Somewhere throughout your week-by-week pregnancy checklist, you’ll come to the birth plan assignment. This caught me off guard during my pregnancy as I didn’t know how to write a birth plan, let alone what that even meant. Could I plan and control my labor exactly to my wishes? How detailed did this plan need to be? And what sorts of information should I include?
Writing a birth plan can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult. All a birth plan does is give the hospital staff a general run-down on your ideal labor options, your wishes, and any specific concerns or fears you might have beforehand. It’s designed to help your nurses and birth team advocate for you when you can’t advocate for yourself, and it also serves as a jumping-off point for the deeper personal and philosophical conversations you should have with your doctors. A birth plan also forces you to do your homework and really think about which birthing options you’re most comfortable with.
Before you get started with the actual pen-to-paper birth plan writing, it’s important to note that labor rarely goes to plan. Just because you put something in writing — like “no episiotomy” or “drug-free labor” — that doesn’t mean the scenarios will play out according to your script; nor does it guarantee that your doctor’s practice will align with your wishes. That’s why an open dialogue about your birth plan is so crucial, as well as a general flexibility in your expectations. In fact, some practitioners are cautious about the birth plan process altogether. In her book Birthing From Within, nurse midwife and childbirth educator Pam England calls writing birth plans, “a ritual of modern pregnancy” that can act as, “a hidden reef on which your efforts toward deeper birth preparation may run aground.” She sees many birth plans written from a place of fear, anxiety, and mistrust, and a general lack of self-confidence. Again — a birth plan isn’t meant to control the outcome of your labor, and it’s not one more to-do to check from your list; it’s meant to get everyone on the same page as to what you would and wouldn’t like to happen during such a vulnerable experience.
And yet it’s still a good idea to write up a simple, well-researched, thoughtful birth plan that you can discuss with your birth team (including your partner).