Preparing for the Best: How to Write a Birth Plan
Birth plans express a mother’s wishes for delivery but also serve a number of other functions. A well-researched birth plan can give a mother confidence in her decisions. A birth plan and information about birth injuries can also help a mother prevent injury to herself and her child.
The mother alone has the legal right to decide her plan of care. This is true even if she is under 18 years of age (considered an “emancipated minor”). A woman of any age has the right to decide for herself what sort of birth is best. A written birth plan communicates these intentions but does not guarantee an injury-free birth nor that the birth plan will be followed.
How to Word Your Birth Plan
Birth doctors and hospital staff can be set in their ways and are not always receptive to birth plans. Choose your wording carefully. Instead of writing a simple, negative statement such as:
“I don’t want __”
try for a precise, positive statement:
“In case of ____, I prefer _____”
Hospital doctors and birth staff respect this type of straightforward statement more than a listing of not’s and don’t’s.
Remember, informed verbal consent overrides a birth plan. Birth doctors and hospitals also force mothers to sign permission to perform any and all necessary services.
Organizing Your Birth Plan
Birth plans should be limited to one page, single-sided and -spaced. It also helps to organize your birth plan in chronological order, beginning with 1) labor, before moving to 2) birth, 3) postpartum, and 4) baby care. The more research you do into the process of birth, the better you can detail and explain what you wish during this special time.
A sample birth plan is provided at the bottom of this page.
Who Gets a Copy of the Birth Plan
Provide copies of your birth plan to the father/partner, doctors, doulas, and anyone else who will be present during your labor. Also keep a copy with yourself.
Make sure to let your attending nurse know your main birth plan expectations (whether or not you want drugs, c-section concerns, etcetera).
Be confident in your decision, and make the most of your moment.
Lawyers for Change.
Birth plans help ensure you have a healthy baby. Whether or not your birth plan was honored, if doctor negligence resulted in a birth injury like cerebral palsy, we’d like to help. Contact the Consumer Justice Group today to have an advocate assigned to your case. We have medical staff and attorneys across the country working to obtain compensation for our clients deserve from negligent hospitals.
Sample Birth Plan
The sample birth plan below is meant to serve as a guideline for writing your own birth plan. Each section has a clickable link to suggest other options. Remember, research and positive wording are vital to an effective birth plan.
June 14, 20--
Dear Doctor Doe and Charity Hospital Medical Staff,
I, Jane Smith, am expected to deliver near the due date of July 4, 20--. My care provider is Doctor Doe, who fully supports my following birth choices.
[support team] My support team for this birth includes my husband John Smith and my doula Jane Bull. I plan on only entering the hospital after labor has been active for an hour and would like the option of returning home if not in active labor.
[labor preferences] It is important to me to deliver this birth naturally. I would like to avoid inductions, epidurals, and cesarean sections if possible.
[labor practices] I prefer a labor and delivery that is free from medication and surgical intervention. I would like complete freedom of movement during labor so that I may walk around the delivery room. I would like to wear my own clothes and listen to music of my choice. I would like to maintain my privacy throughout. I do not wish for this birth to be recorded.
[post-delivery options] I plan to have immediate skin-to-skin contact with my child. I would like to spend at least thirty minutes holding my child before he or she is weighed. If I am unable to hold my child, I would like my husband to hold the child for the first thirty minutes. Either I or my husband will bathe the baby if it is necessary.
Please discuss any interventions or procedures you feel are necessary with both my husband and me and obtain our verbal consent before initiating any interventions or procedures.
Thank you in advance for your efforts in helping me give birth in the manner listed above.
<signature in blue or black ink>
Support team. These are the people present during birth. They can include the father, a partner, a parent(s), and a doula. You can request your partner be allowed with you at all times or limit whom you would like in the delivery room (no residents, medical students, or other hospital personnel).
Click to return.
Labor Preferences. This portion should include a stance on major medical intervention common to labor, including “when and if” style statements about inductions, epidural anesthesia, electronic fetal monitoring, episiotomy, catheter, and cesarean section (c-section). This is also a place to mention any religious practices/requirements.
Click to return.
Labor Practices. These are the items which a mother chooses to increase the pleasure of birth. These can include clothing options (hospital gown, her own clothes, nude), environmental factors (listening to music, dimming of lights, etc.), and privacy issues (pictures, video recordings, frequency of vaginal exams, etc.). This section can also include preferred birth position (e.g. supine, squatting, and/or on-all-fours), desired birth aids (e.g. birth stool, birth ball, foot pedals, and/or acupuncture), if an epidural is to be avoided, and your choices in eating, hydration, and wearing contact lenses. For vaginal births, this can also the place to mention if you would like to watch the birth using mirrors, to touch the infant’s head when it is crowning, and/or to have your partner “catch” the child.
Click to return.
Post-Delivery Options. Now that you’ve brought a new life into the world, you need to define your initial interactions and operations on the child. This is the place to state your breastfeeding preferences, prevent your child from being circumcised, if you would like your partner to hold the infant, what should be done with the placenta, and when you would like the cord cut and if your partner should cut it.
Click to return.