If you’re expecting a baby, you’ve probably thought about everything from names to childcare to how many diapers you’ll need. But what many expectant parents don’t think about are their goals for their labor and delivery experience. Creating a birth plan in advance can help you and your partner outline your wishes for your ideal birthing situation.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is a written document that allows an expectant mother to outline her ideal birth situation. After you provide a copy of your birth plan to your healthcare provider, it will be included in your medical chart. It is a legal document.
However, having a birth plan does not guarantee that your baby’s birth will happen according to your wishes. Your healthcare provider’s ultimate goal is the health and safety of you and your baby. Every birth situation is different, and your healthcare provider will do his or her best to honor your wishes for labor and delivery while ensuring that you and your baby are safe and healthy.
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Why is a birth plan important?
A birth plan gives you a “voice” when it comes to your labor and delivery. It allows you to communicate your wishes for your birth experience before it’s time to deliver. Even if your birth experience does not go as planned, your birth plan will help your providers adhere to your wishes as closely as possible.
Why would I need a birth plan if I plan to give birth in a hospital?
If you are planning to give birth in a hospital, there are still numerous birth scenarios that could occur. It is a good idea to think about what you would want in different situations while keeping in mind that the hospital will have rules and regulations that need to be followed. Also, it is important to remember that your healthcare provider will act with your safety and your baby’s safety in mind.
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What should be included in a birth plan?
A birth plan may cover topics such as care throughout the pregnancy, your goals for the baby’s delivery, and strategies for pain management during labor.
When should I do a birth plan?
You can do a birth plan at any time before your baby is born, but it is most helpful to do it early in your pregnancy. Preparing your birth plan early on will allow you to make sure your practice or hospital can accommodate your wishes and goals for your delivery. It will also give you time to learn about different birthing options and scenarios and decide what is right for you.
Should I do a birth plan for my second or third child?
Yes. You will change, grow, and learn as you expand your family, and what you wanted for your first birth may be different than what you want for your second or third birth. For example, you might find out about something new that you didn’t know about before, or you might have had a previous experience that you don’t want to replicate. Even if it’s not your first birth experience, a birth plan allows you to clarify your wishes.
How do I develop a birth plan?
If you aren’t sure where to start, you can find templates for birth plans online. You can fill in your wishes, or you can use the template to get ideas for developing your own birth plan.
Before you provide a finalized copy of your birth plan, you should review it with your healthcare provider. During this conversation, your provider can learn more about your wishes and help you understand your options in different situations.
For example, if you were to say in your birth plan that you don’t want to have a vacuum extraction, then sometimes the only other option is to do a C-section. It’s crucial to work with your healthcare provider so you understand the implications of your wishes and ensure that you are OK with the potential outcomes.
Having a birth plan encourages expectant mothers to think about and communicate their goals for labor and delivery in advance. However, you should develop your birth plan in partnership with your healthcare provider to ensure that you have a full understanding of your options and decisions.
You can find more helpful information in this podcast.
Featuring Patricia A. Madden, CNM
About UPMC Harrisburg
UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.
For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long renowned for its services to women and babies, but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and the hospital’s NICU is one of the largest in the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.