What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is a document that tells your medical team your preferences for such things as how to manage labour pain. Of course, you can’t control every aspect of labour and delivery, and you’ll need to stay flexible in case something comes up that requires your birth team to depart from your plan. But a printed document gives you a place to make your wishes clear when you have a choice.
A written birth plan also helps refresh your provider’s memory when you’re in labour. And it informs new members of your medical team — such as your labour-and-delivery nurse — about your preferences when you’re in active labour.
Most hospitals (and birth centres) provide a birth plan worksheet or brochure that explains the hospital’s policies and philosophy of childbirth, and lets you know what your options might be when you give birth. That information can help guide you in a discussion with your healthcare provider about your preferences when you face choices along the way. And that discussion can be the basis for a birth plan, if you decide to create one.
Read on to find out generally what typically happens at the hospital and what alternatives you may have. Not all of these options will be available in every setting or make sense for your situation, especially if your pregnancy is high-risk. But this should give you a place to start your discussion and links to background information that will help you understand your choices.
Then you can print our birth plan worksheet and use it to note your preferences. Make sure your provider gets a copy and bring some to give to the nurses at the hospital.