If you plan to have a natural birth in a hospital, you might want to have a birth plan typed up to give to your care provider before you go into labor. Although you may express verbally your wishes, sometimes in the moment of chaos which is labor, your wishes may be forgotten by a care provider if they do not have a reminder. As much as you can hope that your significant other will be your voice of reason, when the time comes, all of that may fly out the window. When I was pregnant with my first son, I took a child birth class and when I went into labor, I forgot everything I learned! This is especially important if you are a first time or younger mom. Usually if you have a midwife, they are more likely to actually ask you to fill out a birth plan during your pregnancy as they are more aware of your interest in being involved in your birth. This is YOUR birth, so don’t be afraid to be firm in your choices. If you have a care provider that doesn’t respect your wishes, you may be better off finding someone that does. PTSD from a traumatic birth is real, so make sure you also have a doula and/or good support system!
- If you’re giving birth at a hospital, chances are, you will be approached with talk of induction if you get close to your due date. Let your care provider know if you would like to go up to 2 weeks overdue (with occasional monitoring if needed) to avoid induction. You can always try natural methods of induction on your own at home if you are past 40 weeks and uncomfortable. Those can include nipple stimulation, acupuncture or chiropractor care.
- Vaginal exams are the best way to introduce unwanted bacteria where it is not needed. Request that no internal exams be done unless absolutely necessary or unless they are requested.
- If you do end up needing to be induced, make sure you list what methods you would like to try first, such a stripping membranes. When I was nearly two weeks overdue in the past, my midwife stripped my membranes which was all the help I needed to jump start labor!
- Let them know how you want your birthing environment to be from who is there to the level of the lighting. It’s hard to relax with a giant light shining on your hooha and 3 strange nursing students standing around your spread legs. Don’t agree to something you aren’t comfortable with just to be an “easy patient”. If you want a special cd to play or your favorite essential oils to diffuse in the room, put it in your birth plan and make sure you bring these things with you! Some hospitals have birthing tubs, exercise balls and squatting bars available for your use, so don’t hesitate to ask. If you will have a birth photographer, let your care provider know in advance.
- If you plan to use or not use pain medications, make sure the care providers know if/when to offer it if at all. Also, if you prefer to use other, more natural methods of pain relief such as hypnotherapy, massage or water therapy, put these choices in your plan. Make sure to practice these methods before labor so you know (or your birth partner knows) how to achieve the best results.
- Usually, a hospital will want to hook you up to an IV and monitors so they know how the baby is doing at all times throughout your labor. If you prefer to not be strapped to the bed or a pole, you can request to have the baby checked occasionally so you are more free to move around as you please.
- If there are any specific positions you would like to try when pushing, put these in your plan. It is all too typical for you to be on your back when pushing in a hospital which is just not a good position when trying to bring a baby DOWN the birth canal. Squatting or hands and knees positions were my favorites and felt most comfortable to me. Do what feels right and if you need to change it up, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.
- Sometimes your skin can become stretched so far that it tears. This usually occurs if you have a giant headed baby or push the baby out too fast. OBGYNs can become little eager beavers (no pun intended) and might suggest an episiotomy (cutting the skin to allow for a larger opening). Generally episiotomies can be avoided by using perineal massage with oil or heat and pushing more slow and steady. Natural tears usually are smaller and heal better/faster than surgical incisions. Using other methods of helping baby out, such as forceps, should be avoided as it can do significant damage to a baby’s skull.
- You’ll likely want to hold your baby as soon as he or she is born. Your baby will get the warmth they need from your body and do not need to be placed under heat lamps. They are not rotisserie chickens and those first moments of bonding are very important. All of the routine procedures (many of the procedures are optional so do your research and BE INFORMED!) and test that need to be done, can be done while baby is in your arms. Your baby should not need to be separated from you for any reason as long as there are no serious health concerns. If you’d like your significant other to cut the cord and/or want to delay cord clamping, make sure you put this in your plan as well. Attached to the cord is your amazing placenta that should come out on its own, without the need of pulling or tugging. You may want to check your hospital’s policy on taking home your placenta in advance if you plan to have it encapsulated or what have you. Make sure you bring a cooler with ice or make arrangements for someone (a doula or placenta specialist) to have it picked up.
- If you plan to exclusively breastfeed, make sure you request that no bottles or pacifiers be given to your baby. Also make sure you are very clear about your choice regarding circumcision in your birth plan. DrMomma.org is a great resource for circumcision information.
- If you end up needing a cesarean section, put your wishes for this in your plan. It’s usually a worst case scenario part of the plan, but it’s better that your natural and peaceful wishes be respected in this case.
- You are not required to stay in the hospital for several days after a normal, vaginal birth. If you are more comfortable at home, go home! If you choose to stay at the hospital as long as possible (think peaceful vacation if you have older children), try to have someone available to help you when you need to rest or shower so you don’t have to send your baby to the nursery.
Remember, this is YOUR birth. Your care providers work for YOU and it is their responsibility to respect your choices. Make sure you are always fully informed. Ask questions, do your research beforehand and don’t be afraid to have a voice! If you prefer to use a template, EarthMama AngelBaby has a great, printable birth plan.