A birth plan is a tool that can help guide your thinking. It also lets you communicate your wishes, verbally or in writing, to health professionals and anyone else involved in the birth so they know what is important for you and your partner.
When your baby is born, you have decisions to make as parents about the treatment and care mom and baby will receive. Keep in mind that no one knows ahead of time how the birth will go and that you may change your minds during delivery.
Nonetheless, you will feel better prepared if you have taken the time during pregnancy to:
- Identify your wishes and concerns
- Share your thoughts with your partner and your family and friends
- Inform all the health professionals who will be assisting you, as well as anyone who will be with you at the birth, of your values, preferences, and wishes
- Find out about the services and features available at the hospital or birthing centre where you will have your baby
There are many sample birth plans available for your use. Ask for one from your health professional or at prenatal class, or see if your hospital or birthing centre has a version they use. You can also look for sample birth plans in books or online.
Your birth plan describes your ideal birth. Most births go well, but sometimes things can happen differently, for example, in the event of an emergency situation for you or your baby’s health.
Keep an open mind about how things may go. Deliveries are unpredictable.
Be confident and remember that if you have any doubts or questions about decisions to be made, you can ask your health professionals for information. They have experience and can help you during the delivery.
No matter what type of plan you choose, a good birth plan should be:
- Clear and concise (no more than one page)
- Discussed with your health professional before the birth
The following table can help you plan, as much as is possible, the birth of your child.
Things to think about when preparing your birth plan
|Things to think about
|Support during the birth
(see Having someone with you during childbirth)
- Who do you want to be with you during labour and at the birth?
- Do you want a doula to assist you? (see Doulas). If so, it is preferable to let your health professional know,
- Do you want to know in advance which medical staff will be present at your delivery (e.g., doctors, nurses, midwives and professionals in training)?
Methods for coping with pain
(see Understanding and coping with pain)
|Interventions during childbirth
(see Possible interventions during labour)
- What interventions are possible during childbirth at your hospital or birthing centre (e.g., induction and stimulation of labour, fetal monitoring, epidural, episiotomy)? If you wish, ask about:
- The reasons for these procedures
- Their effects on you and your baby
- Which of these procedures do you want to have during delivery and which ones do you want to refuse?
- How you plan to deal with unexpected developments?
- Are you prepared for the possibility of a caesarean birth? (see Caesarean). Do you want someone to be with you during your caesarean, and if so, who?
|First moments with your baby
(see First moments with your baby)
- Do you want skin-to-skin contact with your baby right after giving birth? (see Skin-to-skin contact)
- How do you envisage rooming-in with your baby at the hospital or birthing centre?
- Will it be possible to stay with your baby at all times? Is this encouraged at the hospital or birthing centre?
- Do you want the person who is with you to be able to stay at all times?
- If you are in a shared room, what measures are taken to help you room-in and enjoy private time with your baby?
- What are the routines and procedures at the hospital or birthing centre during your stay? Are there times where you can ask not to be disturbed so you can rest or have privacy?
Exams and interventions after the birth
(see Caring for your newborn)
- What exams, interventions, and medications will be suggested for you and your child after the birth?
If you wish, ask about
- The reasons
- The possible consequences
- The timing of these procedures
- How do you want to deal with unexpected developments after your baby is born, for example, if your baby is premature and/or has to stay in hospital? (see When the unexpected happens)
- Do you want to have access to measures that make it easier to stay with your child at all times during hospitalization?
- If you want to breastfeed your baby, what measures are available at the hospital or birthing centre to help you do so? Would you like to use breast milk banks?
Feeding your baby
(see Feeding your baby)
- How to you want to feed your baby
- Have you thought about telling your family and the professional at your hospital or birthing centre about your decision to breastfeed?
- Does your hospital or birthing centre have people familiar with breastfeeding who can help you if needed?
- If you have a premature baby or things don’t go as planned, how do you feel about using commercial infant formula or supplements for your baby?
Labour: Process by which the baby passes from the uterus to the outside world, primarily through contractions of the uterus.