Your Birth Plan Checklist & Template
Your baby’s on the way! Let everyone know your wishes.
If you have a baby on the way, you’re likely learning how much planning goes into parenting. There are nursery and delivery must-haves, a diaper bag checklist, and to-do lists galore! We know, it can feel a little overwhelming sometimes. But, putting a solid plan in place—especially a birth plan—is essential for both mom and baby. Why is it important to have a birth plan? Think of it as your birthing plan checklist, a golden rule book that communicates your preferences for all phases of your little one’s birth, from labor to post-delivery.
If you feel like you don’t even know where to begin, fret not, we’re here to help. Ahead, we’re sharing everything to know about having a birthing plan at the ready including what it is, when you should start a birth plan, and what types of birth plans there are, as well as what you should include in one. So, let’s put on our planning caps and get rolling!
Bonus: You can even download and print out our Mylicon Birth Plan Template to get started.
What Is a Birth Plan?
While, technically, it’s not mandatory to have a birthing plan, it can be a tremendous help to you, your family, and the medical professionals caring for you. With all the excitement that comes with meeting your little one for the first time, it’s easy to forget to inform people of your wishes, or overlook certain details that may be of importance. Planning ahead and getting your thoughts down in a clear and organized manner will benefit all parties involved—especially you.
A birth plan is a written set of instructions for people caring for you during labor, delivery, and after your baby arrives. It provides details such as who should be in the delivery room, what (if any) pain medications you’re willing to receive, and if there are any cultural or religious activities you want to occur when your baby is born.
A birthing plan can even include if you’ll want the lights dimmed and music on, whether or not you prefer IV fluids in case you get dehydrated, and who you’ve chosen to cut the umbilical cord. You can be as intricate or general in your plan as you wish. Namely, it's just a great way to communicate your desires with your support and care teams while you're busy like, you know, having a baby.
What Types of Birth Plans Are There?
Since there’s so much to consider when developing your birthing plan, it can feel like a monumental task. If so, having separate documents for your preferences and instructions for your family, caregivers, and hospital personnel may help sort everything out. Or, you can consider one of the many birth plan templates online that cover all your bases, like our very own Mylicon one.
Key things you’ll want to consider are the type of birth you’d prefer to have, whether it be vaginal or by C-section, and what to do if you planned on a vaginal birth, then necessitate a C-section—same, if you have a C-section planned, but your baby comes early. If you want to be super-prepared, it may be a good idea to have birthing plans filled out for both scenarios.
What Is a VBAC Birth Plan?
You may have come across the term “VBAC birth plan” in your research. This is simply an acronym for “vaginal birth after cesarean delivery,” which means having had a previous C-section with your older child, then having a vaginal delivery with your newborn. Your birth plan might follow a template for a vaginal birth, but incorporate some aspects of a C-section such as whether or not you’re willing to go under anesthesia if surgery is needed. Babies tend to have some surprises up their sleeve as they arrive, as we discussed, so it might be helpful to create both a vaginal and VBAC birthing plan.
We should note that there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to have a VBAC delivery, even if it’s your preference. So, consider discussing different scenarios and your options with your doctor, then let them guide your birth plan.
When Should You Start a Birth Plan?
When it comes to a major event like giving birth, it’s best not to wait too long to put pen to paper—or finger to key. It may be beneficial to start a birth plan in your second trimester, also known as the “honeymoon” period, since it’s likely when you’ll feel your best. Plus, it will give you plenty of time to mull over the details, discuss options with your healthcare providers, and be sure you didn’t miss anything.
The Do & Don'ts of Writing a Birth Plan
It’s easy to either get carried away or draw a blank when starting a birthing plan, so try to keep these pointers top of mind.
Share your plan and understand that it’s not set in stone: Your OB/GYN or midwife should be a pro at what they’re doing, meaning they have the proper training, knowledge, and experience, as well as you and your baby’s best interests in mind. It’s always great to run your birth plan by them to get their thoughts. Remember, this is your ideal scenario, but, as always with parenthood, things can change.
Also, try to phrase things as preferences and wishes, as opposed to demands. After all, every baby enters this world in their own way. And, as we’ve all learned at some point by now, things don’t always turn out the way you wanted them to.
Be confident but realistic: We probably don’t have to tell you that childbirth is an intense process, both physically and emotionally. It’s understandable (and common) to feel like you’re losing control during labor and delivery. Having a birth plan can help keep you focused and prepared in the event something unexpected occurs. Use phrases such as, “If a C-section is needed . . .” or “In case that is not an option . . .” The more you can plan for the unplanned, the more aware your care and support teams will be of your desires. And rather than write what you don’t want in your birthing plan, try focusing on what your ideal experience would be. Instead of using phrases such as “I want to avoid . . .” or “I don’t want . . ,” frame them as “I’d like to . . ,” “I hope to . . ,” and “I expect . . .”
Also, keep in mind, it’s not always possible to plan for every situation. If you feel pressured to do something you’re unsure of, you can ask if it’s possible to have some time to think about it, if it’s an emergency, or even proactively delegate your partner or someone you trust to make the call.
Tour the facilities where all the magic will happen: It may be helpful to make an appointment with the labor and delivery department or birthing center you’ll be going to. This will also give you a chance to familiarize yourself with the place where all the action will be happening, which can leave you feeling more confident about your delivery location. You can also get information about their policies, amenities, and any limits they may have that may necessitate a slight revision of your birth plan.
How Do I Write a Birth Plan?
The easiest way to write a birthing plan is probably to follow a template, like ours. Remember, a birth plan is akin to a birth plan checklist, so consider these pointers too.
Leave room for surprises: As we touched on, it’s important to be flexible in your planning in case something unexpected comes up. This is where having different plans for a vaginal vs. C-section birth would be extremely helpful for all involved. Another occurrence that it’s wise to plan for is what to do if your preferred pain control method isn’t effective. To prepare for that scenario, consider and prioritize which medications you’d be willing to receive.
Designate a support person: Decide who will be your support partner during labor and delivery. This could be your partner, best friend, or even a parent. You can even prioritize them in case your first choice is unavailable at the time. Not only will it help put you at ease to have them by your side, but according to a Cochrane review, women that had ongoing support throughout labor and delivery were more likely to have births that were shorter in duration, less likely to use pain medications or have C-sections, and were generally more satisfied with their childbirth experience.
Keep comfort in mind: Other than pain management, try and think of all the atmospheric and tactical things in your environment that you’d prefer to have close by. These could include the aforementioned dimmed lights and music, as well as a favorite blanket, pillow, or picture. You can also state if you’ll be more comfortable in your own robe or nightgown as opposed to a hospital gown.
Contraception: You may be thinking that giving birth to your little one is a strange time to discuss contraception. However, if you’re considering getting an intrauterine device (IUD) or having your tubes tied—some insurance companies require a month’s notice—the time to do it would be prime following delivery.
What Should I Include In a Birth Plan?
Along with the above, there’s some more information you’ll want to include.
Background information: Above all, begin with key contacts and your medical history (as well as your baby’s, if there have been any significant issues). These include your name, the baby’s due date, your doctor or midwife's contact info, and your partner or preferred support persons. Be sure to also include any relevant medical issues you have such as high blood pressure, diabetes, immune disorders, and the like.
Your preference during labor: Detail what position(s) you’d be open to trying (i.e. if laying down isn’t working, maybe moving around or sitting will). State if you’re open to interventions like inducing labor, an epidural, or anesthesia if surgery is necessary. Also, if you’ll be at a teaching hospital, note if you’re comfortable having students assist or observe your labor and delivery.
Indicate how you plan on feeding your newborn: Jot down whether or not you’d prefer to breastfeed or use a bottle and formula when your bundle of joy settles in. That way, your healthcare providers will be ready to enlist a lactation consultant, have a nurse demonstrate bottle feeding techniques, or teach you different feeding positions.
Your wishes during delivery: If you want your partner or support person to be in the delivery room, confirm that it’s allowed under COVID-19 regulations. Also, ask if it’s OK if they film or take pictures during delivery, if you’d like to preserve the memory. Would you be willing to have an episiotomy to reduce the chance that your perineum tears, or would you rather take your chances? It’s best to be proactive and include answers to those types of questions as well.
Your ideal post-delivery: For a long time, umbilical cords were cut immediately after delivery. More recently, doctors and midwives have been delaying cord-cutting for a few minutes so your baby gets more blood and nutrients from your placenta. Let them know your preference, as well as who you want to cut the cord (yes, you can even cut it yourself, if you choose). This is also where you can state your wishes for who holds your baby first: Does your partner or support person get first dibs, or would you rather have skin-to-skin contact from the get-go?
You can also state your preference for the amount of time your infant is with you, whether you’re OK with them going to the nursery for some time, or if you want them in your room for your entire stay. Would you like to give your little one their first bath, or is it OK if one of the nurses or your midwife does it?
If it’s a boy, what’s your stance on circumcision? This is also an important area where you can discuss what to do in case your baby encounters an emergency; does the doctor have permission to proceed on their own, or do they need your permission first? You’ll likely have an option to donate or store the blood from your baby’s umbilical cord, so you can let them know what you’d like to do in that case too.
Lastly, it’s helpful to state your preferences as far as when family and friends can visit, and discuss them with each other beforehand. If you think you’ll want everyone to come see your new darling asap, or you may want a few hours or days alone with them, here’s the place to make your wishes on those topics known—preparing everyone involved is the name of the birthing plan game.
What To Do With Your Completed Birth Plan
So, you’ve finally got your birth plan checklist in order. Now what do you do? See below to find out.
Review it with your OB/GYN or midwife: Get your care providers up to speed on your preferences. Have your doctor or midwife look them over and give you their thoughts, and try to remain flexible if they recommend any changes or additions.
Make, distribute, and keep copies: Make enough copies to give to your doctor or midwife, the labor and delivery staff, and your personal support system. Also, make a few extras to keep in your delivery bag in case your someone’s copies get misplaced.
Next: Now that you’re armed with how to create a birth plan and what to include, learn about the staples you’ll want to keep in your delivery bag.