Motherhood is a journey filled with countless decisions, and one of the most personal choices you'll make is crafting your birth plan. TBH I didn't think this was necessary with my first birth, and waited until 38 weeks to finally search for a simple birth plan template. With emotions running high and a plethora of options to consider, I don't recommend waiting until this last minute period – it can be overwhelming when you actually dive into the intricacies and web of decisions you will be asked to make during your birth experience. After going through birth twice, I'm happy to share my 2 step process to preparing your birth plan: first, talk through EVERYTHING with your partner or support person and your healthcare team (midwife, doctor, doula); second, wrap up your decisions neatly using this concise, free birth plan template I've prepared for you. But first, let’s get started with a quick intro to birth plans.
- What is included in a birth plan?
- When should I make my birth plan?
- Why is it important to create a birth plan?
- But… an important caveat to birth plans
- How should I write my birth plan?
- How many pages should my birth plan be?
- Step 1: Discuss the Birth Process In Detail
- Step 2: Fill Out Your Free Birth Plan Template
- Additional Questions You May Be Asking About This Free Birth Plan Template
- Can this birth plan template be used for a natural birth?
- Can this birth plan template be used for a VBAC?
- Can this birth plan template be used as a home birth plan template?
- Do you have a sample birth plan to share?
- What is the best way to educate my birth partner?
- Is this free birth plan template editable and printable?
What is included in a birth plan?
Using a birth plan is more than just a list of requests; it's a reflection of your hopes for one of the most transformative moments in your life. It's your personal roadmap for how you envision your labor and delivery experience. From the ambiance of the room to the medical interventions you're comfortable with, it covers a broad spectrum of options and decisions you must make. While it serves as a guide for your healthcare team, it's also a succinct summary of your wishes and any concerns you might have. It's a tool to communicate, not a set-in-stone contract. It's about ensuring that your voice is heard during a process that can sometimes feel out of your control.
When should I make my birth plan?
The journey to creating a birth plan starts long before the pen hits the paper. The beginning of the third trimester is an ideal time to start communicating about what will shape your birth plan. By this time, you've likely had a chance to reflect on your pregnancy journey, have had discussions with your healthcare provider, and maybe even attended prenatal classes. These classes can be a treasure trove of information, offering insights into birthing methods, pain management options, and postpartum care. Creating your plan during this period allows you to make informed decisions taking into account your and your baby's current health status without the rush of the impending birth. Plus, it gives you ample time to make any changes as you approach your due date and make decisions based on how your pregnancy has progressed like deciding to do a vaginal delivery or VBAC, or a cesarian.
Why is it important to create a birth plan?
In the whirlwind of pregnancy, with its doctor's appointments, baby showers, and nesting, it's easy to overlook the importance of a birth plan. But creating one is about empowerment and communication. It's your way of taking control, of saying, “This is how I envision my birthing experience.” It ensures that your healthcare team is aligned with your wishes, and even more importantly, you and your support person understand the terminology and process to making your birthing experience as personalized as possible. Moreover, the process of creating a plan allows you to research, reflect, and become an active participant in your birthing journey. It's not just about the day of delivery; it's about feeling confident and prepared for the big day.
But… an important caveat to birth plans
Childbirth is unpredictable (as is pregnancy if you haven't figured that out yet). While a birth plan is a fantastic tool, it's essential to approach it with flexibility. Sometimes medical decisions need to be made for the safety of you and baby. It's okay, and you need to be prepared, if everything doesn't go according to plan. The primary goal is a safe delivery and a healthy baby and mother. Know that there are many twists and turns your birthing journey might take.
How should I write my birth plan?
Crafting a birth plan is a delicate balance between detail and brevity which is why I recommend using a simple birth plan template. Your birth plan should be clear, concise, and easy for your healthcare team to understand. Use headings for different sections, like “During Labor” or “Postpartum Care,” and bullet points for specific preferences. While it's essential to include all your wishes, try to keep it to the point. This ensures that in the hustle and bustle of the delivery room, your key preferences are quickly accessible. Think of it as a resume for your birthing experience; you want to highlight the most important parts without overwhelming the reader. A free birth plan template like this one will help keep your plan concise.
How many pages should my birth plan be?
A one-page birth plan template is ideal to share with your healthcare team at the hospital. While it might be tempting to detail every aspect of your ideal birth, remember that in the midst of labor, your healthcare team needs to quickly reference your wishes, not to mention you don’t want to annoy your nurses with an overly detailed plan that may become irrelevant quickly depending on the course of your labor. A concise, one-page plan ensures that your most crucial preferences stand out and are easily referenced. If you have additional notes or preferences, consider keeping a separate, more detailed document for your birth support partner or doula to help in decision making during the birthing process.
Now that we’ve reviewed the basics. Let’s move on to step 1 of using this free birth plan template: Discuss all the things related to your labor, birth and postpartum care.
Step 1: Discuss the Birth Process In Detail
Will Your Partner, Doula or Other Support People Be In The Delivery Room With You?
Your support team is crucial. Think about who will make you feel most comfortable and supported – not overwhelmed – be it your partner, a family member, or a doula. Ask about the hospital's policies on the number of people allowed. Think about the dynamics between the people you want present; will they work harmoniously for your benefit?
What Items Do You Want to Bring to Make the Hospital Room Comfortable?
I HATE hospitals. I strongly considered a birth center with my first delivery for this reason (thank goodness I didn't go that route). Personal items can make the hospital setting feel more like home. Think about items like a comfy pillow, soothing music, or essential oils. Take a look at my hospital bag checklist, including a list of what to pack to make your hospital room more comfortable.
What Would You Prefer to Wear During Labor?
Some moms prefer the hospital gown for convenience, while others opt to bring a more pajamas like gown like this one or this one. Personally, I brought my own which I found to be more comfortable. If you bring your own, remember it needs to be a gown (no pants) and allow for easy access to your back for an epidural.
Do You Want a Membrane Sweep?
A cervical sweep or membrane sweep involves a healthcare provider using a finger to gently separate the amniotic sac from the wall of the uterus. This can stimulate the release of prostaglandins, which might kickstart labor. It's a natural method that can be done if you are 1cm dilated, but warning it can be uncomfortable. I did this with both pregnancies a little before my due date.
Do You Want to be Induced By a Particular Date?
Starting from 39 weeks, scheduling an induction becomes a viable option for many mothers. This period is considered full term, and inducing labor can be influenced by personal preferences, medical advice, or specific logistical considerations. If you're contemplating a scheduled induction, talk through the pros and cons, and supporting research with your OB or midwife.
Which Induction Method is Preferred (if Needed)?
There are a couple common methods used to induce labor at the hospital, each with its own set of benefits and considerations:
- Balloon Catheter or Foley Balloon: A small balloon is inserted into the cervix and then inflated, which can help the cervix to dilate.
- Prostaglandin Gel or Tablets: Prostaglandins are hormones that can ripen the cervix, making it softer and thinner. A gel, tablet, or suppository form of prostaglandins might be placed in the vagina to help this process.
- Oxytocin (Pitocin): This synthetic hormone is administered through an IV and can stimulate contractions. It's the same hormone your body naturally produces during labor. This is usually not the first method used during an induction process.
- Artificial Rupture of Membranes (AROM): Referred to as “breaking the water,” this method involves a healthcare provider making a small opening in the amniotic sac. This can sometimes accelerate labor if you are progressing more slowly.
Research each option, discuss with your healthcare provider, and decide what aligns best with your birth vision.
Where Do You Prefer IV Placement?
As someone who has received MANY IVs, trust me that you should state your preference when you arrive to your nurse for IV placement. My recommendation: have it placed on your non-dominant forearm vs. the back of your hand. If you are especially squeamish around IVs and needles, consider packing lidocaine numbing spray to help with comfort of getting the IV placed. You can also request getting an IV placed early with saline lock in case an IV is needed as labor progresses. The benefit of this is its easier to place the IV when you hold steady, which may be hard as contractions worsen in intensity.
Do You Want to Eat and Drink During Labor?
Pack some energy-packed snacks for you to fuel you through the early stages of labor at the hospital that are light on your stomach. Take my word for it, you won't want to be chowing down on hospital food if you can avoid it. I packed turkey and cream cheese tortilla roll-ups and individual almond butter packets with pretzels. If you decide to get an epidural, you won’t be allowed to eat anymore, but you are allowed chicken broth which the hospital will provide, and honey sticks which the hospital doesn’t supply, but you can bring with you. Honey is a great way to keep energy high for the hard work your body is doing.
Do You Want to Move Around or Walk During Labor?
Movement can help progress labor and alleviate discomfort. Consider the benefits of gravity, changing positions and using a birthing ball or peanut ball. Research different movement techniques and their benefits during labor. We even took a dedicated birthing class led by a yoga instructor and doula that talked through many options to do while you labor at home and at the hospital. You should ask your nurse when you check into the hospital to actively recommend position changes to help progress labor and ease pain.
What Methods Are You Open to Progress Labor?
Techniques like breaking the water or using Pitocin can be considered. Understand the potential acceleration each method might introduce to your labor. Consider the natural progression of labor against potential interventions. Also, think about how each method might influence subsequent stages of labor.
Ways My Partner Can Support During Labor
From massages to words of encouragement, align on what kind of support you'd like. Think about physical support needs, like back rubs, hip squeezing or hand-holding. Consider emotional support and how your partner can best provide it. Also, think about any knowledge or training you both might benefit from before labor. Jason and I attended a partner birth support class during the second trimester when I was pregnant with Caden and gained a ton of valuable tips and tools for him to use to help relieve pain while I was in labor.
What Are Your Preferences For Pain Management During Contractions?
Unmedicated birth pain management techniques like special breathing techniques, hypnobirthing, hydrotherapy, and meditation can help. Consider the benefits of natural methods against potential discomfort. You should plan for time required for training you might need to effectively use these methods.
Medicated pain management options like epidurals or pain relief medications (i.e. nitrous oxide) can provide relief to labor pain. Research how these medications might influence the progression of labor.
Who will receive updates and who is responsible for sending them?
Jason and I aligned on who from our friends and family would be receiving text updates throughout the labor process ahead of time. One or two group text threads makes it easier and less distracting for your support partner so they can focus on you instead of sending updates. I also know friends who relied on their doula to be responsible for sending updates to a predefined group of people.
During pushing and birth
What Birthing Positions Do You Want to Use?
From upright to lying down, squatting, or using a birthing stool, different positions can help with the pushing stage. Some hospitals even allow for water birth. Research what positions are options should you decide to get an epidural.
Do You or Your Partner Want to Catch the Baby?
This can be a deeply emotional and bonding moment.
Do You Want Your Partner to Cut the Umbilical Cord?
This is another intimate moment that some families cherish. Think about your partner's comfort with the procedure. Another point for discussion: do you prefer delayed cord clamping?
In the event of an unplanned C-section, what are your preferences?
From the type of anesthesia to who you'd like present, consider potential scenarios. Think about the rapid change in birth plans and how you might cope. Consider your recovery and any postpartum implications. Also, discuss with your healthcare provider to ensure your choices align with medical safety. Since birth is unpredictable, I recommend building 2 lists in Amazon – one for vaginal birth, one for cesarian birth – full of postpartum care necessities you'll want at home, and placing the order after baby arrives.
Do You Want to Preserve Your Placenta and Cord Blood?
Some families choose preservation for potential future health benefits. Consider the potential long-term benefits against the immediate logistical considerations. Think about the process, storage, and any associated costs. Also, research potential uses and benefits to make an informed decision.
Do You Want to Delay Medical Exams?
Some parents prefer immediate skin-to-skin contact to enjoy “the golden hour” before any exams or procedures.
What Medical Procedures Do You Want to Give Baby?
There are several medical procedures or protections offered for baby at birth. These include medications like vitamin K (shot or oral), eye ointment, hepatitis B vaccine, as well as procedures like a bath or circumcision.
What Are Your Preferences In the Event Baby Needs NICU Care?
Consider if your partner will accompany the baby or stay with you.
After birth: newborn and postpartum care for Mama
Do You Want to Breastfeed?
Whether you choose to breastfeed, formula-feed, or a combination, fed is best. If you choose to breastfeed, ask your nurse about support resources, like lactation consultants or support groups. If you choose to use formula, I recommend doing your research on which formula brand to pick ahead of delivery.
Are You Open to Giving Baby Formula While Your Milk Comes In?
Sometimes it takes a couple of days for your milk to come in. Consider the benefits of ensuring the baby's immediate nutritional needs are met. Think about the balance between formula and initiating breastfeeding.
Do You Want Visitors?
After birth can be both a joyous and exhausting time. You may also be sore, uncomfortable and not feel like entertaining guests. Be clear ahead of birth if you plan to have visitors, and who is on the list.
Step 2: Fill Out Your Free Birth Plan Template
Directions: Now that you’ve discussed the important options to consider in your birth plan, fill out your preferences in a google doc or download this free birth plan template pdf to share with your birth team. This document is not editable, but you can make a copy, edit your preferences and save out as a pdf.
Remember, mama, your birth plan is a guide, not a contract. I hope this is the best birth plan template you’ve come across, and it helps you stay informed in the process. Trust your instincts, and be open to the journey ahead. Whatever choices you make, know that they are the right ones for you and your baby. 🌸
Additional Questions You May Be Asking About This Free Birth Plan Template
Can this birth plan template be used for a natural birth?
Absolutely! This template is versatile and can be tailored to fit any birth preference, including a natural birth. Just adjust the sections to reflect your specific wishes and discuss them with your healthcare provider.
Can this birth plan template be used for a VBAC?
It definitely can! Everything discussed still applies.
Can this birth plan template be used as a home birth plan template?
While this template is designed with hospital births in mind, many of the sections are applicable to home births as well. You can easily modify it to suit a home birth setting. Always ensure you're communicating with your midwife or other home birth professionals to ensure all aspects of your plan are covered.
Do you have a sample birth plan to share?
I don't have a specific sample to share. However, using the points discussed, you can craft a personalized plan that best fits your needs.
What is the best way to educate my birth partner?
Educating your birth partner is crucial for a supportive birthing experience. Here are some suggestions:
1. Attend prenatal classes together. This offers hands-on learning and a chance to ask professionals questions.
2. Share articles, books, and videos on childbirth and the birthing process.
3. Discuss your birth plan in detail, ensuring they understand your preferences and reasons behind them.
4. Consider workshops or classes specifically designed for birth partners, like the one Jason and I attended.
5. Practice pain-relief techniques and birthing positions together, so they're familiar during labor.
6. Encourage open communication. Make sure they feel comfortable asking questions and voicing concerns.
Your goal is to ensure your birth partner feels confident and prepared to support you during labor and delivery.
Is this free birth plan template editable and printable?
It is! Just duplicate and download the google doc as a pdf, then print it. You can also email it to you OB ahead of your next prenatal appointment.