skin contact for 1 hour after birth. This is something that you don’t have to put on your birth wish form since they already do it.
- And finally, don’t be afraid to express your desires. It is your birth.