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What is a Birth Plan?

By Jennifer Lincoln, MD, IBCLC, Board Certified OB/GYN

If you are pregnant and planning for your delivery, you may or may not have heard of birth plans.

A birth plan is simply a document to help expectant parents communicate their wishes during labor and delivery to their healthcare providers. In a birth plan, a woman may write down who she wants at the delivery, how she feels about certain medical interventions (for example, having her bag of water broken by her doctor/midwife versus letting it break on its own), or her plans for pain medication. You can choose to make your birth plan very detailed, or you may prefer to just hit the important highlights.

There are many birth plan templates online you can use. However, when looking for a birth plan online it\'s important to be aware of a few things. First, if you are using a generic template, be sure to carefully read it because this is a document you will sign and present as your wishes! Also be aware that many birth plans include outdated scenarios (such as routine enemas before delivery). Including these may make the rest of your plan seem uninformed, which may cause some providers to dismiss it. You can download the Bundoo birth plan here.

Try to be aware of the length of your birth plan. Some can be pages and pages long, which a nurse or doctor may not read all the way through. This is where bullet points and leaving out extraneous information can come in handy.

It is very important to not present your birth plan for the first time to your doctor or midwife when you arrive to the hospital in active labor! Bringing it to a prenatal visit can give your provider time to review it and discuss it with you (and also place a copy in your chart for everyone caring for you to read). It is much better to find out sooner rather than later if your provider has any concerns with your birth plan or does not feel that he or she can give you the kind of birth for which you are hoping. Presenting your birth plan in this way allows for the kind of honest discussion that is important in a patient/doctor relationship.

Birth plans are also just that: plans. Sometimes emergencies or situations arise that necessitate deviating from the original course (and some birth plans do include these kinds of details). When this happens, it is important that you’ve picked an obstetric provider you trust so you are confident when they make a recommendation for an emergency C-section, for example. It is always fine to ask questions and to take time to discuss any changes, but be mindful that in emergency situations you will need to act quickly.

Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, November 2018

Sources:

  • T
  • Kaufman
  • Evolution of the birth plan
  • J Perinat Educ
  • 2007 Summer; 16(3): 47–52
  •  doi:  10.1624/105812407X217985 March of Dimes
  • Birth plan template.

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