As your pregnancy progresses, you’re probably thinking more about labor and delivery. You can’t control everything that happens, but it’s a good idea to make a birth plan.
A birth plan is a one-page document that outlines your preferences for the birth (labor and delivery experience) of your baby. Creating one helps you organize your thoughts and communicate them with your doctor or midwife.
Certified nurse midwife Shellie Hawk shares four key things you should consider when you put your plan together.
Remember that neither you nor your doctor can control every aspect of your labor and delivery. Instead of trying to anticipate every possible scenario, focus on choosing someone you can work well with, someone you trust, Ms. Hawk says.
“Sometimes your provider will need to make decisions quickly that are in your and your baby’s best interest,” she says. In this case, having a provider you trust can help you feel more comfortable and confident.
While birth plans are a great communication tool, it’s important to talk with your midwife or doctor ahead of time. Include their input before finalizing your plan.
“Talking with your provider can help ensure that your preferences are feasible,” says Ms. Hawk. “Women have come to me before and said they don’t want an IV. Well, unfortunately, we can’t do that. While it might be possible to have your IV turned off, you still have to have one in case of an emergency.”
However, she says it’s possible to have an IV without the bag and tubing. “You can have a saline lock,” she says, which is an IV catheter that is threaded into a peripheral vein.
It’s best for you to learn the requirements of your provider and birth facility before your labor. That way, you’ll know what to expect and feel more at ease when things start to happen.
For many women, laboring without the use of an epidural or pain medicine is a high priority. And while many women can have the natural labor they desire, it’s important to have a back-up plan.
“Don’t box yourself in,” says Ms. Hawk. “If your baby is posterior (head down and facing your abdomen) and you are having back labor, or if you get stuck at 7 cm dilation for several hours, for example, you might find that you can’t endure the pain anymore and need relief, and that’s OK.”
Aside from natural labor, giving birth without medical intervention is something many women prefer. But sometimes — if your baby shows signs of distress, for instance — the safe arrival of your baby is more important than sticking to your birth plan.
Sometimes your labor isn’t progressing. Or a baby’s head is sometimes too large to fit through the pelvis. These are other things that may prompt an assisted delivery.
As you work through your birth plan, the process can help fend off uncertainty. Planning with your midwife or doctor ahead of time will likely give you a clearer picture of exactly how (and when) your baby may arrive.
But even when you have a plan in place, flexibility is important for a successful labor and delivery. Ms. Hawk advises not to base your idea of “success” on how closely your experience matches your birth plan.
“I see women who feel like they didn’t succeed because they decided to get an epidural, or forceps or a vacuum are needed to help deliver the baby,” she says. “But any delivery that leads to a healthy baby is a success — whether you needed all or none of the tools available to help get your baby here.”