A woman has many options when it comes to childbirth, especially when the pregnancy is considered low risk. A birthplan is a written record of your birth option preferences. It is a tool for communication between you and your birth team (anyone involved in your labor and/or birth).
The first step in writing a birth plan is to list your priorities regarding the birth of your baby. Whether or not you have done any prior research, this first step will undoubedly lead to questions.
The second step is to research your questions independently and reprioritize. A good place to start researching is with the book The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth By Henci Goer. This book is wonderfully organized with clear and concise information regarding a multitude of birth options.
The third step is to openly discuss your findings and priorities with your birth attendant (Midwife/OB). This process tends to span over weeks or months, and creates great opportunity for you to recognize any red-flag responses and compare your birth philosophy with that of your birth attendant. It is during this step that options are agreed upon, acceptable compromises are made, or a new birth attendant is hired.
The fourth step is to have your birth plan signed and dated by your birth attendant. If preferences are stated for the baby once it is born, the pediatrician signs and dates the birth plan too. Make copies of your birth plan. Put a copy in your patient record, a copy in your file when you preadmit at your birth place, give one to your doula or assistant coach if applicable, and bring 3 copies with you (have them handy) to your birth place upon arriving for the birth.
Your signed birth plan is now a legal document and your standing orders. The "blanket" standing orders that apply to all laboring women without birth plans no longer apply to you.
It is important to remember that we often hire our birth attendant on a friendly recommendation or even blindly. If the birth plan process proves that you have hired someone with a birth philosophy that is counter-productive to your own, it is your responsibility to interview and hire someone more supportive of your priorities. Click here to read about what defines good care . Hiring a new birth attendant can take place at any point during pregnancy.
Sample Birth Plan
To: Midwide/Obstetrical Medical and Nursing staff of Your Birth Place Establishment's Name; City, State
From: Future Parent's Names (Maternity admit date approx. Month, Day 20??)
We view pregnancy and birth as a natural part of life, however, we are aware that unexpected complications can occur. Therefore, we are trying to be as prepared as possible for the wondrous occasion of labor and delivery. We have chosen name of your chosen birth place for the birth of our child because of why you choose this birth place and medical/nursing staff. We have also chosen to use a birth plan for clear communication of the medical options we do and do not choose to use. This birth plan has been discussed and agreed upon by ourselves and our Midwife or Obstetrician Name of Birth Attendant who has been very cooperative in answering all of our questions and working to meet our wishes for our birth experience to be the best it can.
Early and Active Labor
Birth Attendant's Name___________________________ Date_________
Pediatrician's Name_______________________________ Date________