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How to create the best birth plan for you

Know what to include in your birth plan, what labor and delivery questions to answer, and when to be flexible.

June 03, 2024
Happy father touching expecting mother's baby bump while embracing her on couch.

A positive pregnancy test comes with what seems like a never-ending to-do list. And while labor and delivery may be low on your list, it can help to start thinking through your options now. Cue the birth plan. 

What is a birth plan?

A birth plan outlines your preferences for before, during and after labor and delivery. What do you hope your birth experience looks like if everything goes as planned? 

You’re not required to have a birth plan, but it can help you feel more prepared, stay engaged in the birth process and keep your expectations clear. In fact, research suggests that those with birth plans are happier with their birth experience overall. 

It’s never too early to start thinking about what you want for your labor and delivery experience and writing it down. That way, you can ask questions, do the research you need and update your preferences as time goes on. 

Need pregnancy care but not sure where to start? Search for OB/GYNs near you. 

Talk to your provider about your options

Like with every patient and every pregnancy — a birth plan is unique to you. There’s no “right” way to create a birth plan. It can be as detailed or simple as you want.

A helpful starting point is talking to your provider and learning more about where you plan to give birth. There also are birth plan templates, including from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Nurse-Midwives. You can use the templates as-is or modify them.

Ultimately, a birth plan is thinking about the issues that concern you most and talking through them with your OB/GYN or midwife. 

Answer labor and delivery questions

Here are a few questions to consider as you start the birth plan process. 

The basics

  • When is your due date? 
  • Where do you plan to deliver your baby? 
  • Do you prefer to have a vaginal or cesarean delivery? 
  • Who is your main support person? Will you have a doula?

Labor environment

  • What do you want to happen while you’re in labor? 
  • Who do you want in the room?
  • Would you like to be able to move around during labor or eat and drink?
  • What features will be most helpful for you? Music? Lighting? A tub or pool? 
  • Do you have preferred labor positions? 

Medical interventions and pain management

  • Do you have a preference for how your provider intervenes or the type of medicine you receive while in labor? Common examples include:
  • Artificial rupture of membrane (amniotomy): When your provider breaks your water or amniotic sac
  • Epidural: An injection in your back to relieve pain in the lower part of your body
  • Episiotomy: A cut in the tissue between the vagina and anus
  • Fetal monitoring: A way to continuously measure your baby’s heartbeat and your contractions
  • IV: A catheter inserted into the vein for fast delivery of fluid, pain medication or other substances
  • Pitocin (oxytocin): A medicine that helps start labor and contractions (also called induction or augmentation)
  • Vacuum extraction: A process that uses a vacuum to help a baby get through the birth canal
  • When do you want your provider to use specific interventions? Should they offer less invasive methods first, including massage or meditation?

Delivery and after birth

  • What would you like to happen during and after you deliver your baby?
  • Do you want visitors and when?
  • Do you want photos and videos?
  • Are you planning to breastfeed right away, use formula or both?
  • Do you have preferences for what to do with the placenta or cord blood?

Stay flexible 

With any birth plan, flexibility is extremely important. A realistic birth plan not only includes your preferences but also what’s available at your delivery location. Remember that childbirth is unpredictable and may not go as planned. 

The birth plan is a great starting point, but it’s not a contract. Your OB/GYN or other provider may recommend a different approach, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy or pregnancy complications.

Choose a provider and location that meet your needs

Birth plan or no birth plan, finding the right provider and facility for your labor and delivery makes all the difference. At HCA Florida Healthcare, we’re your partner in care, from family-centered labor and delivery services to maternity tours and classes. 

As one of the largest healthcare providers in the state, our extensive network is home to everyone from OB/GYNs and midwives to high-risk pregnancy doctors and neonatologists. Find an OB/GYN here. 

June 03, 2024

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