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How To Write A Birth Plan, Since Birth Is Complex

by Kristina Johnson

In theory, the process of giving birth should be simple. You start having contractions, you go into labor, you push, you have a baby. Women have been doing it since the dawn of time, so it should be pretty straight-forward, right? Except it's totally not. Thanks to modern medicine, moms have so many choices to make about the entire process. Given that the imminent arrival of your baby may leave you completely distracted and incapable of forming coherent thoughts beyond "OUCH", you may want to jot down all your ideas beforehand in the form of a birth plan. But what should a birth plan say, exactly?

For starters, you should think about every scenario that could pop up. For some reason, I was convinced that I'd go into labor with my daughter at home, and relax there peacefully before calmly heading to the hospital. So imagine my surprise when my water broke in the back of a taxi in New York City, and my doctor demanded I get to the hospital ASAP. Because I didn't have a birth plan and had given little thought to such a bizarre situation, I didn't feel totally informed about how things would play out from there. With or without a birth plan, however, rule number one for giving birth seems to be this: be flexible, and be ready for anything.

Here are nine things to think about putting on your birth plan.


How You'll Manage Your Pain

One key piece of your birth plan is how you want to handle the pain. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) noted that it's about a lot more than just drugs or no drugs during labor— you could also request hot or cold packs to relieve pain, practice meditation, or do breathing exercises. If you do want medication, there are many different types that have varying benefits and risks, according to the APA. Deciding which ones you're comfortable with can prevent you from making a snap judgment during the big moment.


Whether You're OK With Fetal Monitoring

When it comes to how doctors monitor your baby during the birthing process, you have some options. According to The Bump, you can note in your birth plan whether you want fetal monitoring to be done internally or externally, continuously, or only if the baby is in distress.


Who's Allowed In The Room

Being present for the birth of a child is a big deal, and you may have excited relatives clamoring to get in on the action. If you're not wild about delivering in front of an audience, What To Expect noted that you should outline who you want in the room in your birth plan. Your medical team can help make sure only those you want by your side get through the door.


What Position You Want To Labor In

In the movies, it seems the mom always lays flat on her back throughout the entire birthing process. But according to March of Dimes, you have options when it comes to which position to labor in. You may prefer to walk around, stay sitting up, or even get on all fours.


Which Interventions You're OK With

What happens if your labor stalls? According to Parents, your birth plan should note which interventions you'd be open to, including being induced or having your membranes ruptured.


Whether You Want To Delay The Newborn Exam And Bath

Once your baby is placed into your arms for the first time, you may not want to give him or her up for a while. If you want to hold off on doing any newborn testing or bathing to give you more cuddle time, What To Expect noted that you should put it in your birth plan.


If You Want To Delay Cord Clamping

Delaying the moment of cutting the umbilical cord is becoming more common, according to Belly Belly. Some parents believe waiting a few minutes before cutting benefits the baby, allowing stem cells to flow into his or her body. Alternately, some parents are choosing to bank that blood and save it for a possible future medical emergency. If you're interested in either, make a note in your birth plan.


Whether You Want To Breastfeed Or Formula Feed

Whether you're planning to breastfeed of formula feed your baby after they're born, Today's Parent noted that you should jot it down in your birth plan. If you don't want to try nursing, it may be easier to state it clearly ahead of tim,e rather than having to explain it over and over again to hospital staff. On the other hand, if you're absolutely set on breastfeeding, you want to make sure no one gives your baby a bottle of formula without your permission.


When You'll Allow Visitors

This one's my own personal tip. The nurses at my hospital were more than willing to play bodyguard and not let anyone interrupt my time with baby. You may not feel up to visitors for a while, or you may simply want to keep all those newborn snuggles to yourself. Make a note of it in your birth plan and staff can help keep visitors at bay.