Birth plans.  Are they really necessary? It depends on a variety of factors, including your provider, where you're giving birth, and what types of things are important to you. Hint: birth plans aren't just for natural birthers--they're for anyone who has specific wishes for their birth and baby and wants to know these will be taken seriously.  

Here's five ways to make your birth plan awesome:

  1. Short and sweet.  Keep it limited to a one page (normal font size!) bulleted list.  You should have discussed it with your provider in advance, but nurses will be reading it for the first time, and they're busy people.
  2. Realistic.  How easy is it going to be to get what you're requesting?  If it seems like it's  going to be a fight, maybe it's time to switch providers or delivery locations.  Remember to pick your battles.  This is where doulas come in--they can tell you what they've seen.
  3. Specific.  Want delayed cord clamping?  Don't ask for delayed cord clamping.  Say, "Please do not cut the cord until it has stopped pulsating."  or "Please don't cut the cord until 3 minutes have passed." 
  4. Inclusive of Cesarean birth.  Remember, birth is unpredictable.  Even if you're planning a super natural water birth with a midwife, you can't control the process of labor.  Make an alternate section for what an ideal Cesarean birth would look like--immediate skin to skin, breastfeeding in the OR or the recovery room, having your partner and/or doula with you, having at least one arm free as opposed to being strapped down, lowering the sterile drape at the moment of birth if you want to see your baby being born, and more.
  5. Attached to a snack.  Nurses are your friend and your birth plan advocate, and they love food!  Pick up some Glazed and Infused during early labor, or pack chips & salsa in your hospital bag.  And THANK them for reading and reviewing it.

Hopefully your birth plan is mostly a formality because you're seeing a provider whose standard of care = your birth plan! If you're feeling like you're on the defense when you're creating this plan or you have to delineate every single detail of your birthing process, it's time to take a closer look at who is supporting you during this all-important event.  Is your provider actively supportive of your plan, or are they just "open" to it?  Have you hired a doula who is going to know you and your partner and remind you of your plan (or preferences) when it gets intense?

Authored by Maura Winkler of MW Birth.

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