I’ve heard arguments about not using a birth plan. The reason given is usually that birth is unpredictable or that a birth plan puts the medical staff on the defensive. I understand both these reasons. Birth can be full of surprises. So can vacations. Still, most of us plan out some of the details of those! A good birth plan assumes that the birth will be a normal bodily function; not a medical emergency. If it becomes an emergency, the birth plan can change or even be abandoned. Or, the birth plan can also address the procedures desired in case of cesarean birth.
As far as putting the staff on the defensive–sure, a birth plan can do that. If you write something like, “You will not come near my perineum with anything sharp or I will rip your heart out with it” the staff might be a little reactive.
A birth plan should:
- be positive
- emphasize the importance of informed consent
- include a signature line for you, your partner, and your doctor or midwife
- express a willingness to work with your medical team
- exhibit an understanding of ACOG guidelines (if using a doctor) and hospital policy
- include some ways you’ve prepared for birth (hired a doula, taken a class, etc)
- be brief (one or two pages)
- bulleted for quick scanning
Remember that a signed birth plan has legal status.
If you’re planning a home birth, you might prepare a birth plan to use in case of transfer to a hospital.
I’m including a sample birth plan. Please note that I borrowed liberally from a great book I just finished by my favorite feisty MD–Marsden Wagner–Creating Your Birth Plan: The Definitive Guide to a Safe and Empowering Birth. I also made it relevant to the local hospitals in my area–hospitals that do not bend on certain policies like eating and drinking during labor. Sigh.
Sample “Short and Sweet” Birth Plan : most of the time you negotiate things like how long you’ll be monitored and whether it can be while you’re out of the bed. This birth plan only addresses some of the trickier parts of birth in a hospital environment.